“The mission of Central Virginia Battlefields Trust is to preserve land associated with the four major campaigns: Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Mine Run, and the Overland Campaign including the Wilderness and Spotsylvania.”
“Preserving Dirt and Grass”
The Challenge: Between 1862 and 1864, two great armies clashed in the Rappahannock River Valley. Their battlegrounds have entered the nation's memory as Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, The Wilderness, and Spotsylvania Court House.
Veterans of these battles began to preserve the scenes of their great conflicts in the 1880s, but it wasn't until 1927 that a portion of this heritage came under the protection of the National Park Service. Today, these historic places are seriously threatened. The strategic location that drew armies to Central Virginia more than 150 years ago draws residential and commercial development at a staggering pace. Beginning in 1970, the population of Fredericksburg and its surrounding counties increased 120 percent, a growth rate four times that of Virginia as a whole.
All across America, urban development threatens to destroy our nation's most sacred ground. Once it is gone, another piece of our nation's past disappears. No place is this destruction more prevalent than in Central Virginia, "the cockpit of the Civil War."
The Civil War's most famous battlefields -- Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, The Wilderness, Spotsylvania Court House, and Cold Harbor -- and many other lesser-known conflicts, such as Mine Run and Haw's Shop are under attack again. Not from invading armies, but from shopping malls, industrial parks, and housing complexes.
Central Virginia Battlefield Trust (CVBT) was formed: A group of concerned citizens in the Fredericksburg Virginia area decided it was time to stand up to the senseless destruction of our heritage and to form a historic lands trust. The Central Virginia Battlefields Trust (CVBT) was incorporated in 1996 and adopted as its mission the preservation of historic battlefield terrain.
Our motto became “dirt and grass.” Since then, we have helped to preserve nearly 1,700 acres of critical ground on the battlefields of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, The Wilderness, and Spotsylvania Court House, as well as Brandy Station.
In addition to purchasing land, our mission includes advocacy for battlefield preservation. At the state and federal levels, advocacy is relatively impersonal. At the local level, advocacy unfolds in a manner much more personal, and therefore can become more confrontational. Consequently, CVBT decided early on to work in cooperation with local governments rather than in opposition to them. Over the years, we have joined in partnership with developers, preservation organizations, and local governments on several projects. We are proud of the solutions that have preserved selected ground.
CVBT remains proactive, with several ongoing projects and negotiations, and with a continuing focus on, and commitment to, our mission of battlefield preservation.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Thomas Van Winkle
Tom has served on the CVBT Board of Directors and in the capacity of CVBT Communications Director since 2007. He has served as newsletter editor, battlefield preservation director, membership director and as a five-term president of the Friends of Wilderness Battlefield in Spotsylvania, VA. He's former Secretary of the Friends of Fredericksburg Area Battlefields. He has written historical and preservation articles for The Civil War News, The Free Lance-Star, Culpeper Star Exponent, Wilderness Dispatch, The Skirmish Line, and magazines including On the Front Line and Blue & Gray. He is employed by Ally Financial serving as an automotive dealer Fixed Operations Specialist in the Southeast. Tom also served as Producer, Writer, Director and Editor as a partner in Heritage Media, LLC.
VICE PRESIDENT | EDUCATION DIRECTOR
Eric Powell has been in education for more than 30 years. After graduating from Radford University with a bachelor’s degree in social sciences in 1990, he taught social studies at Stafford High School for 18 years. He was named the 1997 Stafford County Teacher of the Year, the 1998 Region III Virginia Teacher of the Year, and won Brenton S. Halsey Award for Excellence in Teaching from the Virginia Historical Society in 2001. Since 2008, Mr. Powell has served as a Social Studies Specialist for both Stafford and Spotsylvania County Schools, and as the Instructional Coordinator at Post Oak Middle School. He has two master's degrees: one in history and one in educational leadership from Virginia Commonwealth University. Additionally, Mr. Powell is an Adjunct Instructor at the University of Mary Washington. He is a member of the 47th Virginia Infantry, Co. I, “The Stafford Guard” and serves as the Inspector General of Longstreet’s Corps. He conducts numerous living history programs for school children throughout the region.
DIRECTOR OF LANDS
Mike served as a National Park Service ranger from 1974 to 2004, working at Blue Ridge Parkway, Everglades, Assateague Island, Fort Necessity, and Fredericksburg-Spotsylvania. As a field ranger, he actively protected lands and resources and worked at solving survey issues.
Kevin Leahy has had a lifelong interest in history with a particular passion for the Civil War. That passion led to an undergraduate degree in History from Radford University. Kevin started his career with the National Park Service as a Park Ranger before leaving to work for the United States Marine Corps in Quantico, VA. Upon moving to Spotsylvania County, he joined the CVBT board and was heavily involved in the fight to save the May 1st battlefield at Chancellorsville. Following the victory at Chancellorsville, Kevin then led a Political Action Committee that saw the election of a preservation minded majority to the Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors. He was appointed to the county's Planning Commission and the Economic Development Authority. Stepping away from local politics, Kevin devoted his time to coaching youth soccer and is currently on the coaching staff of the Massaponax High School Boys Soccer program. Kevin and his family (along with a dog, a bird, and 4 gerbils) live in Spotsylvania County. This is his third time serving on the board of CVBT.
Dave grew up in Southern California and graduated from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1980 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics. He has over 40 years of banking experience on both coasts having arrived in Fredericksburg in 1997. A frequent visitor to Civil War battlefields near and far, he sticks to reading books rather than writing them. Dave is a past president and over 20-year member of the Rappahannock Rotary Club.
PARTNERSHIP / OUTREACH
Paul attended public schools in Fredericksburg graduating from James Monroe High School in 1961. He graduated from the University of Virginia in 1965. He served in the U.S. Army Medical Service Corps as a Lt. in the Medical Platoon of the 27th Infantry Regiment with Service in Vietnam earning the Combat Medic’s Badge and Bronze Star with “V” Device. He graduated from the University of Richmond Law School in 1969 and practiced law in the Fredericksburg and the vicinity for 44 years retiring in 2014. He has served on numerous governmental and civic organizations, including the Fredericksburg BZA (Chairman), the Fredericksburg Electoral Board (Secretary), and as President of the Fredericksburg Bar Association, HFFI and the Civil War Roundtable of Fredericksburg. He has had a lifelong interest in history, especially the Civil War. His great-great-grandfathers served in the 30th Va. Infantry and the 1st Rockbridge Artillery and his great-grandfather served in the 6th Va. Cavalry.
John recently retired as the Chief Historian at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, where he worked for the final 26 years of his NPS career. Before coming to Fredericksburg, he worked as an exhibit planner for NPS sites across the country and, as an opening act, a front-line ranger-historian at Manassas National Battlefield Park, where he began his career.
He is the author of four books, most notably, Return to Bull Run: The Campaign and Battle of Second Manassas. His books, articles, and essays have appeared under the imprint of Simon & Schuster, Cambridge University Press, Stackpole Books, LSU Press, the University of North Carolina Press, and another dozen publications. He continues writing and speaking about history and preservation. In the coming years he will be working on projects relating to the history of the Fredericksburg region during the war, the Army of the Potomac, slavery and freedom in the Rappahannock region, and a study of the care and relief of the wounded in the battles around Fredericksburg.
Chris Mackowski, Ph.D.
Chris Mackowski, Ph.D., is the editor-in-chief of Emerging Civil War and managing editor of the Emerging Civil War Series. He is a professor of journalism and mass communication at St. Bonaventure University in Allegany, NY, and historian-in-residence at Stevenson Ridge, a historic property on the Spotsylvania battlefield in central Virginia. He has also worked as a historian for the National Park Service at Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park, where he gives tours at four major Civil War battlefields (Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Wilderness, and Spotsylvania), as well as at the building where Stonewall Jackson died. Chris has authored or co-authored a dozen books on the Civil War, and his articles have appeared in all the major Civil War magazines. Chris serves on the national advisory board for the Civil War Roundtable Congress.
A graduate of Towson State College with a Bachelor of Science degree, Michael worked for the National Park Service for thirty years in six different park areas including four in Virginia. He served as the Supervisory Park Ranger for Resources Protection at Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park from December 1986 through February 2004.
Robert Lee Hodge
Born on Stonewall Jackson’s birthday Robert has had a keen interest in Civil War history since age 4. Robert interned for the National Park Service's Civil War Sites Advisory Commission. Robert has worked on films – from dramas like ABC's North and South and TNT’s Gettysburg and Andersonville, to many programs on The History Channel, Arts and Entertainment Channel, and the National Geographic Channel, to his own Civil War documentaries that have won 5 Telly awards and a regional Emmy in 2007. He has been featured on National Public Radio's Talk of the Nation, Kojo Nnamdi, and Soundscapes, NBC's Late, Late Show, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, Time, the PBS program Going Places, C-SPAN II’s Book TV, and has written for The Nashville Tennessean and The Washington Post. Robert has been a historical researcher at The National Archives, the U.S. Army, and the Library of Congress, working with nationally recognized experts. He was principle researcher on Time-Life Books 18-volume series Voices of the Civil War and The Illustrated History of the Civil War. Robert played a major role in, and appears on the cover of, the New York Times' best-seller Confederates in the Attic — hosting Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Tony Horwitz, on a memorable tour-de-force of historic sites.
Peter R. Kolakowski
Peter earned a bachelor’s degree in history and political science from Ripon College and a Master’s of Public Administration from American University. He has been a resident of the Fredericksburg area since 1972. He served in the U.S. Army and has been employed in executive management positions in Virginia local government in Fredericksburg, state government working for VDOT, and at the federal government level for the U.S. Navy at Dahlgren. He has been active supporter of preservation and history projects throughout his career
Gordon C. Rhea
Gordon C. Rhea received his B.A. in history from Indiana University, his M.A. in history from Harvard University, and his law degree from Stanford University Law School. He served as Special Assistant to the Chief Counsel of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Activities for two years and as an Assistant United States Attorney in Washington D.C. and the United States Virgin Islands for some seven years. He has been in the private practice of law since 1983.
Mr. Rhea has written eight award-winning books about the American Civil War, including The Battle of the Wilderness, The Battles at Spotsylvania Court House and the Road to Yellow Tavern, To the North Anna River, Cold Harbor, On To Petersburg, Carrying the Flag, In the Footsteps of Grant and Lee, and Stephen A. Swails: Black Freedom Fighter in the Civil War and Reconstruction. He has lectured across the country at the invitation of numerous historical societies, universities, and historic preservation organizations on topics of military history and the Civil War era and has served on the boards of several historical societies, history magazines, and historical preservation organizations. Mr. Rhea conducts tours for organizations that raise funds to purchase and preserve historical sites related to the Civil War era, including the Civil War Trust, the Central Virginia Battlefield Trust, the Blue and Gray Education Society, and the Friends of the Wilderness Battlefield. He has also appeared multiple times as a historian and presenter on nationwide television programs, including productions by The History Channel, A&E Channel, Discovery Channel, and C-Span.
Eric J. Wittenberg
Eric J. Wittenberg is an award-winning historian, speaker and tour guide. His specialty is Civil War cavalry operations, and much of his work has focused on the Army of the Potomac’s Cavalry Corps and on the Gettysburg Campaign. He is the author of 22 published books on the Civil War and more than three dozen articles that have appeared in various national magazines. He is also deeply involved in battlefield preservation work, including his work with both the American Battlefield Trust and the CVBT. He presently serves as the program coordinator for the Chambersburg Civil War Seminars and Tours and served as a member of the Governor of Ohio’s Advisory Commission on the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War. He is a native of southeastern Pennsylvania and was educated at Dickinson College and the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. He is an attorney in private practice. He and his wife Susan and their golden retrievers reside in Columbus, Ohio.
Terry has Bachelor of Arts degrees in History/Political Science and Broadcast Communications from the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford in Bradford, PA. and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau, AK. He also writes for the Emerging Civil War blog. Before joining CVBT in July 2019 he spent 12 years living in Homer, Alaska where he most recently was the General Manager of KBBI, the local public radio station.
CHIEF ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER
Tim has over 15 years of experience in the public history field serving at the Kentucky Historical Society in Frankfort, Kentucky, and at Pamplin Historical Park and the National Museum of the Civil War Soldier in Petersburg, Virginia. Tim has bachelor’s degrees in Communications (Milligan College) and History (East Tennessee State Univ.), and a M.A. in Public History (Appalachian State University). His passion for Civil War history dates to a trip to Perryville, Kentucky, as a youth. Tim is the founding member and President of the Battle of New Market Heights Memorial and Education Association, and he maintains the “Random Thoughts on History” blog. He is an avid reader and researcher and has published Civil War-era related articles in both book and scholarly journal format.