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Historians hope to bring attention to little-known Orange County battlefield where Union, Confederacy met in a brief but hot fight
The fields and forests of Payne's Farm are nearly the same
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Smith, fellow Gettysburg historian Dave Richards and the team's leader, Garry Adelman, are eager to tell that story to a wider audience. Adelman spearheaded the recent effort to interpret the Slaughter Pen Farm and the First Day at Chancellorsville battlefields in Spotsylvania County, which were saved from development by the Civil War Preservation Trust.
The goal of the new project, also sponsored by CWPT, is to provide public access to the Payne's Farm battlefield, which few people have had the opportunity to visit. Until 2003, when CWPT and the Piedmont Environmental Council acquired the tract, the land was private property.
By year's end, the historians will draft an interpretive plan for the farm, which extends for nearly a mile along State Route 611. As funding allows, the trust envisions installing illustrated wayside markers to describe the battle, and creating walking trails and a parking area for visitors.
The national nonprofit group will seek public comment on the plan, supported by a $50,000 grant from the National Park Service's American Battlefield Protection Program, CWPT spokesman Jim Campi said.
For now, Payne's Farm remains off the beaten path, about three miles north of Routes 20 and 611, where Robertson's Tavern stood. But the trust's historians are piecing together every detail of what happened on the 685-acre site, which is remarkably unaltered from its Civil War heyday.
Here, Confederate Maj. Gen. Edward Johnson attacked with a division of 5,300 men, unaware that he faced an entire Union corps, supported by a second one--32,000 Union troops in all.
The site's fields and forests are nearly just as they were on Nov. 27, 1863, when columns of blue and gray accidentally bumped into each other at a road intersection near modern-day Zoar Baptist Church, and the battle ensued, Adelman said.
That crossroads remains. The farm lane along which Southern artillery and infantry positioned themselves is still there. A postwar farmhouse stands where the Paynes' home did; the family stayed in the cellar during the battle.
The landscape itself is informing the research as Adelman, Smith and Richards figure out how best to explain what happened here to future visitors, Campi said.
By halting Meade's advance toward Locust Grove, the Battle of Payne's Farm helped undo his elaborate plan to get the jump on Lee's army, the historians said.
Confederate forces gained a day to prepare for an all-out assault by the Yankees, creating defensive earthworks along Mine Run that Meade concluded were impregnable, said Adelman, the senior historian at History Associates Inc. in Rockville, Md.
By Nov. 30, after more delays, Meade decided to end the campaign. He realized his effort to outflank Lee had failed.tinyurl.com/mineruncwpt tinyurl.com/minerunNPS
Clint Schemmer: 540/368-5029