On Sunday, September 1, 2019, the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation (SVBF) and Henry and Catherine Buhl signed an agreement of intent to convey the 52-acre Buhl Property on the New Market battlefield to the Battlefields Foundation, forever preserving the historic property from development.
The Buhl Property was an important location during the May 15, 1864, Battle of New Market. It included much of the battlefield position where Confederate infantry and artillery – including a VMI Cadet battery – repelled a key Union cavalry charge. Turning back that charge and holding the position was a key turning point in the battle, which would end in a decisive Confederate victory.
The agreement between the Buhls and the SVBF was made official in a proclamation that was signed during the “Rat Day” festivities at the historic Crim House (preserved by the SVBF), which stated that “Mr. and Mrs. Henry Buhl have agreed to convey this property to the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation so that the memory of this battle can forever be preserved.” The agreement will prevent this historic land from ever being destroyed by development.
This agreement was also the kick-off of the fundraising effort to preserve the property. The Foundation has already raised $125,000 towards the purchase but still must raise the remainder – an additional $375,000 – over the next five years.
“Because the grants that are typically used to preserve battlefield property require approval by local municipalities, and because the Town of New Market has never warmed to the idea, we were concerned that this property would never be preserved,” said Keven Walker, CEO of the Battlefields Foundation. “This would have been a loss not only of a historically significant property but also of critical and much-needed heritage tourism potential for New Market’s future.”
“But thanks to Buhl family’s willingness to work with us,” Walker continued, “And thanks to the generosity of the Graves Family and our other loyal supporters, that loss won’t happen. Thanks to them, this land will be protected.”
The preservation project is part of the Battlefield’s Foundation’s ambitious New Market Initiative, designed to reclaim history on the oft-forgotten part of the New Market battlefield that lies east of Interstate 81.
The Battle of New Market, fought on May 15, 1864, was one of the most iconic battles of the Civil War, famous today because of the bravery and heroism of the VMI Cadets and their charge across “The Field of Lost Shoes.” While smaller than many fights, it still stretched 2 miles from west to east, with the fighting sprawling across the landscape and through the town in a riotous scene full of smoke and fire. But a visitor to the battlefield today would be hard-pressed to understand that, because in 1966, the land where the battle was fought was cut in half.
In 1966, the construction of Interstate 81 was completed through New Market, cutting a wide swath through the ground where the battle took place, and creating a visible, physical, and perceptual dividing line. And while the portion of the battlefield west of the interstate is well-known, thanks to the outstanding New Market Battlefield State Historical Park (part of the Virginia Museum of the Civil War), the portion to the east of the roadway is largely overlooked.
Now, the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation is working to change that with the New Market Initiative. The Initiative will include the preservation of hundreds of acres of core battlefield, signage, tours, and a multi-use battlefield trail for walking and biking, historic fencing, and cannon. The trail is designed to bring the eastern part of the battlefield the attention and prominence it deserves; promote the historic town of New Market; and complement the outstanding work and interpretive efforts of the Virginia Museum of the Civil War.
The preservation of the Buhl Property is a critical first step in accomplishing those goals – just as the property was so critical during the battle….when Union cavalry came thundering south on and alongside the historic Valley Turnpike (modern-day US-11), only to be met by waiting Confederates, including a VMI battery commanded by Cadet Collier Minge. “We got quickly into action with canister against cavalry charging down the road and adjacent fields,” Minge later recalled. “When the smoke cleared away the cavalry seemed to have been completely broken up.” One of the attacking Union cavalryman later said that “they mowed us down like grass.” The tide of the battle turned – largely due to the key action that included the Buhl Property.