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  • Writer's pictureBeth Stenstrom

Third Quarter Newsletter 2024

Wilderness Battlefield Named One of Nation's Most Endangered Historic Places

On Wednesday, May 1, 2024, FOWB participated in a special news conference as part of the Wilderness Battlefield Coalition, where James Lindbergh, Senior Policy Director with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, announced that the Wilderness Battlefield has been named as one of the nation’s 11 most endangered historic sites! This battlefield is the site of a pivotal clash that marked a turning point in the Civil War and was placed on the list due to the threat of a massive data center development that would irrevocably destroy to historic landscapes fundamental to maintaining the area as a vital educational resource and treasured hallowed ground.

Hosted by the Journey Through Hallowed Ground, the public heard from representatives from the Journey Through Hallowed Ground, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the American Battlefield Trust, Friends of Wilderness Battlefield, Central Virginia Battlefields Trust, Preservation Virginia, the Piedmont Environmental Council, and the National Parks Conservation Association.

Each speaker did an excellent job and presented solid points and information without duplication of the other speakers.

The News Conference was held at the Wilderness Run Vinyard, In Spotsylvania County, Virginia, which actually sits on part of the Wilderness Battlefield area.

Photos by Beth Stenstrom

Above: Quite a few people attended the news conference.

Below: There were large displays for people to view to help them understand what is at stake here.

Note the location of the former gold mines below.


On May 3rd, 4th, and 5th, 900 plus Civil War Reenactors camped in the vicinity of the Wilderness Battlefield to commemorate the 160th Anniversary of the Battle of the Wilderness. The weather was cold and wet, which kept some spectators away, but they still did an outstanding job of showing what it was like on the Wilderness Battlefield 160 years ago. There were several Cannon Battles, and some picket firing, and they portrayed soldiers bringing the wounded off the field to the field hospital. It was very sobering to think about the real battle that happened there, where many of our ancestors were wounded or killed.


Most photos by Beth Stenstrom

They also had Sutlery Row, where merchants in Civil War era attire had merchandise for sale, such as canteens, guns, knives, beeswax candles, period attire, cooking utensils, and other assorted items. FOWB volunteers went shopping for items for our Discovery Kit, which we use when giving presentations at living history events or street festivals. We had two tents set up, one for general information about Friends of Wilderness Battlefield, and one for our Heritage Program, for people who wanted to talk about their ancestors who fought at the Battle of the Wilderness or surrounding areas. There is information about that on our website, as well.

The wind and rain did a number on our shade canopies! In this photo, we are assisting in giving a nice tribute presentation to Harry Sonntag.

FOWB truly appreciates Harry Sonntag, with Civil War Impressions, Inc, and all of the reenactors who camped out in the cold, wet weather, with mud, and ticks and who knows what else to make this anniversary special. It is important for people to learn about these battles and to remember those brave men and women who experienced it as a reality back then. We are proud to partner with such an amazing group of people. Harry's daughter, Ashley, arranged this delightful presentation for her father and we were honored to be included in it.

We also appreciate all of our FOWB volunteers, who "camped out" (daytime only) in the cold, wet rain, to help things go well. Around 20 volunteers helped with parking, general information, and the Heritage Program information.

We greatly appreciate the Wilderness Run Vineyard folks helping us get our materials and ourselves to and from the parking area with their tractors, trailers, and ATV's. When they picked us up in the gator on Sunday morning, we were really glad we were not trying to walk back through acres of mud!

The smoke from the cannons, and the rifles, and the campfires, is gone now and silence once again reclaims the landscape. We will not forget what happened there on this hallowed ground 160 years ago. (Photo by Ben Hamm.)


Park Day 2024


Saturday, April 6, 2024

by Kevin Hunt, Battlefield Resource Chair


A sincere thank you to those of you who could show up on Saturday, April 6, for Park Day at Payne's Farm. We bagged, drug, carried and otherwise stuffed Bob Lookabill's utility trailer full of garbage plus we stuffed several large bags of trash into Kevin Hunt's full size pickup truck that we carted off to the land fill at the end of the day. We also made some good contacts from another group of American Battlefield Trust supporters who worked on the walking trail.


FOWB volunteers concentrated on the roadside along the front of the property, plus the area around the parking lot. Another group led by Paul Sachra, who was one of our guides for the anniversary tour back in November, came up from Richmond to contribute. Coordinating with Joe Lafleur, they cleared a huge pile of brush and limb cuttings, which improved the view of the area significantly.


All told, we probably had 25 volunteers, which isn't bad considering it was our first effort at this property. The weather was cold and very windy, which probably kept some folks at home! Bigger and better for next year.

L - R: Jack Phend hauling trash to Bob's trailer and Bob Lookabill with an old truck tailgate! Photos by FOWB volunteers


Earth Day on the Rappahannock

April 20, 2024

Top L-R: Jeff Slunt and Bob Lookabill

FOWB Board Members Jeff Slunt and Bob Lookabill set up a booth and had miniature figures of soldiers for children of all ages to paint! This was a great way to let people know about the 160th Anniversary event on May 4/5, as well as other events coming up! Looks like they had a lot of fun, as well!

Top: Bob Lookabill with two new friends!

Photos by Jeff Slunt


The Overland Campaign

(Leading up to the Battle of the Wilderness, May 1864)

by Beth Stenstrom, FOWB Volunteer

Friends of Wilderness Battlefield welcomed local historian Michael E. Block, author of the book "The Carnage Was Fearful, The Battle of Cedar Mountain", to the Wilderness Run Vineyard, on Saturday, April 27, to give folks some information about events leading up to the Battle of the Wilderness, 160 years ago this past May.

Mike entertained us with many interesting facts and stories concerning events during the Overland Campaign. He had a fun group of enthusiastic history buffs in attendance, in spite of the cold and rainy weather. He focused on stories about people and events, rather than brigades and regiments, much to the delight of this author. His talk was in preparation for the re-enactment of The Battle of the Wilderness on its160th Anniversary on 4 and 5 May at the Wilderness Run Vineyard.

We had a delightful area with nice patio furniture, with cushions, under a tin roof, with coffee tables, to have our gathering, and it worked well. Both Mike and FOWB President, Bob Lookabill, had handouts and photos to share, which make it even better!

Mike has joined the ranks of historians leading tours for the Battlefield Tours of Virginia, and visitors may book a tour with that group any time. Their website is:

Mike also has a Facebook group called Dare Mark Line Tours, and that site is:


Master Naturalist News

by Ben Hamm,

Master Naturalist and FOWB Board Member


On March 13, 2024, six members of the Central Rappahannock Master Naturalists and the Fredericksburg Birding Club, in coordination with the Friends of Wilderness Battlefield, met at Payne’s Farm in Orange County. The property is owned by the American Battlefield Trust and was a crucial part of the Mine Run Campaign during the Civil War in late November and early December 1863. The purpose of the meeting was to conduct a survey of the bird population. This information could be used as part of a planned nature trail at the property. The group recorded 43 different species and 126 individual birds identified by sight and sound.  The information was recorded in eBird which is a national data base open to anyone and is run by Cornell University. The group hopes to add to the survey each season as the bird population changes due to seasonal migrations. 

Photo by Penelope Firth


Scholarship Winner

by Gary Close, FOWB Board Member

Scholarship Winner, by Gary Close, FOWB Board Member

Congratulations to our 2024 Scholarship Winner, Devon Carville, of Barboursville, Virginia. Devon graduated from Orange County High School and plans to major in Historic Architecture in college. FOWB President Bob Lookabill presented the scholarship certificate to her on Wednesday, May 15, at the Orange County High School Awards Ceremony.


FOWB Interpreter Training

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Just under 20 enthusiastic FOWB volunteers, including nine board members, attended Interpreter Training on Saturday, May 18, in preparation for interpretation at Payne's Farm, a property belonging to the American Battlefield Trust. Payne's Farm is part of the Battle of Mine Run, which occurred November 27 - December 2, 1863, in Locust Grove, Virginia. John Kanaster, owner of Battlefield Tours of Virginia, led the training, as well as guided some excellent discussions within the group, pertaining to the battle.

Plans were to have lunch, which we did, and then tour the battlefield itself, but the weather interfered so we will have to have a "rain check" on that part.

Interpreters will be available at Payne's Farm to visit with folks and answer questions on weekends (Saturdays and Sundays) from June 15 - August 11, 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM.

For more information on The Battle of Mine Run, please see:

The Battle of Mine Run (American Battlefield Trust)

For more information on Battlefield Tours of Virginia, please see their website:

Getting ready to start.... 


Welcome Culpeper Battlefields State Park!

A special dedication was held on Saturday, June 8, 2024, to celebrate the opening of the 43rd Virginia State Park, Culpeper Battlefields State Park! Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin was in attendance, as well as numerous other government officials and preservation organizations, including FOWB, Central Virginia Battlefields Trust, and American Battlefield Trust, the three organizations who are plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the above-mentioned Wilderness Crossing Development.

L - R: Bob Lookabill (President, FOWB), David Duncan (President, American Battlefield Trust), Tom Van Winkle (President, Central Virginia Battlefields Trust) and Jim Campi (Chief Policy and Communications Officer, American Battlefield Trust).


For more information on this park, please go to:


Upcoming Events:


 FOWB Annual Meeting

Saturday, November 9, 2024

New Hope Baptist Church

Locust Grove, VA


Please join us in this historic church for our Annual Meeting! Details to come!


Check out this excellent article by Sarah Kay Bierle about the history of this property.



You may also read about the history on the New Hope Baptist Church's website:


(Go to the About tab)


Did you know?


Making gifts to FOWB during your lifetime:

When you make a gift to Friends of Wilderness Battlefield as a QCD (qualified charitable distribution) from your individual retirement account (IRA) or Roth IRA, you do not pay income taxes on the distribution. Funds gifted from your IRA will NOT subject your Social Security income to higher tax levels and will count toward your annual required minimum distribution (RMD). If you are 73 or older, you can make a gift in 2024 from your IRA up to $105,000 per IRA owner or beneficiary. Contact your tax advisor to determine if this is appropriate for your situation.


Making gifts to FOWB at your death:

Would you like to leave a legacy to Friends of Wilderness Battlefield? A gift through your will, trust, a direct beneficiary designation, or estate is the easiest gift you can make today. You may add a provision in your will or trust designating either a specific amount, a percentage, or all or part of the residue of your estate to FOWB. Bequests provide flexibility in that they allow you to make a gift commitment now by including a provision in your will or trust while preserving the right to make changes at any time in the future should your circumstances change. Certain bequests in trust are not subject to estate taxation. Your assets remain in your control during your lifetime. You can modify your gift to address changing circumstances. It’s a great way to help support the mission of Friends of Wilderness Battlefield.  


FoWB, Inc. is 501 (c) (3) Not for Profit Organization.

Tax ID # 42-1689437


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