A Bend in the River: Conservation Currents at Shepherdstown Battlefield

Tree-lined undulating field of green grass fills the lower portion of the image as clouds dot a blue sky above.
Rolling terrain near the Osbourne House that will be added to the protected land of the Shepherdstown Battlefield.

Image courtesy of American Battlefield Trust.

Recipient:Jefferson County Historic Landmarks Commission

Amount: $927,291
Acres: 121.9

From the perspective of a military tactician, the high cliffs along the western bank of the Potomac River, at Boteler’s Ford near Shepherdstown, West Virginia, offer excellent defensive terrain: the bluffs pose a challenge to assaults and provide positioning for long- and short-range artillery. In late September 1862, after the Union army beat back the Confederate invasion of Maryland at Antietam, General Robert E. Lee retreated across the Potomac and left a rearguard to defend the river’s ford. Union troops suffered heavy casualties in crossing the river and trying to establish a beachhead. This rearguard action halted Federal pursuit of the retreating Confederates and cost Union Major General George McClelland his job, but the Union victory at the end of the Maryland campaign was the “turning point” that President Abraham Lincoln was seeking. On Sept. 22, 1862, Lincoln issued the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, with the promise of forever freedom to persons held in slavery in secessionist states at the stroke of the new year.

An NPS American Battlefield Protection Program 2023 Battlefield Land Acquisition Grant to the Jefferson County Historic Landmarks Commission supports the county’s collaboration with the American Battlefield Trust and the Land Trust of the Eastern Panhandle to purchase and protect nearly 122 acres of Shepherdstown Battlefield in Jefferson County, West Virginia. The project will ensure that Faraway Farm, which witnessed much of the fighting, will remain as it has been for much of the past 160 years. The partners’ “forever” commitment to preserving the farm builds on sustained preservation efforts that have protected more than 600 acres at Shepherdstown Battlefield and on our collective commitment to hope and renewal.

Battlefield Land Acquisition Grants from the NPS American Battlefield Protection Program empower preservation partners nationwide to acquire and preserve threatened Revolutionary War, War of 1812 and Civil War battlefields. In addition, the program administers three other grants: Preservation Planning Grants, which are open to all sites of armed conflict on American soil, the newly authorized Battlefield Restoration and Battlefield Interpretation Grant programs. This financial assistance generates community-driven stewardship of historic resources at the state, tribal and local levels.

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Check out the American Battlefield Protection Program's website for more information about various grant offerings and eligibility.

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Last updated: February 21, 2023