Wednesday, September 15, 2004

CHANCELLORSVILLE, Va. (AP) — A portion of the battlefield where Robert E. Lee’s outnumbered Confederate forces defeated Union soldiers will be spared from development under a proposed deal preservationists call a model for other Civil War sites.

The agreement to set aside 140 acres of the “core” Chancellorsville battlefield marks a breakthrough in a long campaign to save part of the land.

The national Civil War Preservation Trust compared the preservation to the successful effort to defeat Walt Disney Co.’s plans 10 years ago to build a theme park near Manassas National Battlefield.

“We see this as the beginning of a trend of battlefield preservationists working with developers,” trust spokesman Jim Campi said yesterday.

Under proposed terms of the agreement, the trust will pay developer Tricord Homes of Spotsylvania $3 million for 140 acres near Fredericksburg. Tricord Homes would forfeit its right to build retail space on its remaining property along heavily traveled state Route 3 and also would agree to set back homes 1,000 feet from the road, according to details of the deal.

In exchange, Spotsylvania officials would permit Tricord to build 294 homes for adults only on three parcels — about 220 more homes than allowed under current zoning, said Robert Hagan, chairman of the Spotsylvania Board of Supervisors.

Details of the agreement were presented late Tuesday to the Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors. The deal still needs to be aired before the county’s planning commission and requires final approval from the supervisors, Mr. Hagan said.

Although the 140 acres are outside the boundaries of Chancellorsville National Battlefield, preservationists say parts of it are nonetheless historically significant.

The property to be preserved includes an area east of what is known as Lick Run, where Union and Confederate troops clashed on the first day of the three-day battle, May 1, 1863.

Russell Smith, the park’s superintendent, said Tuesday the land provides “a green gateway to the battlefield.”

In terms of acreage, the deal represents a partial victory for the trust. The group initially had tried to save nearly 800 acres, though it considered 300 acres key to the Battle of Chancellorsville.

“I would say this is as complete a victory as we could ask for,” Mr. Campi said.

From May 1 to May 3, 1863, Lee’s forces stopped the Union from wresting Fredericksburg from the Confederacy.

Chancellorsville also was the last battle where Lee and Confederate Lt. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson fought together. Jackson was mortally wounded on the second day of the battle.

“Historians refer to it as one of the most important battles of the Civil War,” Mr. Campi said. “It’s often referred to as Lee’s greatest military victory.”

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