Make Saving Nearly 202 Acres at Appomattox Court House Part of Your Legacy

A Message from Jim Lighthizer, Civil War Trust President

Appomattox Court House, Virginia, April 9, 1865... In the waning hours of America's Civil War, two armies that had grappled for years pitched into each other in one final battle.

Today, in the waning hours of 2015, every $1 you donate turns into $8 to help save forever 202 acres of the Hallowed Ground where the soldiers — North and South — fired their final shots!

Dear Fellow Preservationist,

Jim LIghthizer

As someone who cares as much as you do about saving America’s Civil War history, I know you will have a special appreciation for the tremendous opportunity we have before us today, as 2015 draws to a close.

You know what happened at Appomattox on April 9, one hundred fifty years ago.

You know that on that day the valiant tenacity of Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia finally succumbed to the resolute determination of Ulysses S. Grant’s Armies of the Potomac and the James.

You can see in your mind’s eye, I am sure, the scene of the roughly dressed Grant and the immaculately uniformed Lee, sitting down together and talking quietly in Wilmer McLean’s parlor, beginning the process of “binding the nation’s wounds” after four years of unprecedented warfare.

But before there was a surrender at Appomattox, there was a Battle of Appomattox.

And I am sure that you would agree with me that this battlefield – one of the most important and significant of the entire war – is worth preserving at almost any price, especially as our final preservation opportunity of the final year of the Sesquicentennial.

I have for you a special battle map which shows you the three properties (one large 200-acre tract, and two smaller one-acre tracts). A proposed subdivision, with plans already drawn, may have been the fate of this large tract of land, which looms over the restored Appomattox Court House National Historicial Park. Much like the “Ghost of Christmas Past,” I have to tell you… more than ten years ago, the Civil War Trust sprang into action to prevent the destruction of this part of the battlefield. (Full disclosure: We even sent out an appeal just like this one to our members, to raise funds to buy the land. More on that in a moment).

The 202 acres to save at Appomattox are shown in yellow.

But then, the property went into litigation over ownership for a decade, and only recently just emerged from the court system, giving us the opportunity – finally –to purchase it and save it once and for all from being developed into a 97-house subdivision!

Imagine a cookie-cutter suburban streets and generic plotted housing lot boundaries, and realize this: This might have been the fate of this part of the Appomattox battlefield if we had not continued to fight to save this land over the past ten years.

The price in 2004 was $600,000; unfortunately, today it is $850,000, plus another $50,000 we need to raise to stabilize the historic Morton House that is on the property, for a total of $900,000.

But don’t worry; I realize it would be very Scrooge-like of me to ask you to help cover the difference in the cost – when you and many of your fellow members may have already given their hard-earned money to help save this land once before!

Instead, by drawing on the funds Trust members already donated and combining them with anticipated state and federal grant funds, plus a very generous donation from the HTR Foundation – we can complete this project as soon as we raise the final $50,000 to stabilize the historic home, which was there at the time of the battle. That $50,000 is all I ask you to help me with today.

Appomattox Court House is surrounded by beautiful, lush rolling hillsides, the landscape still appearing very much as it did on the day Robert E. Lee walked down the steps of the McLean house, pulled on his gauntlets and slowly rode Traveler through the throngs of his weeping soldiers.

But if we had not prevailed in this 10-year fight, it would have been a “Ghost of Christmas Yet-to-Come” situation, with that hillside – immediately adjacent to the historic park – blanketed anywhere-USA, tract housing, obliterating not only the actual hallowed ground where some of the war’s final minutes of conflict occurred, but also forever marring the pristine views.

Today, you can help prevent that from happening once and for all!

So you know what you’re saving, here’s a brief history of the Morton House property:

Some of the last dramatic scenes on the morning of April 9, 1865, occurred on this property just before the fighting ceased. Numerous accounts, both Federal and Confederate, describe the still-intense fighting in that area of the battlefield, even while truce flags were circulating along other portions of the lines.

The still defiant 7th South Carolina Cavalry made a final charge against a Union cavalry detachment on this property. After a sharp fight, the Federal defenders countercharged, and one of the Federals in pursuit of the retreating Southerners followed right into the Confederate lines, and was captured. Additionally, several Confederate batteries were also posted near the house, holding the Confederate left flank, along the Prince Edward Court House Road, up to 12 guns and supporting troops, one of the units being the 1st Confederate Engineers. The Union brigades of Colonel Alexander Pennington, Colonel William Wells, and Colonel Henry Capehart were advancing against these Confederate positions (on the two other smaller tracts we are also working to save today) when the fighting finally ceased.

By now, word of the suspension of hostilities was received at that part of the line. Sergeant Benjamin Weary of the 2nd Ohio Cavalry, all alone, rode to the front of the 1st Confederate Engineers Regiment and impetuously demanded its surrender. Weary was met with laughs and jeers – until he snatched their colors and began to ride away. He was riddled with bullets, making him one of the last casualties of the battle. He was buried just west of the Morton House and later re-interred at Poplar Grove Cemetery near Petersburg.

So today, you and I can save the large 200-acre Morton House tract for $900,000, and the two smaller one-care tracts for $275,000 (each of these parcels has a non-historic house that will need to be removed to fully restore the land).

However, once again, through the miracle of federal and state matching grants (which your crucial membership support allows us to secure from the U.S. Congress and the Virginia legislature), we only have to come up with $97,500 to save these two small but vitally important pieces.

If my math is correct, that’s three tracts, 202 acres, worth a total of $1,175,000 that you and I can save – forever – with $147,500, or a leveraging factor of $8-to-$1!

Every $1 you donate to this year-end project essentially turns into $8,
and helps save this essential part of our nation’s heritage.

Think about it . . . an 800 percent increase in the value of your donation . . . two hundred and two acres of essential, historic hallowed ground . . . plus (and this may be the most important reason of all), as you look at your map, I hope you will notice one additional very powerful thing:

With these purchases, you and I have very nearly completed the preservation of the Appomattox Battlefield!

Appomattox Court House National Historical Park. (Rob Shenk)

Yes, there may be a few more tracts of land that would be “nice to have.” But after we save these 202 acres, even if we are never able to preserve another square inch of land or another blade of grass, you and I can hold our heads high and be proud of the legacy we have created at Appomattox.

You are the hero of this story. It was because of the generosity of you and members like you that we were able to prevent the absolute destruction of this property ten years ago. Then, you sustained the Civil War Trust in the decade between then and now, allowing us to get to the point where we can finally – FINALLY! – put this land in the “Saved Forever” column.

I believe that the veterans of Appomattox on both sides, who had fought so hard and sacrificed so much as well as those who never made it that far, would salute us, grateful that we are remembering their service by saving the ground over which they struggled.

Appomattox was an ending, but it was also a beginning. And for millions of Americans who either have gone there or will go there in the future, it has an emotional resonance that is unmatched

. . . stand on that ground, and you truly feel the significance of what happened there.

Today, in the season of giving, I ask you to give the gift of history, not only for yourself, but also for all future generations who want – and need – to learn the story of America.

And now, as the year draws to a close, you know I cannot resist saying that it is not every day you and I get to save $1,175,000 worth of hallowed ground for $147,500!

I hope you will agree that, not only is it fitting that we save land at Appomattox as our final effort in the final hours of the final year of the Sesquicentennial . . .

…but also, this opportunity is just too important to our nation’s history and its future to pass up.

Whatever the amount of your year-end gift, please know that you have my deepest, personal thanks for your commitment to saving our country’s history and heritage.

You are the reason why the Civil War Trust has been able to save nearly 42,000 acres of American hallowed ground. I simply cannot tell you how important your help has been in this mission, and I can never adequately express my appreciation for all you have done.

Please join me in taking advantage of this $8-to-$1 match, and help prevent these irreplaceable 202 acres of hallowed ground from ever being developed and destroyed.

If you want your gift to be deductible from your 2015 taxes, please donate no later than Thursday, December 31, 2015. 

I hope to hear back from you soon. Please accept my best wishes for a wonderful Christmas for you and your family, and a prosperous New Year!

Awaiting your reply,

Jim Lighthizer

P.S. I honestly don’t know what I would do without you. Thank you a thousand times over for reading my letter to you in this busy time of year, and thank you for even considering helping to save this land at Appomattox.

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