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Park Service Buys Civil War Battle Site

History: It's where Stonewall Jackson routed Union soldiers with a surprise flank attack during the Battle of Chancellorsville.

November 27, 1998| From the Washington Post

SPOTSYLVANIA, Va. — The place where Civil War Gen. Stonewall Jackson launched his famous flank attack against Union troops during the Battle of Chancellorsville has been preserved by the National Park Service.

The Park Service paid $775,000 for 40 acres of private land to be included in the Fredricksburg-Spotsylvania National Military Park.

Vast fields and dense woods that were Civil War battlefields blanket much of Spotsylvania County, and large chunks of land remain in the hands of private owners or developers. Parcel by parcel, the Park Service is hoping to buy 380 acres of the Chancellorsville battlefield.

Confederate soldiers were outnumbered, 2 to 1, by Union troops during the four days of combat in May 1863. Jackson decided to blast the Union line by attacking diagonally from the west, rather than face on. At the time, it was an unusual military maneuver that caught Union Gen. Joseph Hooker and his troops off guard. The ferocious battle resulted in nearly 30,000 casualties.

"This battle was by most accounts Jackson's greatest accomplishment. The Confederates absolutely demolished them," John Hennessy, the assistant superintendent for the military park, said Wednesday.

Jackson was accidentally shot in the left arm by his own men only hours after his victory, and the arm had to be amputated two inches below the shoulder. Jackson, weakened by pneumonia and delirious, died a week later. The arm is buried at the Ellwood Plantation, 15 miles west of Fredericksburg; the rest of Jackson's body is buried at Virginia Military Institute, where he had taught before the Civil War.

Last year, Congress appropriated $5.5 million to the military park for land acquisition. Park officials then sent out 125 letters to area residents with land inside the park's boundary to see if anyone was interested in selling. Paul and Joyce Brygider, a Spotsylvania couple who have since moved to a new home three miles away, agreed to sell their 40 acres for the appraised value.

"If we had held on to it indefinitely and negotiated with developers, we may have gotten more money," Joyce Brygider said. "But the price we sold it for was a fair price. We're happy to see it preserved as part of the battlefield."

The transaction did not directly involve officials from Spotsylvania County.

"It takes the property off the tax rolls, so that costs us money," Supervisor Bill Jones said. "But the value of preserving it as open space overwhelms that. We hope that our young people will appreciate the absolute horror that that carnage caused."

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