Battlefield Preserves Vermont’s Civil War History

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(Host) A civil war battlefield where more than twelve hundred Vermonters fell has been saved from development. The National Park Service will spend just over six million dollars to protect the Wilderness battle site near Fredricksburg, Virginia. Vermont Civil War enthusiasts say preserving the site has been their top priority for years.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Coffin, reading from book) “On went the struggle amidst the constricting trees and saplings, brush and brambles, vines and thorns. A dim and green hell filled with smoke and thunderous noise.”

(Zind) The Battle of the Wilderness looms large in Vermont author Howard Coffin’s new book “The Battered Stars.” Coffin says there’s no way to overstate the importance of preserving a battlefield where so many Vermonters died on May 5-6, 1864.

(Coffin) “The Wilderness is Vermont’s great Civil War moment and Civil War place.”

(Zind) Coffin says Civil War groups have fought for years to preserve the Wilderness Battlefield. There were plans to build a housing development on the site. When the developer ran into financial problems, the government and non-profit groups negotiated an agreement to buy the land.

Coffin’s ancestors fought in the Battle of the Wilderness. So did State Representative Jack Anderson’s great-great-Grandfather. Anderson says much of the Wilderness Battlefield remains unchanged. He says it’s important for people to be able to visit a Civil War battlefield in order to comprehend what the fighting was like:

(Anderson) “I always look at battlefields as the other dimension. We read about them. We look at maps and we look at photographs and you can almost imagine what it was like. Then you go there and stand on the ground and actually see the physical distances and I swear you can feel it coming up through the soles of your feet.”

(Zind) Anderson and Coffin credit Vermont Senator James Jeffords with leading the effort in Congress to preserve the Wilderness Battlefield.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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