Past is Prologue

Clint Schemmer writes about history, heritage preservation and the American Civil War.  On Facebook: Past is Prologue  On Twitter: @prologuepast  ContactEmail Clint or call 540/374-5424.

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CWT announces Payne’s Farm trail open in Orange County

MORE: Read more news from Fredericksburg

This release, below, arrived Friday from the Civil War Trust.

Great credit is due the Fredericksburg-area volunteers who built, improved and are maintaining this trail.  And the same for nurseryman Bill “Farmer” Meadows, who sold a square-mile-plus of battlefield land at less than appraised value, so that the site could be preserved.

It’s a pleasant, wooded walk for anyone–you don’t have to be interested in Civil War history! But for those who are, this battlefield is one of the most intact and unblemished on the Eastern Seaboard, and the Mine Run Campaign is one of the more interesting, yet little-known, of the war.


Pristine site in Orange County, Virginia, becomes Civil War Trust’s latest interpretive effort

(Locust Grove, Va.) – Earlier this month, the Civil War Trust, the nation’s largest battlefield preservation organization, unveiled a walking trail on 685-acre historic preserve in Orange County, Va., allowing visitors to fully explore the fiercest fighting of the autumn 1863 Mine Run Campaign for the first time. The 1.5-mile trail features 11 interpretive markers, allowing individual visitors to conduct their own self-guided tours.

“The best way to understand the action that occurred on a Civil War battlefield is to walk the land,” said Trust president Jim Lighthizer. “Only then does the reality of what you’ve read or seen recreated in another media come home to you. Interpretation and the visitation it encourages are the ultimate goals of battlefield preservation — putting boots on the ground to appreciate and learn from these hallowed grounds.”

Located in a remote, largely agricultural area, the Payne’s Farm Battlefield has been virtually untouched by development. This coupled with the fact that it is too often overlooked by heritage tourists in favor of its Orange County neighbor, the Wilderness, make it what Lighthizer calls a “hidden gem.”

“At Payne’s Farm we’re lucky to have nearly the entire battlefield protected. But before this trail and signage were installed, few people had the opportunity to fully explore this site,” said Lighthizer. “We are thrilled that locals and tourists alike are already taking advantage of this tremendous resource.”

The Trust and the Piedmont Environmental Council initially purchased the land in 2003, and subsequent stewardship culminated in this interpretive project, undertaken in partnership with Civil War Trails and made possible through the generosity of dozens of volunteers who gave their time and donated materials. The trail itself was laid through volunteer effort during the Trust’s annual Park Day initiative on April 2, 2011.

This latest interpretive initiative joins previous efforts including battle sites at Brandy Station, First Day at Chancellorsville, Slaughter Pen Farm at Fredericksburg, McDowell and Third Winchester.

Payne’s Farm was the scene of the heaviest fighting during the often-overlooked Mine Run Campaign. In November 1863, the Union Army of the Potomac, attempted to steal a march on the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia by slipping across the Rapidan River to attack its right flank.

Southern troops marching on the Orange Turnpike encountered an isolated Union force, resulting in desperate fighting on Payne’s Farm on November 27. After dark, the Confederates withdrew to field entrenchments along a nearby creek called Mine Run. Ultimately deciding the Confederate line was too strong to attack, the Army of the Potomac retreated in the first days of December, setting the stage for the Battle of the Wilderness the following May.

The Civil War Trust is the largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization in the United States. Its mission is to preserve our nation’s remaining Civil War battlefields and to promote appreciation of these hallowed grounds through education and heritage tourism. Since 1987, the organization has helped save more than 30,000 acres of battlefield land in 20 states. Learn more by visiting, the home of the Sesquicentennial.

Photo credit: Alan Zirkle