W.Va. battlefield group gets narrow victory

September 09, 2005|by CANDICE BOSLEY

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - They joked that it was simply a skirmish - heated words surrounding an effort to save a battlefield site outside of Shepherdstown.

By a 3-2 vote Thursday, the Jefferson County Commission approved a resolution recognizing the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association's efforts to promote and preserve the site of the Battle of Shepherdstown.

Commissioners Jim Surkamp, Greg Corliss and Rusty Morgan voted for the resolution, while Commissioners Dale Manuel and Jane Tabb voted against it.


The resolution is part of the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association's effort to prevent more than 100 houses from being built on 121 acres that was part of a Civil War battle on Sept. 19 and 20, 1862.

A group of residents have been trying to save the land, known as Faraway Farm, for about a year.

Manuel said he voted against the resolution because it offered no opportunity for comments from the public. He likened it to putting "the cart before the horse."

Tabb expressed concern about a governmental body injecting itself into a land-use issue. She asked Corliss how he would feel if the commissioners supported a measure to prevent his land from being developed.

Corliss replied that he would wish them the best.

Ed Dunleavy, who lives across from a portion of the farm, has led the effort to save the battlefield.

He said during the meeting that the developer's attorney has called him and discussed the possibility of selling the land to the preservation group. If that happens, he said the group hopes to use federal and state funding to buy it and create a battlefield park.

Already, he said, more than $1 million in federal funding is available, provided matching funds can be obtained.

Most adjacent landowners support saving the land from development and more than 400 signatures on petitions have been collected, Dunleavy said.

Dunleavy said he did not understand opposition to the resolution, given that the site cannot be preserved unless it is sold to the Preservation Association.

Last month, the county's Board of Zoning Appeals denied a conditional use permit for the subdivision, and a lawsuit filed by the Preservation Association has been put on hold, Dunleavy said.

Asked if the resolution is on the agenda for the current special session of the state Legislature, Dunleavy said he is not sure. Thirteen resolutions are to be discussed, but the topics of the resolutions have not been revealed, he said.

A portion of the six-paragraph resolution recounts the battle itself, which ended with a Confederate victory when Union forces were repelled. As a result, President Lincoln relieved Gen. George McClellan of command of Union forces. The battle also ended the Maryland Campaign - Gen. Robert E. Lee's first invasion of the north.

The battle was fought from the bluffs of the Potomac River near Pack Horse Ford to what is now Faraway Farm, on Trough Road outside of Shepherdstown. With 600 casualties, it marked the bloodiest battle in what is now West Virginia.

The battle began two days after the Battle of Antietam.

In a letter written Feb. 25, 1863, Confederate Gen. A.P. Hill wrote of the Battle of Shepherdstown, "... a daring charge was made, and the enemy driven pell-mell into the river. Then commenced the most terrible slaughter that this war has yet witnessed. The broad surface of the Potomac was blue with the floating bodies of our foe. But few escaped to tell the tale."

How they voted

The Jefferson County Commission approved a resolution backing efforts to preserve the Battle of Shepherdstown site.

For: County Commissioners Jim Surkamp, Greg Corliss and Rusty Morgan

Against: Commissioners Dale Manuel and Jane Tabb

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