Conservationists take steps to finalize protection of 245-acre Williamsburg battlefield property

Conservators are in the final stages of efforts to protect the historic James Custis Farm. (Courtesy of American Battlefield Trust)

WILLIAMSBURG — Just $57,000 of $9.4 million remains to complete the protection of James Custis Farm, a 245-acre property on the Williamsburg battlefield.

The American Battlefield Trust has been awarded a contract to acquire the historic property that could be used to tell the largely untold story of Civil War slaves.

According to the American Battlefield Trust, the approximately $9.4 million project is the second most expensive private battlefield acquisition in American history.

With grants from the National Park Service, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the Department of Defense, the American Battlefield Trust is now seeking just $57,000 from individual donors.

“The number of categories in which this project is ‘one of the records’ is staggering,” said Trust Chairman David Duncan. “Not only has it received the largest matching grant in the history of the U.S. Federal Battlefield Protection Program (ABPP), but it also includes one of the most amazing matching opportunities ever offered to our members – a monumental return of $163 to $1 on donations.I am thrilled that the determination and perseverance of the preservation community is finally coming to fruition.

The Trust was able to acquire the land in late 2021 and work with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and the United States Navy to facilitate permanent conservation easements.

The Williamsburg Battlefield Association has been advocating for the protection of the farm for more than a decade.

“The James Custis Farm is the heart of this battlefield, and protecting it is a major milestone that is poised to help us tell important stories like never before,” said Drew Gruber, president of the Williamsburg Battlefield Association. . “It is destined to become another incredible resource, bringing more visitors to the area and driving the economic vibrancy of our community.”

The wooded property next to the Colonial Parkway has been sought after for decades. It tells the powerful story of enslaved black Americans during the Peninsular Campaign of 1862 during the Civil War.

Undiscovered archaeological resources on the property, including burial sites, can help the organization identify the enslaved men and women who were there.

The Trust, which is dedicated to preserving battlefields and educating the public about what happened across the country, has protected nearly 54,000 acres related to the Revolutionary War, of 1812 and the Civil War.

For more information on fundraising efforts, visit here.

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