Foundation receives grant for Fisher’s Hill

The Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation has received state funds to help preserve more of the Fisher’s Hill site.

The Department of Historic Resources announced Tuesday that it had awarded a grant of $192,000 to the foundation, which plans to buy approximately 62 acres of core and study areas of the Fisher’s Hill Battlefield in Shenandoah County. The foundation will provide matching funds to buy the land known as the Lyon Farm.

Fisher’s Hill Battlefield occupies the bottomlands and flanks hillsides of Tumbling Run, south of Strasburg, according to information provided by the foundation. The North Fork of the Shenandoah River bounds the battlefield on the East while Little North Mountain lies to the West. Interstate 81 and U.S. Route 11 run through the center of the battlefield.

The Battle of Fisher’s Hill on Sept. 21 and 22, 1864, ended with a Union victory that drove Confederate forces out of the Shenandoah Valley and gave control of the region to federal forces, historians say.

The foundation plans to apply the grant to a larger project and the amount represents about 25-30 percent of the cost to buy the property, Chief Executive Officer Keven Walker said Tuesday.

“It is unbelievably important battlefield ground,” Walker said. “It was a key, defensive position during the Battle of Fisher’s Hill. Of course the Battle of Fisher’s Hill was a Confederate defeat and really kind of solidified by the fact that it was the beginning of the end for the Confederacy in the Valley and, therefore, the Confederacy nationwide.

“So it’s a pretty important small engagement and we’re really trying to stitch together some already-preserved parcels out there into a contiguous, visitor experience and we have been working to link much of that battlefield with a trail system that’s been supported by (the Virginia Department of Transportation),” Walker added.

The foundation received a VDOT grant to install trails, markers and signs. The foundation envisions a trail system that stretches from the west side of Interstate 81, under the highway to the Shenandoah River if the organization obtains more parcels like the one it intends to purchase with the grant from the Department of Historic Resources, Walker said. The trail would help visitors learn about the battlefield and serve as a recreational resource for the community, Walker added.

The foundation hopes to receive more support to buy the 62-acre parcel. The foundation applied to the National Parks Service for an American Battlefield Protection Program grant, Walker said. The organization also appealed to the private sector for funding. The foundation would like to acquire more than $1.2 million worth of land in Fisher’s Hill in the next six months, Walker added.

The state grant comes from the Virginia Battlefield Preservation Fund with this year’s awards going to help protect more than 1,300 acres associated with Civil War battles. The Virginia General Assembly established the permanent Civil War Historic Sites Preservation Fund in 2010. The General Assembly expanded and renamed the fund in 2013 to cover battlefields associated with the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Grant recipients must donate an easement on the acquired lands to the Department of Historic Resources’ Virginia Board of Historic Resources for preservation and stewardship in partnership with the organizations.

The state agency also awarded $400,000 to the Capital Region Land Conservancy and $200,000 to the Civil War Trust to preserve acres associated with the battles of Chancellorsville, Malvern Hill and the Wilderness.

The state department received more than $2.9 million in requests – far exceeding the $792,000 available this year. The agency awarded grants based in part on each battlefield’s significance as determined by the Congressional-commissioned “Report of the Nation’s Civil War Battlefields.” The department also considers other factors such as proximity of parcels to other protected land, the threat of loss by encroaching development and the potential for education, recreation, research or heritage tourism.

Visit www.shenandoahatwar.org for more information about the Battle of Fisher’s Hill and the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com.