- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 25, 2006

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. (AP) — Now that preservationists have laid claim to a key piece of Civil War history, they are beginning to visualize changes at their record acquisition.

The Civil War Preservation Trust bought the 205-acre Slaughter Pen farm for $12 million — the highest price it has ever paid for a parcel of Civil War land.

The Washington, D.C., group, the nation’s largest battlefield preservation organization, now has the responsibility for preserving and interpreting these storied acres.

“Right now, we’re just focused on paying for it all, and we haven’t had time to focus on those discussions,” said Jim Campi, spokesman for the trust. “We’re doing some very limited conducted tours of the property.

“But there are no interpretive signs or anything out there, so people can’t really learn much about the battle or the history out there,” he said.

Much of the property is being cultivated, too, and can’t be used.

What lies ahead for Slaughter Pen can likely be viewed in Spotsylvania County, where the trust purchased 140 acres on the Chancellorsville battlefield outside the National Park Service boundary.

There, at a cost of $1 million, the trust is building four to five miles of trails and is planning interpretive signs and exhibits to provide details about the battle and explain the significance of the site.

The trust pools members’ donations with state and federal grants to pay for trails and interpretive programs.

The trust closed on Slaughter Pen, known locally as the Pierson Farm, in mid-June. The land earned the former name during the war because of the carnage there.

About 5,000 men met their fate where Confederate Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s 2nd Corps battled Union Gen. William Franklin’s Left Grand Division. Five Union soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor.

Mr. Campi said the trust aims to give the public a chance to see the property this fall as part of a formal acquisition ceremony. That outing would be coordinated with the National Park Service.

Mr. Campi has said the trust would like to have it included in the National Park system.

It’s not that easy, though. National Park boundaries are set by Congress and the process can take many years.

Russ Smith, superintendent of the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, said Slaughter Pen is a good candidate for inclusion. “It’s right on our boundary.”

The tract would enable park visitors to see from the Union lines to the Confederate lines, Mr. Smith said, adding that “it gives real scope and depth to the southern part of the Fredericksburg battlefield.”

The last boundary expansions for National Park Service battlefields here were in 1989, 1992 and 1999. The first one added 1,800 acres, Mr. Smith said, and the other two brought in a total of 560.

The military park now covers about 8,000 acres.

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