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Williamsburg's "Bloody Ravine"

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  • Busterbuttonboy
    American Battlefield Trust buys 29 acres, site of Battle of Williamsburg, from Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

    A significant portion of Williamsburg’s historic Civil War battlefield has been saved this week after the American Battlefield Trust bought the 29 acres in the area of the “Bloody Ravine” from The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

    Grants from the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program and the commonwealth of Virginia, in addition to funds raised nationally by the Battlefield Trust enabled the land, zoned commercial and valued at $2,743,000, to be secured for preservation.

    “Sometimes the stars align, and that certainly felt like the case with this project,” David Duncan, president of the Battlefield Trust, said in prepared statement. He stressed that the value of the commercial property was “eye-popping.”
    A field that was part of the Battle of Williamsburg is seen May 12, 2020. A significant portion of Williamsburg’s historic Civil War battlefield has been saved when the American Battlefield Trust this week bought the 29 acres in the area of the “Bloody Ravine” from The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. (Jonathon Gruenke / Daily Press)

    “But The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is a partner that shares our vision for creating places where American history is alive and tangible. Together, we were able to create a scenario, supported by government partners who recognize the extraordinary significance of this land, that will preserve this historic ground forever,” he added.

    Cliff Fleet, Colonial Williamsburg president and chief executive officer, said in a news release, “it was our honor to ensure that this historic landscape is safeguarded by an organization uniquely situated to interpret it.”

    Trust said this battlefield provides an important opportunity to explain the often overlooked African American involvement in the Civil War.

    Drew Gruber, interim president of Williamsburg’s Battlefield Association, stressed, “outside of the battle itself, preserving this battlefield provides a venue to finally tell the story of the enlistment of local Black men into the United States Colored Troops,” and their part in the war.

    The land, about 1 mile from the city’s historic area and primarily within the city limits, is pristine and looks much as it did 158 years ago. Trust officials noted that there would also be an opportunity when the site is interpreted to honor seven Union soldiers who earned the Medal of Honor for their valorous service at Williamsburg. Those men were: Cpt. Robert Boody (40th New York Volunteers), Sgt. Martin Conboy (37th New York Volunteers), Sgt. John Nicholas Coyne (70th New York Volunteers), Pvt. Michael Dillon (2nd New Hampshire Volunteers), Pvt. Thomas Timothy (Fallon (37th New York Volunteers), Sgt. John Haight (72nd New York Volunteers) and Capt. George Washington Mindil (61st Pennsylvania).

    Gruber and Fleet said the land offers an expanded interpretation of the Battle of Williamsburg. “Conservation of this green space … will help our economy by diversifying our tourism profile. Adding a Civil War amenity will attract that large audience which literally drives past Williamsburg each year in such of these (Civil War) sites and stories,” said Gruber in a news release.

    Fleet added the land and increased interpretation will offer visitors “a more complete understanding of the Battle of Williamsburg and (will provide) an economic boost to local businesses.”

    Fought on May 5, 1862, the Battle of Williamsburg was the largest military action in Virginia since the first Battle of Manassas (or Bull Run) in July 1861. Union Gen. George McClellan had massed thousands of troops at Fort Monroe. From there, he moved up the Virginia Peninsula, hoping to threaten Richmond and ultimately capture the Confederate capital.

    Confederate troops centered around Yorktown to block the federal move and after a weeks long siege decided to withdraw westward from their entrenchments to prepare for the defense of Richmond.
    A informational sign about the Battle of Williamsburg is seen Tuesday morning May 12, 2020. The American Battlefield Trust is in the process of purchasing 29 acres within the city limits of Williamsburg near Pocahontas Trail. (Jonathon Gruenke / Daily Press)

    The pursuing Union troops caught up with the Confederate rear guard at Williamsburg and the result was an unplanned battle.

    The land now being preserved was one of the geographic features of the morning fighting and become known as the “Bloody Ravine,” the Trust release explained. Forces occupied each side of the ravine and combat in the area continued most of the day and battle.

    Ultimately, the battle ended and Confederate troops, under the cover of night, continued their movement toward Richmond. It has been estimated that about 12,000 federal troops and 9,000 Confederate troops were involved in some way during the daylong military struggle with a total of 3,800 casualties.

    Most traces of the battle have been erased with the construction of subdivisions and shopping centers in today’s Williamsburg, James City and York counties. Some scattered parcels have been preserved over the years, but this 29-acre parcel in the midst of the battlefield near Fort Magruder, the heart of the Confederate defense line, remains untouched.

    The Trust began its effort in May 2020 to secure donations from members and the public with an emphasis that every dollar donated would be matched $220 to $1. Within a few weeks, the necessary funds were raised and combined with federal and state grounds allowed the trust to begin negotiations to secure the property.

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  • Busterbuttonboy
    started a topic Williamsburg's "Bloody Ravine"

    Williamsburg's "Bloody Ravine"

    The American Battlefield Trust has raised $12,500, the private donations needed to purchase and protect 29 acres of the Williamsburg Civil War Battlefield, according to a trust official.

    We cannot declare full victory, explained Mary Koik, Trust director of communications and editor of Hallowed Ground magazine. We are still awaiting word on government (federal and state) grant applications.

    Once awarded (the grants) will be applied toward the purchase price. We anticipate closing the transaction and taking ownership near the end of the year, she added.
    The property is located off U.S. 60 east of Williamsburg about a mile from the citys historic area. Zoned commercial, the bulk of the land is in the city of Williamsburg, while some of the road frontage is located in James City County.

    In early May, the Trust announced it had an opportunity to save elements of the battlefield worth an estimated $2,743,000. An agreement with the property owner had been arranged for the land which would require private fundraising along with federal and state grants.

    In raising its share of the funds, the American Battlefield Trust stressed that the money raised would be equivalent to a $220-to-$1 match. The Trust has not divulged the name of the property owner, nor the governmental grants being sought.

    The Trust emphasized, Some scattered parcels (of the battlefield in Williamsburg and James City and York counties) have been preserved over the years, but this is the first time any part of the main action near the famous Bloody Ravine has been targeted for preservation.

    Action at the Bloody Ravine took place on the morning of May 5, 1862. With Union and Confederate troops on either side of the chasm, the battle raged as each side pushed the other back and forth. At the time of the Confederates withdrawal, there was a stalemate at the site, according to historians.