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Beckham Tract
Battlefield Reclamation

The opportunity to restore the landscape of one of CVBT's Chancellorsville “Jackson” Flank Attack properties to its battlefield state and remove the modern impediments to interpretation.

Property as seen today

The Opportunity

Instances throughout the Civil War abound with battles that one side or the other won because they made a stand, received reinforcements, seized the momentum, and made the final drive to victory. Similarly, sometimes when a preservation battle occurs, it takes additional assistance and an extra push before we can claim a complete win.


Through the generosity of the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust’s (CVBT) donors, about two and a half years ago we added the 1.2-acre “Beckham Tract” puzzle piece to the growing list of Chancellorsville “Jackson” Flank Attack properties that are now preserved forever.


However, additional work remains at the Beckham Tract to return it to its wartime appearance and before we call this preservation battle a total victory. Three modern structures stand on this site. A house and two large garage buildings currently hinder visitors’ ability to envision what happened here 161 years ago. We need your help to remove them, restore the landscape back to as close as possible to what the soldiers who fought here witnessed, and interpret this extremely important part of the Battle of Chancellorsville. This will also prepare the site for future access and interpretation.


Let me refresh your memory regarding the historical significance of this particular piece of ground. On the afternoon of May 2, 1863, after completing a 12-mile march around the Army of the Potomac’s right flank, Lt. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson pushed forward a force of about 28,000 soldiers. The largely unsuspecting Eleventh Corps received the full fury of Jackson’s juggernaut assault and retreated east along the Orange Turnpike.


In effort to help break up any Federal attempts of resistance, two guns from the Stuart Horse Artillery under the command of Maj. Robert F. Beckham kept pace with Jackson’s infantry as the attack progressed. Near Dowdall’s Tavern, just east of the intersection of the Orange Plank Road and the Turnpike, Union Col. Adolphus Bushbeck, who commanded a brigade in the Second Division of the Eleventh Corps, rallied some of his regiments and other units willing to make a stand. Establishing the “Buschbeck Line,” this defensive position was briefly successful in opposing the Confederate assault. However, Beckham’s guns moved into position and fired toward the Federals, helping break their short stand and precipitate their continued retreat.


The Beckham Tract marks the location of the major’s two guns. It is also where the usually reserved Jackson acknowledged Beckham’s battlefield efforts by complimenting him with: “Young man, I congratulate you.”


Some may ask, why take the extra effort and expend resources to restore the landscape?


Well, as a compliance issue, the Department of Historic Resources requires the removal of these modern-day obstructions as a condition of the grants received to help pay for these historic properties.


Just as important, reclaiming the site’s historic environment encourages historical empathy, a proper understanding of time, place, and situation. Developing historical empathy is difficult enough when faced with numerous distractions of present-day life. Automobile noise, asphalt, and modern buildings are all part of our twenty-first century world. They obviously cannot be totally avoided.


However, in certain historic settings, these disturbances can significantly hinder one’s ability to envision the past, or at least grasp a respectable facsimile of it. In turn, without being able to imagine the history, it is more difficult to understand the context and circumstances encountered by the people of another era. Preserving battlefield land and removing anachronistic structures allows us to create a truer sense of place and time apart from the present. Developing historical empathy is important if we are to learn from antiquity, see how the past shaped the present, avoid previous mistakes, and make better future decisions.


Procuring historic battlefield land is certainly not inexpensive, neither is reclaiming it. The cost of razing the structures and removing the debris on this property will cost CVBT nearly $35,000. Thus, this is the goal I set for this appeal to you.


Previous donors—perhaps including yourself—have helped us obtain this site. Will you now serve as our reinforcements? Will you help us seize the momentum and make the final push to victory? Let’s not only make sure that this land is preserved forever, but let’s also make sure that future generations may come here and learn about this important part of our nation’s history and see it as those who fought here saw it.

Chancellorsville - Jackson's Flank Attack-Hazen_Reclemation_Map-4-2024.jpg

Imagine standing here, reading accounts of the battle, and trying to understand what the soldiers experienced on May 2, 1863.

Property after battlefield reclamation completed (altered image)

Restoring the landscape by removing distracting modern structures, (as in this altered interpretation), fulfills our grant obligations and provides a truer sense of the battle's proper period setting.

Won't you please assist the CVBT in restoring one of our most important battlefield properties!

We need to raise $35,000 to complete this mission

Preservation Story

For years, Central Virginia Battlefields Trust has been working to save land from Jackson’s Flank Attack at the Chancellorsville Battlefield. In a triangular corner of historic Orange Plank Road and Orange Turnpike (modern Route 3), all that remains to complete the preservation puzzle is a 1.2-acre parcel—and we now have the chance to reclaim it! This is an extraordinary opportunity and the history connected to the land is quite unique.

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