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Preservationists spruce up local Civil War sites
Nonprofit improves Civil War sites at Pelham's Corner, Harris Farm in Spotsylvania

 Jason Shaffer (right) and Joey Lawrence of the Virginia Civil War Trails program add a marker at Harris Farm.
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Date published: 11/22/2012


People may think of Civil War battlefields as static, but they're hardly unchanging things.

Trees topple or grow, earth erodes, growth encroaches and signs get dated. In short, they sometimes need a bit of TLC.

That's what two of the Fredericksburg area's lesser-known Civil War hot spots have just received, courtesy of the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust.

On Monday, landscapers and CVBT officials swarmed over Pelham's Corner, a vest-pocket park at Tidewater Trail and Benchmark Road in Spotsylvania County. It's the spot where a lone cannon ignited the Battle of Fredericksburg, holding a giant Union force at bay for an hour.

Confederate Maj. John Pelham's feat drew admiration from his contemporaries. Gen. Robert E. Lee dubbed him "The Gallant Pelham," and remarked that, "It was glorious to see such courage in one so young!"

Three months later, the 24-year-old Alabamian was mortally wounded in a skirmish at Kelly's Ford on the upper Rappahannock River.

Pelham's artillery hijinks, which delayed the Yankees' assault on Prospect Hill near Hamilton's Crossing in Spotsylvania, have long been a favorite story of countless visitors to the area. That's why CVBT moved swiftly to acquire the 1-acre site when it became available in 1999.

Since then, it has been engulfed by strip development, intrusions that make it hard for visitors to appreciate the Dec. 13, 1862, duel between Pelham and Union artillerists.

So, with an eye to the war's sesquicentennial, CVBT went to work this week to spruce up its property and make visitors' experience more meaningful.

To "block the schlock" of modern development, in the words of one CVBT member, the local nonprofit installed rows of fast-growing cedars around the tract's perimeter. Cedars grew on the property during the war, research has determined.

In addition, Ann Little of Tree Fredericksburg has donated two oaks and Meadows Farm has chipped in to lower the cost of the plantings.

So that visitors can understand the action, CVBT is trying to preserve sight lines at Pelham's Corner toward Prospect Hill and a Union position near today's Fredericksburg Country Club, Executive Director Jerry H. Brent said in an interview.

To enhance visitors' experience, the trust may collaborate with the Blue and Gray Education Society to help buy a cannon to position on the grounds.

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