Battlefield Foundation receives land donation

LURAY — The Shenandoah Valley Battlefield Foundation has received a donation of 158 acres of land at the Cedar Creek Battlefield.

During the organization’s annual meeting on Saturday, CEO Keven Walker announced that Tunstall “Joe” Powers Jr. and his wife Linda Powers donated the easement to the foundation.

Pointing to a map of the Cedar Creek Battlefield, Walker said, “The land that you see there right now in yellow has now been preserved forever.”

The first action at the Battle of Cedar Creek, Walker said, occurred on the newly obtained land.

“[Confederate Gen. John Brown Gordon’s] assaulting troops attacked through this area, and the first shots of the battle were fired in that battlefield parcel,” Walker said.

The land acquisition, Walker said, was the product of more than a year of work. The foundation finalized an agreement in December but refrained from announcing the donation until Saturday’s annual meeting.

“We got everything finalized in December, got it on the books in December, and we kept it under wraps until tonight,” Walker said.

Land donations like this one, Walker said, are fairly rare. Far more often, people will donate money to the foundation.

The foundation will then use that donated money, as well as funding from government grants, to purchase land easements and preserve land the organization already has.

“Usually, it’s a sale” that gives the foundation land, Walker said. “A lot of times, it’s a bargain sale; they sell it to us for a lot less than the value (of the land).”

The announcement came at the end of a presentation in which speakers praised battlefield foundation and the work of the Shenandoah Valley Battlefield Foundation.

Col. Keith Gibson, the director of the Virginia Military Institute’s museum system, for instance, described battlefield preservation as a way of helping people contextualize history, even while people differ on how to interpret that history.

By walking on a parcel of Civil War land, Gibson said, “you visually enter [Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson’s] world.”

“Bit by bit, acre by acre, this organization and you are providing us this place,” Gibson said.

Walker called Civil War preservation a way of educating children about the nation’s history.

“What we do, as you already know, is unbelievably important,” Walker said. “Children get to learn about our nation, and learn to love our nation, on the fields that you preserve this year.”

Walker also pointed to what he viewed as successes of the foundation last year. According to Walker, the foundation received more money in private donations than it did in government grant funds for the first time in the organization’s history.