Save 304 acres at 8 Battlefields
A Message from Jim Lighthizer, Civil War Trust President
There’s no other way to say it: I have a lot to tell you today.
That’s because here at the Civil War Trust, we are working to save an incredible number of important acres of hallowed ground in 2014, and I want you to see exactly what we are doing with the gifts you are entrusting to us.
But just as important, with the special Petition to the U.S. Congress that I have also sent to you, I need your help to ensure that thousands of acres of hallowed ground that you and I have already saved over the years are protected forever in national parks.
First things first: Let me prepare you. The numbers and preservation opportunities I’m going to tell you about are so remarkable that, at first, you may not believe them.
But I can tell you that – from a matching grant perspective – we are looking at one of the most notable opportunities in the recent history of the battlefield preservation movement!
Here is a listing of the very urgent projects we are working on right now:
|Rappahannock Station||70.3 acres|
|2nd Bull Run||2.6 acres|
|White Oak Road||4.6 acres|
|Reams Station||10.5 acres|
|Thompson's Station||102.6 acres|
|Davis Bridge||4.5 acres|
North Carolina Battlefields
|Bentonville (2 tracts)||107.2 acres|
I can already hear your next question: How much will all this cost, Jim, and are there any matching funds to help pay for it?
Well, this is where it gets good: Today, these 304 acres have a total transactional value of $3,163,820. But you and I can save this land for just… $101,700!
Believe me, I have checked and re-checked all of these figures many times…
This means we have $3,062,120 in matching funds lined up – through a combination of federal grants, state and local grants (those both received and anticipated), and other gifts – which gives us fully 96.8% of the total funds needed to save all this land.
If you and I can raise the final 3.2% – just $101,700 – we will leverage and unleash this torrent of matching money, and save another 304 acres of hallowed ground at eight American battlefields.
And do you want to talk about a matching opportunity? How about this: I will take every $1 you send today and turn it into $31.11! That is powerful!
If you have ever wanted to save over $3 million worth of hallowed ground – at eight different battlefields – for pennies on the dollar, this is your chance!
I know you are very busy. So rather than write out page after page of the history of each piece of ground, I hope you will allow me, in the interest of time, to give you a quick one- or two-line explanation of why it is important for us to save each of these parcels. (If you need more information on any of these battles, please visit our website at www.civilwar.org/8battlefields.
These battlefields (four in the Eastern Theatre, four in the West) saw combat that resulted in over 60,000 casualties, and represent some sites we are getting close to completing, and some where we are just starting out. Here goes:
1. Rappahannock Station, Va.
November 7, 1863; Bristoe Campaign; 2,537 casualties; these 70.3 acres add significantly to the 785 acres of land the Trust has saved at this site where two Civil War battles were fought. (Interesting side note: As a result of this battle, Gen. George Gordon Meade was able to establish his winter headquarters on Fleetwood Hill, at Brandy Station, on the very land Trust members saved last year. Just last month, we began the demolition of the modern houses there and restoration of the land to its historic appearance!)
2. 2nd Bull Run, Va.
August 28-30, 1862; Northern Virginia Campaign; 22,177 casualties; this small but key piece is part of “Longstreet’s Line,” the attack that helped break the Union position on August 30, 1862. We are working to reclaim this portion of the battlefield one lot at a time, as it is currently a small subdivision of houses.
3. White Oak Road, Va.
March 31, 1865; Appomattox Campaign; 2,670 casualties; saving these 4.6 acres at the heart of this battlefield gets us to more than 900 acres saved here. Union Gen. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was in the thick of this battle, which set up the Confederate defeat at Five Forks the next day.
4. Reams Station, Va.
August 25, 1864; Petersburg Campaign; 2,200 casualties; this battle saw Gens. A.P. Hill and Henry Heth hammering away on Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock. In his book “The Last Citadel,” historian Noah Andre Trudeau notes that “Hancock’s two divisions took a terrible beating at Reams Station.” Heth later noted “If Hancock’s heart could have been examined there would have been written on it ‘REAMS’ as plainly as the deep scars received at Gettysburg.”
5. Thompson’s Station, Tenn.
March 5, 1863; Middle Tennessee Operations; 2,206 casualties; following the Battle of Stones River, Confederate Gens. Earl Van Dorn and Nathan Bedford Forrest managed to capture most of a Union brigade, after much hard fighting. This would be the first land the Trust has helped to save at this site, and will protect a key ridge that overlooks the battlefield, preventing future development.
6. Shiloh, Tenn.
April 6-7, 1862; Shiloh Campaign; 23,746 casualties; residential development which would damage the historic integrity of this part of the Shiloh battlefield is the main threat at this 1.8 acre site. By adding this land to this military park, we are building on and protecting what we and the federal government have already saved here, one of the best preserved battlefields in America.
7. Davis Bridge, Tenn.
October 5, 1862; Iuka and Corinth Operations; 900 casualties; Union Gen. Edward O.C. Ord pushed Gen. Earl Van Dorn’s Confederates back to and over the Hatchie River, following his retreat from Corinth. This central 4.5-acre parcel is another crucial piece of the puzzle, pushing us to over 860 preserved acres here, getting us very close to being able to declare this one “completely saved!”
8. Bentonville, NC
March 19-21, 1865; Campaign of the Carolinas; 4,700 casualties; the last major battle fought by the Western Armies, and the biggest fought in North Carolina; the land we are saving today adds to our previous tremendous success at Bentonville, linking up previously separated parts of the battlefield.
So there you have it, my friend. Do you think it is worth it for us to raise $101,700 to save over $3 million worth of hallowed ground, turning every $1 you send today into $31.11?
Obviously, I think so, and I hope you will, too. But I have one additional item to report to you:
You may recall that several years ago, the Civil War Trust led the effort to save the 208-acre Slaughter Pen Farm at Fredericksburg which, at $12 million, remains the largest private battlefield transaction in American history.
With a price tag that large, we did have to take out a long-term loan ($4.5 million remains on the long-term loan, with very favorable interest rates, I might add), meaning of course that we have to make a payment each year, of $300,000, or risk default. I know it is much more exciting to donate to save more hallowed ground than it is to “pay off debt” (no matter how important it is), so I was having a difficult time thinking of a compelling way of asking you to help with this year’s crucial payment.
Then, quite frankly, something miraculous happened. A very generous donor who wishes to remain anonymous – out of the blue – contacted us to say that he wanted to make an unrestricted contribution of $277,000 this year to the Civil War Trust!
I don’t know if this is a situation of “good things happen to good people,” or just our guardian angel looking over our shoulder, but the net effect is that instead of having to ask you to help me cover a $300,000 loan payment, I now only need your help with raising the last $23,000! (I suppose you could say this is another huge match of your donation!)
So for a total of $124,700 today ($101,700 for the land at the eight battlefields plus the $23,000 to help cover the Slaughter Pen Farm loan payment), we are saving 304 acres of new land valued at over $3 million, plus we are ensuring that we can honor our commitment to the 208 priceless acres at Fredericksburg.
And while I know I am already asking you to do a lot, I pray you will do just one more thing to help greatly advance the cause of battlefield preservation: Please sign the linked Petition to the U.S. Congress!
This important document, addressed to the Senate and House Natural Resources Committees, is a request to those lawmakers to support future legislation to expand the boundaries at some key national battlefields.
Why is this important? Well, because right now, the Civil War Trust owns and manages literally thousands of acres of hallowed ground that should be included in nearby battlefields such as Gettysburg, Petersburg, Shiloh, Fredericksburg and many more. In many cases, we cannot even GIVE the land we have saved to the parks, because it is not in the current “authorized boundary,” even if the land was the scene of the most ferocious fighting (the Slaughter Pen Farm is a perfect example).
You and I have saved these sites, but it is expensive for the Trust to maintain and interpret this hallowed ground, and the fact of the matter is that these crucial acres belong in the battlefield parks for the benefit of the American people.
The current boundary lines of many battlefield parks are – quite frankly – arbitrary, and were established long ago. The Trust, working closely with the National Park Service, is pushing to get many of these boundary lines re-drawn, so that our saved land can be included in the parks, where it belongs, but it literally takes an act of Congress to make that happen.
So please, sign your name in support on the petition linked, and return it to me with your most generous contribution possible today to help save 304 acres at a $31.11-to-$1 match!
Please let me hear back from you as soon as you can. Thank you very much for all that you are doing to save our nation’s crucial Civil War heritage.
Ours, ‘til our battle is won,
P.S. Thanks to you, we are making historic progress at saving our nation’s hallowed ground. But for you and your generosity, this land where Americans fought and died could easily be housing subdivisions, shopping centers, fast-food stores or any of a dozen other inappropriate forms of development, destroying its historical significance forever and denying it to all future generations.
You are not letting that happen, and on behalf of those future generations, I salute you.