From their perch atop Marye's Heights, soldiers of the Washington Artillery of New Orleans enjoyed a breathtaking view of Fredericksburg and the empty plain west of town. Although trees now limit the view and streets and houses clutter the plain, visitors to the site can still make out several 1862 landmarks, including the steeples of St. George's Episcopal Church (right) and Fredericksburg Baptist Church (left).
Central Virginia Battlefields Trust played a key role in acquiring this vital historic ground dominating the most heavily visited location on the battlefields around Fredericksburg. Located on the crest of Marye’s Heights between the National Cemetery and historic Brompton, it is difficult today to imagine Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park without this connecting parcel, a property that is historic by anyone’s definition. This is what got CVBT started, our first acquisition coming within a month of our founding in late 1996.
Fredericksburg was the scene of two major battles. In both instances the fighting centered on Marye's Heights, a ridge one-half mile in rear of the town, where artillery on the ridge supported Confederate riflemen standing in the Sunken Road below. Today, thanks to the generosity of CVBT members, visitors can view the battlefield from either Confederate perspective.
Included in the purchase of Willis Hill were several buildings at Montfort Academy, including this 1885 house built by Lieutenant Colonel Charles Richardson, a former artillery officer in the Army of Northern Virginia.
In 1996 the Catholic order The Sisters of Wisdom had an attractive offer to purchase the site of shuttered Montfort academy from Mary Washington College, now the University of Mary Washington. By intensive personal lobbying and with Mary Washington College’s cooperation the order was persuaded to allow the National Park Service to match the Mary Washington bid. But there was a problem that threatened to sink the arrangement—the NPS was prohibited from paying above the appraised value for any property and the bid was already substantially above the appraisal. Into the breach stepped two preservation organizations: the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites (APCWS) and the fledgling Central Virginia Battlefields Trust. For what today seems a modest investment CVBT and the APCWS were able to bridge the gap between the parties and provide the necessary additional funding to secure the site. The deal was inked and recorded, the property subsequently restored to its wartime appearance. It was a demonstration of foresight and commitment that would characterize CVBT’s future efforts at historic preservation, and a pretty good start.