For Immediate Release: 06/02/08
National Preservation Group Announces Campaign to Rescue 173 Acres at Bentonville
With latest acquisition, the Civil War Preservation Trust will have saved 953 acres of land at North Carolina’s largest battlefield
(Bentonville, NC) - The Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT), the nation’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving Civil War battlefield land, has announced a fundraising campaign to save 173 acres of hallowed ground at Bentonville, N.C. Bentonville is frequently referred to as the Confederate army’s famed “last stand in the Carolinas.” This latest opportunity at the Johnston County battlefield will increase the amount of land protected through CWPT efforts at the site to 953 acres, an impressive tally only numerically exceeded by the organization’s efforts at three other battlefields.
“We have been exceptionally fortunate to find such tremendous enthusiasm for preservation at Bentonville,” said CWPT president James Lighthizer. “The work we have been able to accomplish there is a testament to the dedication and passion of many individuals and state agencies, as well as the generosity of CWPT members.”
This latest fundraising campaign for Bentonville focuses on the acquisition of six separate tracts of land. Individually the parcels may be small — ranging between 1.6 and 52 acres — but when combined with already preserved land, they make a significant contribution to the understanding of the battle. Targeted parcels saw action during all three days of fighting, March 19–21, 1865.
The total purchase price for the acreage comes to $772,500. However, by securing several matching grants through the federal government’s Civil War Battlefield Preservation Program and the State of North Carolina, CWPT and its members are left with just 13 percent of the purchase price to raise in order to protect this important piece of Civil War history.
“Finding creative and effective ways to leverage our members’ contributions is critical to CWPT’s success,” said Lighthizer. “In this instance, we are multiplying each dollar donated more than seven-fold and allowing even the most modest gift to make a real tangible benefit to the preservation of our American heritage. Plus, wouldn’t anyone be excited by the prospect of a 770 percent return on an investment!”
With its proximity to Interstates 95 and 40, Bentonville has long been eyed by preservationists as a site potentially particularly vulnerable to development, earning it a Priority I, Class A designation by the congressionally-authorized Civil War Sites Advisory Commission. CWPT has been working closely with the Bentonville Battleground Historical Association and the Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site to protect land at the site since 1990; however, the watershed moment for land preservation at Bentonville came in 2003. After 18 months of intense negotiation, the partnership was able to protect more than 300 acres of core battlefield, while the North Carolina Heritage Trust acquired 94 additional acres in a separate transaction. But that was just the beginning; today the state owns more than 1,100 acres.
The Battle of Bentonville, fought in the closing days of the war, nevertheless saw some of the fiercest fighting of the conflict, as Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston took the offensive against Union Major General William Tecumseh Sherman, who had turned north to the Carolinas after capturing Atlanta and creating a an epic path of destruction during his infamous March to the Sea. An Illinois private who had seen action earlier in the war on the bloody fields of Shiloh and Stones River, among many others, wrote that “we saw nothing in four years of army life to compare with … Bentonville.” It was the last time a major Confederate army in the field was able to launch an offensive against its Union foe.
Fought over three days and ranging across an area of more than 6,000 acres, Bentonville was the single largest battle waged in the Tar Heel State. Combined, the two armies suffered more than 4,500 casualties, with losses particularly heavy in the Confederate ranks. The defeat at Bentonville, coupled with the surrender of General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House on April 12, led Johnston to surrender his army near Durham, N.C., on April 22, effectively ending the war.
With 65,000 members, CWPT is the largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization in the United States. Its mission is to preserve our nation’s endangered Civil War battlefields and to promote appreciation of these hallowed grounds. CWPT’s website is www.civilwar.org.