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Marking battlefield's 'heart and soul'
Historical markers, walking trail going in at Fredericksburg's lesser-known battlefield

 Jason Shaffer of the Civil War Trails program levels an interpretive sign he and David Cumbea put at Slaughter Pen.
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Date published: 7/7/2009


Every battlefield visitor benefits from having a good guide.

What's been called the "heart and soul" of the Fredericksburg battlefield just gained a dozen of them, albeit not the flesh-and-blood kind.

The first historical markers of any sort were placed yesterday at the Slaughter Pen, the Spotsylvania County farm where Union troops briefly broke through Confederate defenses on Dec. 13, 1862.

They're part of a 1¾-mile-long walking trail being built for visitors to the battlefield along State Route 2 and U.S. 17, three miles east of Fredericksburg's Lafayette Boulevard.

The markers describe the fierce fighting at the farm, where two Union divisions of about 8,000 troops attacked about 10,000 Confederates.

"Union troops had some initial success, breaking through the Confederate lines but--for lack of reinforcements and lack of ammunition--couldn't hold those gains, and ultimately fell back with rather heavy losses," said Garry E. Adelman, senior historian at History Associates Inc. of Rockville, Md. "Here, they lost their one chance of really winning this battle--capturing Prospect Hill, the key to the Confederate right."

History Associates wrote the scripts and chose artwork for the historic markers, which the Civil War Trails program designed and installed.

Slaughter Pen is the 946th site in the five-state Civil War Trails program, which includes Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and Tennessee.

"We'll fold this site into our tourism marketing program with Fredericksburg-area localities, the Virginia Tourism Corp. and all the other states," said Mitch Bowman, executive director of Civil War Trails. "There are really complementary efforts going on here."

Within a few days, Slaughter Pen will be included on the program's Web site and Google Maps will guide visitors to the farm, Bowman said.

Made of weatherproof aluminum and resin, the 12 signs will tell visitors about the area's four Civil War battlefields, the whole Battle of Fredericksburg, and provide details of the fighting that gave the site its name.

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