Civil War battle site set aside for park

Williamsburg, Va -- Carlton Abbott stood on top of the dirt wall of the Civil War stronghold, looking south.

Quarterpath Road stretched out in front of him.

On his left, Tutter's Neck Pond gleamed through the trees.

Abbott peered over the edge of the wall. It sloped down sharply - a 30-foot-high earthen barrier designed to block Union forces that advanced against Richmond in 1862 in an attempt to take over the Confederacy's capital.

Although it has eroded since 1862, a soldier today would still have trouble scaling it, he said, gesturing at the steep drop-off.

"You couldn't climb that today with a gun or a rifle," he said.

Riverside Health System, the city of Williamsburg, the Virginia War Museum and Abbott, an architect, are working to make that view into a public park.

Riverside is donating 22 acres to the city, including two redoubts - earthen fortifications built by slaves in the 19th century - that were used in the Battle of Williamsburg. The land is part of the 350-acre tract that Riverside bought from Colonial Williamsburg in 2004. It's a small section of the 4.5 mile stretch of land where the Battle of Williamsburg was fought.

"The fortifications are all part of a one-year effort by Maj. Gen. John Bankhead Magruder to defend Virginia against the Federals - located at Fort Monroe - and any effort they might make to march up the Peninsula and capture the capitol in Richmond," said John Quarstein, director of the Virginia War Museum.

Williamsburg is asking the state for $75,000 to help pay the cost for the park, which will include parking spaces, signs and handicapped-accessible trails that will wind from the parking area to one redoubt then loop through the woods to the other. Riverside has agreed to pay up to $150,000 for the construction of the park.

State Sen. Thomas K. Norment Jr. agreed Wednesday to sponsor the city's request in the Senate, calling the project a worthy cause.

The battlefield was named on a national list of threatened battle sites in 2005 by the national Civil War Preservation Trust.

Other groups are working to preserve other parts of the battlefield, which could eventually be linked by a driving tour, Quarstein said. City officials would like to have the park done by May 2007, said City Manager Jack Tuttle. It would be linked to the city's efforts to commemorate Jamestown 2007, the 400th anniversary of America's first English-speaking permanent settlement.

The park's opening would also be tied to the anniversary of the bloody Battle of Williamsburg, which left 3,600 dead or wounded on May 5, 1862.

Published: January 9, 2006



 

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