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Progress made toward saving cement mill

By Staff | Oct 4, 2013

The Jefferson County Historic Landmarks Commission (JCHLC) made further progress in protecting the area along the Potomac River where Union and Confederate troops clashed in the 1862 Battle of Shepherdstown, which occurred on Sept. 19 and 20, two days after the Battle of Antietam.

On Sept. 25, 2013, the JCHLC signed a conservation easement with the Land Trust of the Eastern Panhandle restricting the use of the 14-acre Shepherdstown Cement Mill property. The Cement Mill property was purchased for $375,000 by the JCHLC in 2011 with funds garnered by the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association Inc., the Civil War Trust, Save Historic Antietam Foundation, Inc. and a final contribution from the office of West Virginia Governor Earl Tomblin.

Historians consider the Battle of Shepherdstown significant because it resulted in the preliminary issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation on Sept. 22, 1862. The battle persuaded Confederate General Robert E. Lee against further incursions into Maryland that year. Lee’s Maryland Campaign of 1862 met none of his goals and his defeat and retreat after the Battle of Shepherdstown, importantly gave the Union Army a military victory that President Abraham Lincoln considered necessary for the release of the Emancipation Proclamation.

The conservation easement prohibits construction of any new structures or addition of any more impervious surfaces on the property. It provides that the existing structures, dating from when it was a cement mill in the 19th century, be maintained providing that it is done in accordance with Department of the Interior Historic Preservation Standards.

The Land Trust already holds conservation easements uphill (south) from the Cement Mill property, protecting key portions of the core battlefield. While the easements do not provide for public access, one of the landowners permits the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association to conduct a tour each year on the anniversary of the battle.

Both the Historic Landmarks Commission and Land Trust of the Eastern Panhandle, hope the easement will be a temporary arrangement pending donation of the Cement Mill property to the National Park Service.