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Preserving Civil War forts
Civil War fortifications to be preserved by new park given green light by Stafford County

 Union soldiers came and went by the thousands from Stafford's Aquia Landing and built forts to protect the port and rail depot.
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Date published: 12/19/2008


Stafford County has decided to save the best of its remaining, unprotected Civil War sites and turn them into a public park.

The Board of Supervisors approved the ambitious effort Tuesday evening, approving an action plan and creating a steering group to guide the work.

The public-private project, spearheaded by the local nonprofit Friends of Stafford Civil War Sites, aims to open the 25-acre park by 2011--in time for the start of the nation's Civil War sesquicentennial.

To get started, the Stafford board set aside $25,000 provided by the regional board that operates the Stafford-Fredericksburg landfill. The Friends group, which proposed the idea, has committed to raise most of the money and in-kind donations needed to build the park and its access road.

The park would preserve several Civil War forts, and other historic sites, that occupy a small piece of the sprawling landfill property in central Stafford.

In January, the Rappahannock Regional Solid Waste Management Board reshaped an 80-acre landfill expansion, giving up 3 to 5 acres, to preserve one of the forts.

Built to defend against a feared attack by Confederate cavalry, the earthworks were part of a network of fortifications that protected Union Army encampments in Stafford.

In midwar, the county was home to at least 120,000 Federal troops, and the Army's busy supply depot at Aquia Landing on the Potomac River.

The Union soldiers' presence was the single most transformative event in Stafford's history, said John Hennessy, chief historian of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park. Their log, mud and canvas homes amounted to the largest "city" in North America at the time. Stafford's civilian population, about 8,300 people, was overwhelmed by the Army's encampments, and it took more than a century for the county to recover from the war's effects.

Today, few of the forts and campsites have survived the waves of development that have hit Stafford. The landfill tract's sites are considered the best group that remain.

The supervisors appeared to unanimously favor the park, but bogged down Tuesday over how much of the landfill's $115,000 available money to use.

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