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U.S. Senate acts to save Civil War site

By Staff | Jan 30, 2009

Faraway Farms is where most of the 1862 Battle of Shepherdstown occurred. The U.S. Senate recently passed the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, which authorizes the National Park Service to conduct a special study of the Civil War battlefield site. Journal file photo.

Legislation introduced by Sen. Robert C. Byrd in mid-2008 was included in a bill that was approved by the U.S. Senate recently. This legislation begins the process that could ultimately save and preserve the site of the 1862 Battle of Shepherdstown.

On Jan. 18, the Senate passed S.22: “Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009.

Included in the act was a section that authorized the National Park Service to conduct a Special Resources Study of the Shepherdstown Battlefield. The study is to: 1) determine the national significance of the battle and the site; and, 2) to determine the suitability and feasibility of adding the Shepherdstown site to either Harpers Ferry National Historical Park or Antietam National Battlefield. It also authorizes the appropriation of such sums necessary to carry out the study.

The Battle of Shepherdstown was fought on Sept. 19 to 20, 1862, over approximately 1 square mile, east of what was then Shepherdstown, Va., and south of the Potomac River and Boteler’s (aka Packhorse) Ford. The battle was the last of three battles fought during the Army of Northern Virginia’s Antietam or Maryland Campaign.

Approximately 9,000 troops took part in the Shepherdstown battle with 677 casualties about equally divided between the Union Army of the Potomac and Robert E. Lee’s troops. The battle’s significance is that it was a contributing factor in Lee’s decision to reverse the order to move north back into Maryland.

As a consequence, the Army of Northern Virginia retreated up the Shenandoah Valley toward Winchester. That retreat allowed the Union Army to declare a military victory and enabled President Abraham Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.

The Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association Inc., organized in 2004, is a nonprofit, Section 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to saving and preserving the site of the 1862 Battle of Shepherdstown. SBPA has preserved 84 acres by way of conservation easements granted by members who own property on the site. For more information and to purchase the book entitled “Shepherdstown: Last Clash of the Antietam Campaign September 1920, 1862,” visit www.battleofshepherdstown.org