Preserving History at Jack’s Shop and James City

PEC received a grant of $35,300 from the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program to research the history of two previously undocumented Civil War battles that occurred at Jack’s Shop and James City in Madison County, Va.

“We’re grateful NPS has awarded us this grant,” says Kristie Kendall, historic preservation manager at PEC. “And we are excited to begin researching the background of the sites, so we can help preserve the history for locals and others.”

In 2013, PEC and the Madison Conservation Fund worked with the community to commemorate the Battle of Jack’s Shop, one of the largest cavalry engagements of the entire war.

A historic sign.
Photo by Kristie Kendall

Madison County historian Harold Woodward, Jr. often quips that, “it was the biggest cavalry battle you’ve never heard of.” The Battle of Jack’s Shop occurred on September 23, 1863, as Lee’s Army was pulling back behind the Rapidan River, following the battle of Gettysburg. The Battle of James City occurred on October 8, 1863, as Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry division headed out of Madison to capture a vital Union signal station on Thoroughfare Mountain. “The Battles of Jack’s Shop and James City are significant as marking the end of the Gettysburg Campaign and the beginning of the Bristoe Campaign, and documentation of these two battles fill an important void in this piece of Civil War history,” says Kendall.

We will document the extent of the battlefields on the landscape using GIS mapping, and create three archeological research designs. This information will be used to inform future archeological investigations of the battlefields, as well as provide justification and context for preservation planning and land conservation.

The research resulting from this grant will raise awareness of these often-overlooked battles. Through a series of public meetings, community members and local government will come together to discuss the research and battlefields. Findings will provide necessary material to, eventually, put a long-term preservation plan in place for the landscapes.

The grant awarded to us is one of 20 from the National Park Service totaling $1.198 million to preserve and protect significant battle sites from all wars fought on American soil. Funded projects preserve battlefields from the Colonial-Indian Wars through World War II and include site mapping (GPS/GIS data collection), archeological studies, National Register of Historic Places nominations, preservation and management plans.

Federal, state, local and tribal governments, nonprofit organizations, and educational institutions are eligible for National Park Service battlefield grants, which are awarded annually. Since 1996, more than $18 million has been awarded by the American Battlefield Protection Program to help preserve significant historic battlefields associated with wars on American soil.

This article was featured in our Fall 2016 Member Newsletter, The Piedmont View.