Preservation of Wilderness Battlefield is the primary component of the mission of the Friends of Wilderness Battlefield, and will be our most challenging task as long as our organization and the Wilderness Battlefield exist.
Within days after the end of the Battle of the Wilderness in May, 1864, the earthworks began to erode, and some were plowed over by farmers. Historic road traces were abandoned and lost, and new roads sometimes obliterated features of the battlefield. Structures which would be meaningful to us, but which were no longer useful to their owners, were torn down or left to rot. Homes and businesses were constructed in places where American soldiers marched, camped, fought and died.
The Wilderness Battlefield joined the National Park System with the establishment of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park on February 14, 1927.
Through the years, FSNMP has been underfunded as has the entire National Park system. With a shortage of staff members, maintenance and improvements on the Wilderness Battlefield suffered. When FoWB was established in 1995, it took on the responsibility of providing assistance in taking on some of those duties. Under the direction of the NPS, our volunteers have made significant preservation contributions that are making battlefield visitor experiences more meaningful.
In addition to FoWB’s significant undertaking of the restoration of Ellwood Manor to its 1864 image, we have hundreds of volunteers who work on the battlefield in a myriad of events and projects throughout the year. For example, FoWB locally sponsors the annual Civil War Trust’s Park Day.
Volunteers maintain walking trails, build foot bridges and give lectures to local schools and civic organizations. We trim and mow ; hammer and nail and scrape and paint. We repair structures and build new ones as the National Park Service directs.
Preservation, protection and promotion of the Wilderness Battlefield by FoWB members continues to be a major focus in the battlefield’s continued growth as a key Civil War tourism destination. All of this is thanks to our loyal volunteers.