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Civil War Trust seeks to buy old GM tract in Spotsylvania, most pivotal part of Fredericksburg battlefield

 Civil War Trust aerial photo shows former GM tract and Slaughter Pen tract (left).
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Date published: 6/11/2011


The Civil War Trust aims to buy the former GM Powertrain plant site in Spotsylvania County, the ground where historians say the Battle of Fredericksburg was decided.

The trust would raze the defunct, 300,000-square-foot GM plant--a victim of the automaker's decline and subsequent Chapter 11 reorganization--and restore the property to its appearance on Dec. 13, 1862, when the battle took place. Some original contours of that landscape survive, along with a historic road trace, the trust said.

Purchase of the 77-acre parcel and creation of a new national-destination park would help visitors appreciate that the southern end of the battlefield was the pivotal one, not the far better-known Sunken Road area to the north, the trust said.

The National Park Service and the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust, which is based in Fredericksburg, both swiftly endorsed the trust's proposal.

"The GM plant was built on the critical part of the Fredericksburg battlefield, the place where General Meade's forces broke through the Confederate line and the Union army came closest to victory," said Russ Smith, superintendent of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. "We hope that county leaders will see the value in recovering that land."

Kevin Leahy, a member of the CVBT's board of directors, said the group fully supports the plan and will so inform Spotsylvania supervisors when they meet and consider the matter on Tuesday.

"It's a great idea--restoring a battlefield--that's really going to capture people's imagination," Leahy said.

The Civil War Trust is asking the Board of Supervisors to back its proposal to the RACER Trust, the GM-reorganization entity that's selling the tract and 88 other former General Motors industrial plants and other properties across the U.S. slated for closure in GM's 2009 bankruptcy.

The RACER Trust has requested the endorsement because community support is a criterion for disposal of sites in the settlement agreement between the old GM, the U.S. government and various states.

No zoning changes or special-use permits will be needed, the trust said.

Getting the county's support is the first step for the Civil War Trust in securing an agreement with RACER.

The tract, which occupies the center of the battlefield's southern part, is assessed at $5.3 million. No details about the sale negotiations were disclosed.

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