Help Save 37 Acres at Chancellorsville
A Message from Jim Lighthizer, Civil War Trust President
Jackson sat on his horse, watch in hand. As he looked right and left at his line, everyone around Jackson looked at him. The general glanced down again at the watch. It was 5:15. “Are you ready, General Rodes?” he asked.
“Yes, sir,” came an emphatic answer.
Jackson replied simply and quietly: “You can go forward, then.”
- James I. Robertson, Jr., from Stonewall Jackson: The Man, The Soldier, The Legend
It is one of the more memorable moments of the Civil War, isn’t it?
After Robert E. Lee has split his army for a second time in the face of superior numbers, and Jackson has led his men on a wearying 13-mile march into the Union Army’s rear, he orders them forward into one of the most one-sided attacks of the War.
At the Battle of Chancellorsville, almost 150 years ago, 28,000 men under Jackson fell upon an unprepared Eleventh Corps, sending them flying eastward on the Orange Turnpike, today’s modern Route 3.
You and I, with our great local friends at the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust (CVBT), together have, over the last 12 years or so, saved scores of blood-soaked acres along this historic corridor, preserving forever the land where handfuls of Union defenders tried to hold back a torrent of Confederate attackers, many from the Stonewall Brigade.
Piece by piece, you and I have been drawing a protective arm around these hallowed acres, declaring them off-limits to the development which still, to this day, oozes closer and closer to Chancellorsville, from every point on the compass.
Today, I write to you with extraordinarily important battlefield preservation news for the Chancellorsville battlefield.
Right now, you and I have a chance to save an additional 37 acres of “Jackson’s Flank Attack” land at an incredible multiplier of $13-to-$1!
If you and I can raise $69,000, we can save $899,000 worth of hallowed ground.
I imagine that you probably think I have been darn-near relentless in writing to you recently about opportunities to save hallowed ground. And I fully understand that everyone has commitments in their lives they must keep, and must be careful in the amount of charitable contributions they can make.
All I can say in my defense is that the Civil War Trust is saving some truly remarkable hallowed ground, and to the extent that you can budget your giving for the rest of this year, I hope you will agree that we are making great strides in achieving the mission you want to accomplish:
Saving America’s most important and threatened hallowed ground, by greatly multiplying your generosity with outside matching fund sources, like today’s $13-to-$1 opportunity.
As I write to you today, I have rarely felt a greater sense of the awesome responsibility that I must fulfill to you, to the Civil War Trust and, in truth, to our entire nation.
With the historic battlefield preservation effort that I am announcing today, I humbly submit to you that:
— By saving some of the most historically significant unprotected hallowed ground at one of America’s most important Civil War battlefields, Chancellorsville . . .
— By quickly taking advantage of a very limited opportunity to utilize nearly a third of a million dollars from the Commonwealth of Virginia to preserve that storied place, and $462,000 in federal matching fund grant requests, plus nearly $70,000 from our friends at CVBT . . .
— And by accepting the challenge of raising the money needed now, in the run-up to the 150th anniversary of the battle, you and I can save an irreplaceable piece of our nation’s heroic past that, if we do not act, could become just another blot of ugly suburban sprawl.
At 37 acres total on two parcels, located at the critical heart of the maelstrom of fighting during Stonewall Jackson’s flank attack, we are truly saving some of the most significant parts of the Chancellorsville battlefield that remain to be saved.
As I said, the purchase price for these two combined properties is $899,000. Working together with the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust on the smaller parcel, and taking the larger one on by ourselves, we can declare them both saved forever if we raise the final $69,000, turning every $1 raised into $13!
You know the history . . . you can picture thousands of Confederates surging across this land, in frenzied pursuit of the surprised Union Eleventh Corps . . . the Federals quickly trying to form what would later be known as the “Buschbeck Line,” very near both of these properties, in a brave attempt to hold back the Confederate tide . . .
. . . Shelby Foote described one-armed General O.O. Howard at the Wilderness Church “clamping a stand of abandoned colors under the stump of his amputated arm,” while holding the reins of his horse with his other hand, tears in his eyes, as he tried to get his men to stand and form . . .
. . . Stonewall Jackson himself passed along the road adjacent to this property, stopping to pray over mortally wounded men, pressing forward where, a mile east and a few hours later, he himself would be mortally wounded.
Perhaps like me, you occasionally run into someone who says, “Why do you care about all this Civil War stuff? It’s ancient history. It doesn’t matter anymore.” Or perhaps they are like the local government official who once said to me, “Why do you Civil War guys need all this land? Can’t you just make a movie about the battles and show that to people?”
I generally try not to waste my time with people like this, and I know I’m preaching to the choir when I say this to you, but the fact is: The Battle of Chancellorsville matters.
It is still one of the most significant battles of the Civil War. Long-considered Lee’s greatest victory, military strategists from all over the world still come to this hallowed ground to learn its lessons. It matters because it is still relevant today.
The battle cost the Confederacy Stonewall Jackson (and I’m going to ask your opinion on this at the end of this letter). It matters because American history was changed forever upon these fields.
This hallowed ground – like all Civil War battlefields – stand as permanent reminders of those ideals that built and sustain this nation in its greatness . . . honor, duty, courage, valor, commitment, audacity, resolution. Are those naysayers going to try to tell you and me that some paved-and-neon-lit fast-food chicken restaurant is a higher and better use for that land? I don’t think so.
By saving this essential ground today, you and I are doing something that we can be proud to tell our grandchildren about . . . something that will live on forever.
And I do mean you! In the end, it all comes down to you.
If political leaders did not see a committed army of nearly 55,000 dedicated and generous citizens fighting, with their own money, to save thousands of acres of hallowed ground each year, they would not vote to support matching funds. Your membership makes all the difference.
If new donors to the Trust did not see a track record of nearly 36,000 acres saved by those who came before them, they would not be inspired to take up the challenge to keep that success going forward. Your generosity has led the way.
If local landowners did not see their neighbors actually receiving timely and fair-market payment for their ancestral properties, they would not even take our phone calls. Your commitment has given us credibility in the eyes of those landowners.
If you and your fellow members did not give so generously, as you continue to do, month in and month out, making battlefield preservation part of the rhythm of your financial life, the Civil War Trust could never achieve the highest possible rating by those important charity watchdog organizations. Your steadfast support has sustained the Trust and made us stronger than I ever dreamed possible.
My friend, Chancellorsville was probably a battle that Lee should not have won.
He was greatly outnumbered, he was (for a time) completely flanked, and he ran outrageous risks by splitting his army in the face of a superior foe time and time again . . . yet he was somehow able to craft a magnificent victory, the greatest of his career.
When I look at Chancellorsville, I, too, see a battle that we probably should not be winning. . . but we are. The fight is not over yet, but inch by inch, yard by yard, you and I are advancing and driving our opponent from the battlefield, even though we are always outnumbered and occasionally outflanked.
Today, I ask you once more, to the level of your passion for this cause of saving hallowed ground, to share a measure of your life’s success with the Trust, in the form of your most generous contribution to help save this hallowed ground.
And remember: Our cause is sacred; Our work stands forever; Our time is now; and Our success is assured, as long as committed patriots like you stay involved.
Please look at the map I have enclosed. For even more photos, maps, history articles and information, visit our website at www.civilwar.org/chancellorsville13.
Then I hope you will decide today that you want these 37 acres to become a part of your growing battlefield preservation legacy, and that you want to turn every $1 you give today in $13! Please let me hear back from you today. Thank you.
Fighting for our history,
P.S. Let me say it again: I understand that each person is doing what they can financially. I just pray that you will be able to help once again today, so we can continue our unprecedented run of success. I am so proud to be engaged in this noble work with you, and of all we achieved together, for the good of our nation. I can only hope that you are just as proud to be a member of the Civil War Trust. Thank you and God bless you.