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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Civil War Trust aims to buy GM Powertrain plant, pivotal site in Battle of Fredericksburg

MORE: Read more news from Fredericksburg

The Civil War Trust is proposing to buy the former GM Powertrain plant site in Spotsylvania County, the ground where historians say the Battle of Fredericksburg was decided.

If successful, the trust would raze the vacant GM plant–a victim of GM’s recent Chapter 11 reorganization–and restore the property to its appearance in December 1862. The 55,000-member preservation organization aims to link the site with adjacent National Park Service land to extend the self-guided tours now available to visitors on the trust’s 208-acre Slaughter Pen Farm portion of the battlefield.

The combination would tell the full story of the action on this southern portion of the miles-long battlefield, the area where Union forces under Gen. George Gordon Meade broke through Confederate commander Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s defenses. Had that punch been reinforced, historians say the battle–one of the Union’s most bruising defeats–might have turned out differently.

Meade and Union Gen. John Reynolds were nearly killed on the property as they coordinated the assault, according to National Park Service historian Frank A. O’Reilly, the leading authority on the battle.

The 77.1-acre property is also where one of the Civil War’s three most famous North-South artillery duels, akin to Gettysburg and Malvern Hill near Richmond, was initiated.

The trust is asking the Spotsylvania Board of Supervisors to support its proposal to the RACER Trust, the GM-reorganization entity that’s selling the tract. In turn, the nonprofit group is offering Spotsylvania some incentives to promote the new park and fuel more tourism to the southern part of the battlefield and other historic sites in the county.

There will be a complete story in Saturday’s newspaper.