Be part of the historic effort to save four battlefields to kick off 2017!
A message from Jim Lighthizer, Civil War Trust President
Dear Friend and Fellow Battlefield Preservationist,
Normally, I could give you three or four good reasons why you might want to help the Civil War Trust save a significant piece of hallowed ground.
But today, as we kick off a brand-new year, I don’t have three or four good reasons:
I’ve got ten GREAT reasons why I believe you will want to participate in this historic effort.
Reason #1: Right now, you and I have a chance to save 243 key, crucial acres at four important battlefields, including land at Cedar Creek, one of America’s most highly threatened sites, in the heart of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.
Reason #2: In saving these 243 acres, I can turn every $1.00 you give today into $14.96, using a variety of matching funds we have secured. Is a 1,496% return on your preservation-dollar investment a good thing in this day and age? I sure think so.
Reason #3: Those matching funds total an enormous $2,058,000 – more than a full $2 million just sitting there on the table – if you and I can raise the final $147,345 to take advantage of them.
Reason #4: We will be adding crucial acres to Cedar Creek, Harpers Ferry and New Market Heights, where we have already been enormously successful in the past, building on our previous successes.
Reason #5: We will also be saving irreplaceable acres at the Greenbrier River battlefield in West Virginia, where nothing has ever been preserved before, saving key history now while setting the stage for future victories!
Reason #6: As I mentioned, Cedar Creek is one of the most highly threatened Civil War battlefields in America. This is because there is a foreign-owned company actively engaged in limestone mining on hundreds of acres of core battlefield land right on the battlefield! Although we continue to fight against the destruction of this hallowed ground at every opportunity, the most effective action we can take right now is to try to match them acre per acre, preserving, protecting, and defending as much hallowed ground as we can.
It is frustrating but, for the foreseeable future, like two scorpions in a Mason jar, the mine and the Civil War Trust are stuck facing off against each other, and we need to strike whenever an opportunity presents itself by preserving hallowed ground whenever we have an opening.
Reason #7: According to the congressionally authorized study that we use to prioritize our efforts, Cedar Creek is a “Priority I.1 Class A” battlefield, one of only eleven sites in America to hold this top-most ranking. In this case, however, being at the top of the list means Cedar Creek is one of those battlefields “most in need of urgent and immediate preservation action.” So, we’ve got to move faster than a speeding Minie ball whenever land becomes available.
Reason #8: The land we are saving at Harpers Ferry was once the target for massive development. In fact, long-term Civil War Trust members may recall that on one weekend in 2006, a developer brought in heavy construction equipment, private security and lawyers, and proceeded to slash a 45-foot-wide, 2,000-foot-long trench in which they put water and sewer pipes across National Park Service property to this land. When park officials showed up to protest and photograph the destruction, he literally gave them “the middle finger salute.”
His twisted dream was to develop, destroy, and desecrate the very land we now have the opportunity to save today. Maddingly, the government never moved to prosecute him, but as the old saying goes, “What goes around, comes around.” That developer ran into some, shall we say, “serious financial difficulties” and fortunately, a preservation-friendly owner got control of the property.
This new owner is working with us, even making a bargain-sale donation of part of the property’s value, to protect 200 acres of this crucial land at Harpers Ferry.
Reason #9 (and I’m going to spend a few moments on this, because it is so important): All four of these tracts are covered in extraordinarily significant history.
On your Cedar Creek battle map, please find the 14-acre area marked in yellow. This part of the battlefield saw considerable action in one of the most important episodes associated with the morning phase of this battle.
The Union stand on Cemetery Hill occurred just to the north of this parcel, and parts of two Confederate divisions charged across this land, coming under heavy Union fire, during their three separate attacks against the hill that morning.
This dramatic action was a desperate attempt by the Union units to buy time for the rest of the army, which was reeling in confusion from a crushing Southern surprise attack that struck at dawn.
By 10:30 on the morning of the battle, the Union Army of the Shenandoah was bloodied, battered, and on the verge of a demoralizing defeat. They had been driven across five miles of rolling Virginia fields during five hours of combat. To most Union soldiers and their officers, the battle was over. Cedar Creek appeared to be a stunning Confederate victory.
Then, the army's commander, Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan, soon arrived on the scene. Having attended a council of war in Washington the day before, he spent the night in Winchester, over 13 miles to the north. Sheridan had no idea of the disaster that had befallen his army, but as the sounds of battle reached him, followed by fleeing Union troops and rumors of defeat, he quickened his pace and rode hard to the field, rallying his demoralized soldiers. “Sheridan’s Ride,” as it became known, forever secured his status in American history.
The threat to this land is due to the rapid growth of residential development. This battlefield is now within the ever-expanding Washington, DC, commuting area, which has sparked tremendous growth in the region. Farms are being converted to commercial and residential use at a dizzying rate. Open space around Cedar Creek is also attractive to developers due to the confluence of two major interstates on its eastern boundary. We need to save it now, while we still can.
At Harpers Ferry, I’ve told you a little bit about its recent history, and the fight to preserve it. As you look at your map, you can see this 200-acre swath of land, much of it high ground, was crucial to the outcome of the siege and battle there in 1862.
Once Union commander Colonel Dixon Miles saw that Confederates under General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson had maneuvered troops and guns onto this part of the battlefield, and that he was now surrounded, he had no choice but to surrender the 12,000-man garrison. Had Miles been able to hold out a little longer, Jackson might have been delayed in returning to Robert E. Lee’s army at Sharpsburg, and the Battle of Antietam could have ended very differently.
That we even have a chance to save this historic land we once chalked up to either being lost forever or so expensive as to always be out of our reach… well, it’s almost a miracle.
Jumping to the 15-acre tract at New Market Heights, east of Richmond, historian R.E.L. Krick tells me that “its interpretive value is high, in particular because of the battle’s reputation as one of the keystone sites connected to the history of the United States Colored Troops.”
Very early on September 29, 1864, a strike force consisting of the 10th Corps plus a division of the 18th Corps from the Army of the James crossed the James River at Deep Bottom and advanced to the Kingsland Road. This wedge of attackers initiated a series of piecemeal attacks across Four Mile Creek and against the Confederate lines, then defended by Gregg’s Texas Brigade and some of Gary’s cavalry brigade (dismounted).
The USCT brigades launched the main attacks, and lost an astonishing total of approximately 800 men. They eventually seized the high ground where the Confederate line ran, and this ground remained within Union control for the remainder of the war.
Finally, you and I have the opportunity to save the first land ever preserved at the 1861 Battle of Greenbrier River. On August 13, 1861, two Confederate brigades seized a storied 19th century inn, post office, and farmstead on the East Fork of the river called “Travellers Repose” and began to erect fortifications on the hills above it. Their goal: to block Union passage on the vital turnpike leading southeast over the mountains to railroads in the Shenandoah Valley.
Confederate Brig. Gen. Henry R. Jackson named these works “Camp Bartow,” in honor of a fellow Georgian killed at First Manassas. Gen. Robert E. Lee led the Confederates camped here in an assault of Cheat Mountain during September 1861. Lee’s campaign—his first of the war—ended in failure.
U.S. Brig. Gen. Joseph J. Reynolds, commanding the Cheat Mountain District, received orders to advance. On October 3, 1861, Reynolds led nearly 5,000 Union troops down the turnpike from Cheat Mountain to assail Jackson’s 1,800 Confederates dug in at Camp Bartow.
Reynolds’ attack opened at 7:00 a.m. Clearing the outposts, thirteen Union guns bombarded Camp Bartow with 1,200 rounds of shot and shell. Gen. Jackson’s defenders responded with up to six cannons from the heights above Travellers Repose. Attempts by Union infantry to cross the East Fork Greenbrier River on the right and left flanks were driven back in confusion. Running low on ammunition and eyeing Confederate reinforcements, Gen. Reynolds broke off the engagement by 1:00 p.m. and marched his weary force back to Cheat Mountain.
The Greenbrier River Battlefield is little changed. Soldiers burned Travellers Repose, but the home was rebuilt in 1869 and continued to serve as an inn through the 1960s. The original farm was auctioned and subdivided in 2014. Much of the battlefield remains farmland, but as with each of the three previous tracts, development threats loom.
Finally, Reason #10 why I hope you will be a part of saving these hallowed acres today: Working with renowned artist Keith Rocco, it is my honor to be able to offer you a specially commissioned, signed and numbered Civil War print – one that has never before been available to the general public – as a thank-you for your generous contribution today.
What makes this image so unique is that the land we are saving today is actually depicted in the background of this same painting! (Plus, read the artist's commentary about this print here)
If you can send a gift of $100 or more, you will receive a 25” x 16” full-color print on premium matte paper, hand-signed and numbered by the artist, shipped to you in a protective sleeve, ready for framing.
If you can help the Civil War Trust today with a gift of $500 or more – wow – I can send you the same painting, but instead of paper, it will be a printed artist’s giclée in vibrant color on a 30” x 17” canvas. Giclées look very much like original paintings, and I know you will be proud to display this work of art in your home or office.
Both the premium paper print and large canvas giclée are being produced in very limited numbers, so I encourage you to reply as soon as possible to reserve yours, knowing that every dollar you send is multiplied many times over to save these 243 acres of hallowed ground, as well as threatened land all across the nation.
In closing, I’ll give you one bonus reason why I think you should support this urgent effort today:
Because thanks to your support, the Civil War Trust is still the most effective and efficient organization of its kind in America, and we do what we say we are going to do with our members’ donations.
So, if you are looking for the biggest bang for your charitable buck (we can turn it into nearly $15 if we act fast), if you want to save absolutely key parts of your country’s history, if you want to build on our past successes and set the stage for future victories, then I humbly suggest that this may be the project for you!
I thank you for your dedication to our great cause, and look forward to saving even more of America’s priceless hallowed ground with you in the rest of the year.
Yours in preserving America's history and heritage,
P.S. Before you even think about making a donation to this important effort, I urge you to visit our appeal page on our website at www.civilwar.org/fourbattlefields2017. There you will get to see more photos and maps of the properties than I could ever afford to print and put into an envelope (being good stewards of the funds entrusted to us). You can also, if so motivated, make your donation securely online with a credit card (perhaps earning travel miles or other bonus points, depending on your card). I look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible. Thank you once again for all you do.
IMPORTANT NOTE: While these prints are not being offered for sale to the general public, similar high-quality prints do have a market value recognized by the IRS. Therefore, if you elect to receive one of the paper prints for your gift of $100 or more, the first $35 of your gift cannot be counted as being tax deductible. If you elect to receive one of the canvas giclées for your gift of $500 or more, the first $200 of your gift cannot be counted as being tax deductible. Thank you!