For Immediate Release: 09/24/10
Civil War Preservation Trust Announces National Campaign to Protect Hallowed Ground at Spring Hill
U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander joins Civil War Preservation Trust to announce public-private partnership to protect 84 key acres on Spring Hill Battlefield
(Spring Hill, Tenn.) – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander joined the Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT) today at historic Rippavilla Plantation to announce a fundraising campaign to protect 84 key acres of the Spring Hill Battlefield. CWPT has entered into an agreement to purchase a long-sought portion of this Maury County battlefield — the scene of a dramatic encounter between Union and Confederate forces in November 29, 1864 — from General Motors, LLC, (GM), and has secured a significant federal matching grant to facilitate the transaction.
“I am tremendously pleased that, following a lengthy period of uncertainty, we have been able to find a means of protecting this historic landscape,” said CWPT president James Lighthizer. “Now that this agreement has been reached, we are working to secure the grants and private funds that will make permanent preservation of this battlefield possible.”
The acquisition of this key part of the battlefield is the result of a decision by GM to divest itself of surplus land holdings in Spring Hill. The fate of this historically important 84-acre tract remained in question until late June when CWPT and GM entered into the purchase agreement for the property. Preservation of the GM parcel, when added to the 100 acres of protected land that currently surround Rippavilla Plantation, will result in a 184-acre historic battlefield preserve that enables visitors to better understand the battle of Spring Hill.
“Rippavilla and Spring Hill played a unique role in our nation’s history,” said John K. Blanchard, executive director of worldwide real estate for GM, regarding the land’s purchase. “We are pleased that the Trust will be acquiring this property and ensuring that it will now be protected and accessible for generations to come.”
U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander noted the unique partnership that has come together to protect this battlefield, saying “GM and the Civil War Preservation Trust deserve our thanks for helping to preserve an important reminder of who we are, where we came from and how far we’ve come. The Spring Hill Battlefield is one more good reason for millions of Americans to visit Tennessee.”
Although unable to attend the event, Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen was equally enthusiastic: “This announcement is a tremendous boon for Middle Tennessee, and the entire nation. On the eve of the Civil War’s sesquicentennial, protecting this ground is an appropriate commemoration and a means of encouraging heritage tourists to visit our battlefield sites.”
Although several steps remain before the purchase process is completed, preservationists hope to close on the property by the end of November, to coincide with the 146th anniversary of the battle that occurred there. A key milestone en route to finalizing the transaction was also reached at the event, when Bryan Mitchell, chief of Heritage Preservation Services at the National Park Service, announced that the Department of the Interior has awarded a $1.9 million grant for the project.
“This project is exactly why the Civil War Battlefield Preservation Program was established,” said Mitchell, referring to the federal matching grant program administered through the American Battlefield Protection Program, an arm of the National Park Service, to facilitate the protection of significant battlefield land. “The Department of the Interior is honored to be part of making such a critical land preservation effort a reality.”
On November 29, 1864, on ground just north of Rippavilla, Gen. William B. Bate’s Confederate division encountered elements of Gen. John M. Schofield’s Union army, as it attempted to slip northward along the Columbia Pike and escape to Franklin. Fighting occurred across the property as the two sides cautiously maneuvered in the autumn twilight. But Bate’s advance toward the pike was halted; and, although Confederate troops were encamped across the property just a few yards away, the Federals pulled off perhaps the greatest escape of the entire war — some 20,000 of them slipping past in the night and setting the stage for the bloody and decisive Battle of Franklin.
“The desire of General Motors to ensure that this irreplaceable landscape will be protected is an example of outstanding corporate leadership and responsibility,” said CWPT’s Lighthizer. “They deserve the gratitude of the entire preservation communities.”
Since 2007, various scenarios for the fate of the property have been put forward, some of which raised concern in the preservation community. This state of flux and uncertainty landed Spring Hill on CWPT’s annual list of the nation’s most threatened Civil War battlefields in 2008 and 2009, and on the Tennessee Preservation Trust’s list of endangered historic sites in the Volunteer State in 2007 and 2009.
Pam Perdue, executive director of Rippavilla Plantation, an antebellum home and museum on the battlefield, shares the excitement of what this announcement means for the future of the home and museum. “The pending purchase of this property by the Civil War Preservation Trust is a great benefit for the protection and interpretation of Rippavilla and the entire battlefield,” she said. “It adds tremendously to the visitor experience and will be a boon to our community and local residents.”
Although pleased to announce his organization’s intentions to purchase the property, Lighthizer stressed that even with the generous federal funding, his organization must raise private funds to match the grant. More information on the project, as well as an opportunity to donate to the fundraising effort, is available on the CWPT website at: http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/springhill/spring-hill-2010.
With 55,000 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 has preserved more than 29,000 acres of battlefield land across the nation, including nearly 2,200 acres in Tennessee and 110 acres previously saved at Spring Hill. CWPT’s website is www.civilwar.org.