Thursday, June 13, 2024

NPS Awards Record $4.6 Million Grant to Preserve Williamsburg Battlefield Property

The American Battlefield Trust is one step closer to buying the property where the Battle of Williamsburg occurred in 1862. (WYDaily/Courtesy Mary Koik)
The American Battlefield Trust has received a National Park Service grant to purchase historic property. (WYDaily file/Courtesy Mary Koik)

YORK COUNTY — The American Battlefield Trust will acquire a long-sought $9.2 million property on the Williamsburg Battlefield in York County through a record grant.

The historic 250-acre property, known as the James Custis Farm, has long been desired for its permanent protection due to its size, location and development potential.

Now thanks to federal and state matching grants, including a landmark $4.6 million sum from the American Battlefield Protection Program (ABPP) administered by the National Park Service (NPS), along with other anticipated funding sources, the Trust expects to preserve the property.

“Announcing publicly that the Trust is on the cusp of protecting the James Custis Farm is a triumphant achievement,” David Duncan, president of American Battlefield Trust, said. “Despite all that has been done over many long years to reach this point, the Trust must align further funding sources and  private donations to complete the acquisition. Only once ownership is secured and the land is fully paid for will we declare victory.”

The $4.6 million matching grant from NPS is the largest in the two-decade history of the federal ABPP.

“This grant represents the largest single grant in the American Battlefield Protection Program’s history and underscores the value of historic properties and green spaces outside federal lands,” NPS Deputy Director Shawn Benge said. The preservation of this battlefield is the result of nearly a decade of organizing and planning at the local, state and national levels and exemplifies what we can achieve when we work across boundaries.”

The property is full of rich history. From the 1690s to the mid nineteenth-century, a series of owners operated the land as a slave plantation where enslaved people produced liquor, tobacco, wheat, wool, butter, cider, pork, veal, mutton and livestock.

Prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, the site was operated by James W. Custis, who served in the Virginia State Senate and House of Delegates.

Undiscovered archaeological resources on the property, including burial sites, may help the organization identify enslaved men and women there.

The property is also the site where Union soldiers and enslaved Virginians turned the tide of the Battle of Williamsburg in 1862.

Last December, the American Battlefield Trust also acquired a 29-acre tract at the Bloody Ravine from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation through grants from ABPP and the Commonwealth of Virginia, as well as donations from Trust members.

The nonprofit organization, which is dedicated to preserving battlegrounds and educating the public about what happened there, has protected nearly 54,000 acres connected to the Revolutionary War, War of 1812 and Civil War.

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