CENTRAL Virginia battlefields trust is continuing a long-time partnership with American battlefield trust to assist with the final fundraising to save 36 acres of the wilderness battlefield!
In 2019, the American Battlefield Trust began preservation work on an important 36-acre tract on the Wilderness Battlefield. With the closing deadline looming on April 2, 2021, there’s still $49,000 left to raise to save this piece of historic land. When President David Duncan from American Battlefield Trust called to see if Central Virginia Battlefields Trust could raise half of the remaining funds (just $24,500), CVBT’s President Tom Van Winkle responded with a hearty “yes!”
The 36-acre tract sits near the western edge of the National Park, bordering State Route 20 (Orange Turnpike) and hemmed in by Lake of the Woods subdivision to the north and privately held tracts to the west and east. The land is within the designated Core Battlefield Area and was a key point for the unfolding combat in Saunders’ Field on May 5, 1864.
Through your generous support, Central Virginia Battlefields Trust is rallying to raise our portion to help the American Battlefield Trust close on this tract of hallowed ground. We need to raise $24,500 by April 2 to fulfill this commitment and join our resources to the grants and fundraising already in place to “swing and close the gap,” making the difference between “history saved forever” or land lost to continued development.
Will you donate today to help “hold this line” and preserve another piece of the Wilderness Battlefield?
THESE 36 ACRES & THE BATTLE OF THE WILDERNESS
In the opening battle of the Overland Campaign, the Federal V Corps pushed down the Orange Turnpike on May 5, 1864, meeting Confederate resistance as General Robert E. Lee hustled divisions into defensive positions. Brigadier General Joseph Bartlett’s brigade from Griffin’s Division lined up along the turnpike on the east side of a piece of open ground called Saunders’ Field. Bartlett’s brigade in the field that day included the 20th Maine, 18th Massachusetts, 1st Michigan, 44th New York, 83rd Pennsylvania, and 118th Pennsylvania. Battle-tested and historically famed for their defense of Little Round Top at Gettysburg, the brigade waited. According to Samuel L. Miller, a veteran historian of the 20th Maine: “When the order was given to advance all three brigades started on the double-quick with a yell, driving the enemy in confusion back upon his reserves.”
The charge plunged across the field under heavy fire and crashed through the Confederate lines held by General Jones’s Virginians in the Second Corps near the crest of the high ground on the south side of the turnpike. In the Confederate rear reserve, Brigadier General Cullen A. Battle readied his command of Alabama regiments, the 5th, 3rd, 6th, 61st, and 12th. His men positioned on the northern side of the road (across the exact tract of land that we need to preserve) and ready to maneuver in an agile line of battle According to a soldier in the 3rd Alabama: “Orders were given for regimental commanders to move up rapidly to the crest of the hill and hold it at all hazards in case Jones gave way. The woods in front were so thick that it was impossible to see more than 20 steps from our line, and all thought that General Jones held the crest of the hill. Our enemy soon hurled a heavy column against General Jones, sweeping down on his flanks and it became evident that he was pressing our men back. At this juncture, Battle’s brigade moved up at a double-quick.”
Confederate General C.A. Battle
Union General J. J. Bartlett
Surprised to find Jones’s men scurrying in retreat, the majority of the Alabama Brigade swung like a door, sweeping across the Orange Turnpike and slamming into the advancing regiments of Bartlett’s brigade. The 6th and 61st Alabama near the center of the Confederate line captured two artillery pieces and many prisoners.
Unsupported and stopped by Alabamians’ maneuver, Bartlett’s brigade found itself outflanked as well and were forced to fall back, leaving the high ground at Saunder’s Field in Confederate hands. Other Confederate units rallied, trying to block the escape of Union companies that had been separated. One 15-man company of the 20th Maine screeched “Surrender” to their enemies and charged back through the earthworks to reach their side of the field and fighting lines. General Bartlett himself was nearly killed when he tried to jump his horse over the Confederate earthworks during his retreat; enemy bullets felled the horse, but the general survived and staggered back toward his regiments in the field.
Though the Union attack’s coordination disintegrated in action, Bartlett’s brigade had pierced the Confederate lines and might have gained further ground except for the arrival of Battle’s Alabamians. The fighting over and around Saunders’ Field continued to rage through the rest of May 5th and into the 6th before both armies started maneuvering south for the next chapter of the Overland Campaign.
As you examine the enclosed map provided by the American Battlefield Trust, you’ll see that this 36-acre tract of core battlefield land is where General Battle’s Alabamians started on their swinging maneuver that blocked Bartlett’s advance along the turnpike. National Park historian Bert Dunkerly has observed: “The acquisition of this land would preserve the site of a Confederate counterattack, where no doubt casualties occurred. It would also help protect the western boundary of the National Park Service property along Route 20 from development.”
Help us save this piece of historic battlefield!
The opening battle of Grant’s sustained offensive against the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, known as the Overland Campaign, was fought at the Wilderness, May 5-7. May 6 at noon, a devastating Confederate flank attack in Hamilton’s Thicket sputtered out when Lt. Gen. James Longstreet was wounded by his own men almost exactly a year after "Stonewall" Jackson's wounding in the same manner.
Battlefield Ground Saved
Grant's Knoll - Two tracts, 2001 & 2007
Wilderness Crossroads II, 2012
Wilderness Crossroads 2009
Grant's Knoll I
6 acres 2001
On May 4, 1864, Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant established his headquarters in this area during his first confrontation with General Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia.
Grant's Knoll II
As an added bonus, this ground also has links to the American Revolution. In the summer of 1781, the Marquis de Lafayette carefully evaded a powerful British force under Lord Cornwallis. He camped his relatively small force on this high ground, later reporting how they spent the night with weapons primed.
93 acres 2010
One of the historic roads across this property is the old Orange Turnpike, which runs to the southwest, toward Elwood, the Colonial period home that served as General Warren’s Fifth Corps headquarters. The other road is the original Plank Road that extends southeast to Brock Road and its intersection with Orange Plank Road, which became the storm center of the Wilderness fighting.
Wilderness Crossroads II
81 acres 2012
This land includes the site of the historic Wilderness Tavern. Its grounds were the site of the Confederate 2nd Corps field hospital in 1863 and where Stonewall Jackson had his left arm amputated. During the Wilderness campaign, Generals George Meade and Ulysses S. Grant were present here.