Keeping the Battlefields From Becoming Parking Lots

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CROSSING the Rappahannock is considerably easier for Jim Campi than it was for Ambrose Burnside.

Burnside, the ill-fated Union Army commander in the winter of 1862, endured mud, cold, communications breakdowns and unreliable supply lines — not to mention hostile fire — during his attempt to ford this Northern Virginia river.

Despite the cool drizzly weather of October 2006, Mr. Campi, the policy and communications director for the Civil War Preservation Trust, has no such problems. The Rappahannock’s muddy waters pass in the blink of an eye as his Honda Pilot purrs down I-95, cellphone and coffee mug at his side.

He’s headed for the same place as Burnside and his army of 110,000: Fredericksburg, on the southern banks of the river. Now a quaint tourist town, this was enemy territory for Burnside, who was on his way to a calamitous defeat at the hands of Robert E. Lee’s 75,000 Confederates.

Mr. Campi and his organization have just won their own battle on the same hallowed ground. Working with an unlikely ally — Tricord, a developer — as well as with local preservation groups, the trust managed to buy the pristine 208-acre Slaughter Pen Farm.

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