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Preserved ground
Once again, Tricord steps in to buy hallowed Civil War ground, giving the Civil War Preservation Trust time to raise the funds needed to save it

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Date published: 4/20/2006

Preserved ground

Developer rescues another local battlefield

LOCAL FOLKS KNOW, and newcomers soon discover, that the Civil War is still being fought in and around Fredericksburg. Debates rage over displays of the Confederate battle flag, over commanders' battle strategies, and over whether the conflagration's main cause was slavery or the broader issue of states' rights. The war lingers here because it is ingrained in the area's heritage.

But it is on the battlefields of Greater Fredericksburg that today's skirmishes involving landowners, developers, and preservationists most echo what took place here 144 years ago. Now, just as then, courage and negotiation that limit the mayhem are welcome. Back then, lives might have been saved. Today, the hallowed ground on which lives were lost might be preserved in memorial.

A current example is the Pierson tract in Spotsylvania County, known in Civil War annals as Slaughter Pen Farm. Heirs to the Pierson family put the land up for sale, asking $12 million. In February, local developer-builder Tricord Cos. stepped up and bought the 205-acre parcel. Tricord intends to hold the land until the Civil War Preservation Trust can buy it. The trust, in turn, has begun a campaign it calls "the most ambitious nonprofit battlefield acquisition in American history" to raise the $12 million.

This was not a new scenario for Tricord president Michael Jones or trust president James Lighthizer. Last year in a similar venture, Tricord facilitated the trust's purchase of 140 acres of the Chancellorsville battlefield along State Route 3 that was ripe for development.

Meanwhile, at Slaughter Pen Farm, just south of Fredericksburg, 5,000 men died in fierce fighting in December 1862, days before the Battle of Fredericksburg. As Mr. Lighthizer puts it, "If you don't have this, you don't have the Battle of Fredericksburg," meaning that the two events went hand-in-hand.

Mr. Jones, who calls the site "a developer's dream," knew he had to act fast. The land is in an excellent location to welcome the industrial development for which it is zoned.

Development already has claimed 20 percent of the land notable in Civil War history, the trust laments, while another 15 percent is safely under federal control. The rest just sits there, most of it, destined sooner or later to attract the dollar-hungry. Most happily, it appears that Slaughter Pen Farm has escaped that fate.