Friday, March 31, 2023

Preservationists Take Steps to Finalize Protection of 245-Acre Williamsburg Battlefield Property

Preservationists are in the final stage of efforts to protect the historic James Custis Farm. (Courtesy of American Battlefield Trust)

WILLIAMSBURG — Only $57,000 of $9.4 million remains to complete the protection of the James Custis Farm, a 245-acre property on the Williamsburg Battlefield.

The American Battlefield Trust has secured a contract to acquire the historic property that could be used to tell the largely untold story of enslaved people in the Civil War.

According to the American Battlefield Trust, the approximately $9.4 million project is the second most expensive private battlefield acquisition in American history. 

Thanks to grants from the National Park Service, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Department of Defense, the American Battlefield Trust is now seeking just $57,000 from individual donors.

“The sheer number of categories in which this project is ‘one for the record books’ is astounding,” Trust President David Duncan said. “Not only was it awarded the largest matching grant in the history of the federal American Battlefield Protection Program (ABPP), but it also includes one of the most staggering matching opportunities ever offered to our members — a monumental $163-to-$1 return on donations. I am thrilled that the determination and persistence of the preservation community is finally coming to fruition.”

The Trust was able to acquire the land at the end of 2021 and work with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and the United States Navy to facilitate permanent conservation easements. 

The Williamsburg Battlefield Association has advocated for the protection of the farm for over a decade.

“The James Custis Farm is the heart of this battlefield, and its protection is a major milestone that is poised to help us tell important stories like never before,” Drew Gruber, president of the Williamsburg Battlefield Association, said. “It is destined to become another incredible resource, drawing more visitors to the area and boosting economic vibrancy in our community.” 

The wooded property located off of the Colonial Parkway has been sought after for decades. It tells the powerful story of enslaved Black Americans during the Civil War’s 1862 Peninsula Campaign.

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

The Trust, which is dedicated to preserving battlegrounds and educating the public about what happened at locations across the country, has protected nearly 54,000 acres connected to the Revolutionary War, War of 1812 and Civil War.

For more information about fundraising efforts, visit here.

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