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Group protects local battlefield

By Staff | Feb 4, 2011

Ed Dunleavy, president of the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association, LLC, said the fight to save the Shepherdstown Battlefield goes on.

In 2009, President Obama signed in to law the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 authorizing a special resources study. This is the first step in the process that could eventually lead to the Shepherdstown Battlefield site being included in an existing national park, according to Dunleavy.

The funding for this study is not yet in place and will be one of the group’s missions in 2011.

“With the death of Sen. (Robert) Byrd last year, we were not able to get the funding we need for the study to be done,” Dunleavy said.

Dunleavy said that one of the SBPA hopes is to contact the area’s Congressional delegation this year and ask for that funding.

The other effort that SBPA will monitor this year is the negotiation by Jefferson County to buy the historic Cement Mill property located on the Potomac River. The SBPA has set aside $350,000 dollars in grants to purchase the property.

PBS will also debut a documentary series entitled “Road Trip to History,” produced by the Oak Tree Productions.

“They just finished a program about the Battle of Shepherdstown,” Dunleavy said. The show will air later this year, and Dunleavy hopes to have the premiere of the show in Shepherdstown. He also plans to sell DVDs of the program via SBPA’s website.

Other events to raise awareness about the battlefield will take place in Shepherdstown.

The SBPA will have a booth at June’s Shepherdstown Street Fest. In September, the group will hold a tour in honor of the 149th anniversary of the battle, as well as a symbolic crossing of the Potomac River. In the evening a BBQ dinner will be given. A benefit concert is also held each September.

The battlefield is listed as a farm on a county map of 1859 that hangs in the Commission’s meeting room in the Jefferson County Courthouse in Charles Town.

Dunleavy said the farm and land was brought in 1862 by James Osbourn, who was the owner of the farm when the battle took place. The Battle of Shepherdstown took place Sept. 19 and 20 in 1862 on acreage bordering what is now Trough Road, including Far Away Farm.

Dunleavy said that SBPA consists of about 150 members formed to save the site and prevent the building of 152 houses on the core of the battlefield.

SBPA has saved 84 acres and continues to try to save the “core of the core,” or about 300 acres, Dunleavy said.

“Our focus is on that area where most of the fighting occurred in West Virginia,” he said.

Thomas G. Clemens, professor of history at Hagerstown Community College and a member of the Board of Directors for the SBPA, said in an email interview that because of the Battle of Shepherdstown, President Abraham Lincoln was able to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.

“For the numbers engaged on both sides, this was a bloody fight,” he said. “More importantly, it was significant fight as it ended (Robert E.) Lee’s hopes of recrossing the Potomac and continuing his campaign. It guaranteed Lincoln the opportunity of issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, and was the bloodiest battle in the state of West Virginia.”

The fight to save the Shepherdstown Battlefield is going into its seventh year. Dunleavy says that the SBPA started in 2004 when a Maryland developer wanted to build houses on the battlefield where much of the battle took place.

“A lot of people believe I went into this just to protect my property. The reason I got into this is because I am a veteran. I served in Vietnam and know what combat is,” he said. “This hallowed ground is worth fighting to protect after all there were well over 677 casualties. This is not only about history. It is a way to remember the fallen.”

For more information about the battlefield, visit www.battleofshepherdstown.org.