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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Spotsylvania delays vote on Fredericksburg battlefield site

MORE: Read more news from Fredericksburg

Spotsylvania County supervisors have tabled vote on the Civil War Trust’s proposal to buy the old GM plant on Route 2, the center of the southern portion of the Fredericksburg battlefield.

Free Lance-Star reporter Amy Flowers Umble has an early report here.

The trust wants to create a national-destination park, which it says could generate nearly $1.2 million a year and draw an additional 20,000 tourists to the Fredericksburg area.

The nonprofit owns the nearby 208-acre Slaughter Pen farm, which is part of the multi-state Civil War Trails program and welcomes visitors on self-guided trails. Both properties adjoin Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.

The former GM Powertrain tract is where Union Gen. George Gordon Meade broke through Confederate commander Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s defenses, in a move that could have changed the battle’s outcome had other Union generals reinforced the attack.

The site was also key to one of the Civil War’s most dramatic artillery duels between Confederate and Union forces, according to the National Park Service.

The southern portion of the Battle of Fredericksburg resulted in 9,000 casualties–5,000 Northerners and 4,000 Southerners–scattered in Spotsylvania woods, marshes and open fields.

The losses equaled those in front of Marye’s Heights in Fredericksburg, where the Union army counted 8,000 casualties to the Confederates’ 1,000, National Park Service historian Frank A. O’Reilly says.

Photo: Union Col. Charles Collis’ charge at Slaughter Pen farm during the Battle of Fredericksburg on Dec. 13, 1862, painted by Carl Rochling.