Winchester battlefield site getting a boost from online fundraising

Posted: October 24, 2012

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — The Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation (SVBF) is partnering with an online fundraising site to raise money for a landscaping project to show visitors what the Third Battle of Winchester looked like during the Civil War.

The New Market-based foundation hopes to raise $32,000 and have the project completed by the battle’s 150th anniversary in 2014.

The battlefield lies north of Berryville Pike (Va. 7), running east from Interstate 81 along Red Bud Road toward Opequon Creek.

W. Denman Zirkle, president of the SVBF, said Monday that putting the appeal online at ahyayha.com is an attempt to reach new constituencies for the effort to preserve Civil War battlefields.

The website focuses on raising funds for environmental restoration and education projects. The SVBF has depended more on the historian/tourist office/Civil War-buff sectors for help in battlefield preservation in the lower Shenandoah Valley.

Zirkle said those who are passionate about clean rivers, clean water and the environment “want to see our land taken care of. They reach these people.

“We think it’s a good fit to expand our reach.”

Ahyayha.com had the SVBF information posted on Monday, and Zirkle said by early afternoon, $325 had been raised.

The battlefield project is designed to return the “Middle Field” of the battle between Confederate troops under Gen. Jubal Early and Union soldiers commanded by Gen. Philip Sheridan to the condition it was in on Sept. 19, 1864. The area was the site of such close, fierce fighting and loss of life that one soldier later called it “that basin of hell.”

The battle pushed the South out of Winchester for the last time and led to the Battle of Cedar Creek a month later, which destroyed the Confederates as a fighting force in the Valley.

Before the 2014 anniversary, the SVBF wants to remove 30 acres of non-native shrubs and convert the area to a forest meadow with warm-season grasses. The plans include bringing back wildlife like the northern bobwhite quail, while installing new walking trails, historic fence lines and interpretive signs.

Zirkle said an archaeological survey is also planned because of the intense fighting in the area. He expects the restoration to start next spring, but some clearing and the archaeological study can begin this winter.

The website posting allows the SVBF 60 days to raise the needed $32,000, Zirkle said, though there is the opportunity to extend the time limit.

There is an administration fee for use of the site, he said, but the rest of the donations will be going directly to the Middle Field Restoration Project for the Third Winchester battlefield.

For a description and video on the project, go to ahyayha.com.

— Contact Val Van Meter at vvanmeter@winchesterstar.com