The Civil War is often thought of as the crucible that forged the destiny of the United States. From April 1861 until April 1865 an estimated 3.5 million men and boys fought almost 400 battles in farmers’ fields, towns and woods throughout the eastern seaboard and areas west. Casualties on both sides were staggering with almost one million soldiers dead or wounded.

More than a century later, Americans north and south have not forgotten the price paid for the strength of our nation. Neither have we forsaken those fields and farms where Union and Confederate soldiers met in mortal combat. Places like Fisher’s Hill, Tom’s Brook, Winchester, and Bull Run. Some have changed very little since the war, but most face the possibility of development, and the loss of irreplaceable historic landmarks.

In an effort to assist in the salvage and preservation of some of the war’s more significant battle sites, a group called the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites, Inc. (APCWS) was formed a decade ago. Composed of civil war historians, park service historians and volunteers from all walks of life, the organization is dedicated to preserving and sharing these historic sites.

In early October, STS Assistant Project Scientist Keith Knoke became a part of the preservation effort at two significant Civil War battle sites – Cedar Mountain and Opeqoun (a.k.a. Third Winchester). Keith’s contribution was the performance of Phase I Assessments on portions of both sites, a function that is "vital" to success, according to APCWS Director of Real Estate Bob Edmiston.

"About four years ago we purchased part of the Cedar Mountain site and two years later we purchased part of Third Winchester -- both with seller financing," explains Edmiston. "This year we purchased Brandy Station and now we would like to refinance these properties through $3.5 million in industrial development bonds."

Edmiston says this refinancing effort would be the first of its kind for Civil War sites and would save the non-profit group several hundred thousand dollars in financing costs over time. But without the now requisite Phase I Assessments, financing through public funding mechanisms wouldn’t be possible.

As a result, the group will now perform Phase I Assessments as a rule, and Edmiston notes how important professional volunteers like Knoke are to the preservation effort. "It makes a huge difference to us. We get virtually no money from non-members. So any time we can get this kind of assistance, it helps out tremendously."

During the past 10 years, the APCWS has participated in saving 52 Civil War battle sites. The group’s plan is to salvage and purchase the properties and eventually turn them over to federal or state agencies as national landmarks. In the future Edmiston hopes to expand into sites other than battle fields, but for now they are taking one step at a time. "We can’t save them all, but we can save some," he acknowledges. "So reality dictates that we try to save the key pieces."

For more information about the work of the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites, please contact Bob Edmiston at (301) 665-1400.