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Landmarks panel buys Battle of Shepherdstown site

Final $25,000 needed to complete purchase of 18-acre tract along the Potomac River came in just under the wire

December 22, 2011|By RICHARD F. BELISLE | richardb@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. — The battle to buy land where part of the Battle of Shepherdstown was fought in September 1862 is over.

On Wednesday, John Allen, chairman of the Jefferson County Landmarks Commission, told supporters that the final $25,000 needed to complete the purchase of the 18-acre tract along the Potomac River came in just under the wire.

The property was bought from Harry Blunt, a resident of New London, N.H., whose family has owned it for more than 100 years, said Martin Burke, a commission member.

The commission was one of several preservation groups cobbled together to raise the money, among them, the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association, Civil War  Trust, West Virginia Division of Highways and Save Historic Antietam Foundation. They raised $350,000, just $25,000 short of the asking price.

Earlier this month, the Jefferson County Commissioners, on a 3-2 vote, denied Allen's request for the $25,000.

Del. John Doyle, D-Jefferson, lobbied West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomlin to free up the money from state commerce department funds to seal the deal with Blunt.

If Doyle had failed, two $100,000 grants from the highway department would have run out at the end of the month.

Included in the 17 acres are the ruins of a cement mill that opened in 1829. The nearby limestone used to make concrete had special impurities that enabled it to harden underwater, an important property in the building of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal across the Potomac, said Allen, a local historian.

Some of the kilns on the river show damage from Union artillery shells sustained during the Battle of Shepherdstown, according to a news release from the Shepherdstown Battle Preservation Association.

The goal of the landmarks commission is to one day turn the property over to the National Park Service.

"Many historians regard the site of the Battle of Shepherdstown as the end of the Battle of Antietam or certainly the end of Robert E. Lee's Maryland Campaign of September 1862," Ed Dunleavy, president of the Shepherdstown Battle Preservation Association, said in a news release.

The Battle Preservation Association has been working for the last eight years attempting to save battlefield land, and the purchase now means that 102 acres have been saved.

"The SBPA brought the idea of purchasing the site to the County more than two and a half years ago," Dunleavy said in the release. "It is gratifying that the landmarks commission was willing to spend the time and energy in a long and arduous negotiating process."

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