Save 355 Acres at Two of the War’s Bloodiest Battlefields!
A Message from Jim Lighthizer, Civil War Trust President
Dear Dedicated Friend,
They are two of the bloodiest battles of the entire Civil War: Chancellorsville and The Wilderness.
Fought on much the same ground, and almost exactly one year apart, more than 61,000 soldiers, North and South, were killed, wounded or captured as a result of these two monumental fights.
Robert E. Lee’s triumph at Chancellorsville – called by many his greatest victory – emboldened him to take his army north once again, even as it cost him the life of Stonewall Jackson. This, of course, led directly to the Battle of Gettysburg.
One year later, U.S. Grant faced Lee for the first time in the Battle of the Wilderness, emboldening him to do something that no other Union commander had done previously . . . keep up the costly, bloody hammer blows on Lee’s army which led, eventually, to Wilmer McLean’s parlor at Appomattox.
Today, it is my duty and honor to tell you that you now have the chance to help save 355 acres of hallowed ground associated with BOTH epic battles – Stonewall Jackson’s Flank Attack at Chancellorsville, and General Winfield Scott Hancock’s desperate defense of the historic Brock Road crossroad – fully $1.75 million worth of hallowed ground – for just $350,000!
Over the years – and thanks primarily to you! – we have been able to save many crucial parts of our nation’s heritage and history. Other pieces of battlefield land have been stubbornly unattainable.
Now, however, after years of diligent work and negotiations behind the scenes, you and I have the chance to preserve one of those places that I have dreamed about saving for more than a decade . . .
. . . an enormous (and enormously significant) number of crucial acres that physically connect and help complete the story of TWO of America’s most important battlefields!
If you act quickly, I can turn every $1.00 you give into $5.00 to save 355 acres at what we are calling the “Chancellorsville-Wilderness Crossroads Tract.”
I’ll be the first to admit that the battle map I have for you today is a little different. It shows you both Chancellorsville and The Wilderness on the same map, even though the two battles were separated by a year in time.
I really wanted you to see and understand how crucial this 355-acre “Crossroads” tract is, and how it serves as a “land bridge” that connects these two incredibly historic battlefields, setting the stage for some incredible interpretation opportunities. Imagine a miles-long walking trail that extends from the western edge of The Wilderness to the eastern edge of Chancellorsville!
(The “crossroads” is the juncture of the historic Brock Road and the Orange Plank Road. Troops marched, fought, bled and died on these two key thoroughfares and the surrounding fields during both battles. There is so much history that happened right here!)
As shown on the Chancellorsville portion of the battle map, Jackson has already led his 26,000 men on a punishing 12-mile march, and spent precious minutes on the afternoon of May 2, 1863, forming them into line of battle, three enormous ranks of battle-hardened veterans stretching for a mile on either side of the Orange Turnpike.
Union troops in this sector of the field have been sending urgent messages to headquarters all day about unusual activity to the west, warnings that are summarily dismissed by General Joseph Hooker and his staff.
Then, like the crash of a sudden summer thunderstorm, the Confederates smash the Eleventh Corps flank and rear, sending thousands of soldiers reeling eastward, a blow from which the Union army cannot recover.
To this day, Jackson’s Flank Attack at Chancellorsville remains one of the most studied – and most successful – military actions in world history. That history alone would make this land worthy of our best efforts to save it. But fast-forward one year later, and in May of 1864, this land is part of General Hancock’s line at the chaotic and bloody Battle of the Wilderness. Shelby Foote wrote that:
“Hancock had his hands full where he was, holding Longstreet west of the Brock Road, immediately north and south of the plank road intersection. For better than five hours now, advancing and retreating, the fighting had been as heavy as any he had ever seen and so too had his casualties and the expenditure of ammunition.”
Despite a brutal pounding all day, Hancock was able to hold this “main artery to the southeast, through the thickets and beyond, into open country,” even as wounded men on both sides were literally roasted alive in brush fires that were kindled by the incessant firing in the woods.
And today . . . you and I can save 355 acres of this irreplaceable hallowed ground – land that is open space now, but if we do not save it, it will almost surely be sold to a developer for a massive new subdivision of houses!
I have wanted to preserve this incredibly important piece of ground for years. But to help convince you of the necessity of saving this land, I asked for a “second opinion” from several of the leading historians alive today on its significance. Here’s what they said:
“It would be hard to exaggerate the importance of the magnificent coup by the Civil War Trust in securing an enormous tract of land at Chancellorsville. Instead of hundreds of houses and thousands of occupants, and their associated traffic, swarming across the historic land, the spot where Jackson formed up for his epic flank attack will be preserved forever,” said Robert K. Krick, author of Stonewall Jackson at Cedar Mountain.
Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Jim McPherson told me, “On the afternoon of May 2, 1863, two Confederate divisions deployed on this property and launched the right wing of Jackson’s attack on the Union flank at Chancellorsville. Events that took place here played a crucial part in the eventual Confederate victory in the battle, and also figured again a year later as part of the Union rear area in the Battle of the Wilderness. Preserving this land will enhance understanding of both battles.”
Gary Gallagher – who is not only a top-rate historian, speaker and writer but also one of the founders of the modern preservation movement – says, “I am delighted to know that the Chancellorsville-Wilderness Crossroads property might be preserved. This spectacular tract includes parts of two great battles, and the northeastern portion would open dazzling possibilities for interpreting Jackson’s flank attack against O.O. Howard’s Eleventh Corps on May 2, 1863. Protection of this historic ground would mark a signal victory in an area under intense pressure from development”.
Finally, historian Frank O’Reilly (who, I think you will agree, has a wonderful way with words) tell us this:
“There are very few places in the world where history punishes the same place repeatedly with such intensity as the area of the Chancellorsville –Wilderness Crossroads Tract. This vital piece of ground sits at the heart of two of the Civil War’s greatest conflicts. This tract is a key part of Lt. Gen. Thomas J. ‘Stonewall’ Jackson’s famous Flank Attack, where Confederates overran and routed the Union Eleventh Corps in May 1863 – and elevated Stonewall Jackson to the pinnacle of his acclaim.”
He continues: “A year later, the area saw thousands of Union soldiers rallying from another devastating Confederate attack – this time battling back to secure the key to the battlefield: the road south to Richmond. Nothing resonates in history so fiercely as the power of Stonewall Jackson’s Flank Attack in 1863 and the high stakes struggle for the Wilderness in 1864.”
As I mentioned before, the purchase price for this unbelievably important piece of land is $1,750,000.
As of today, however, through a combination of anticipated federal and state matching grants and foundation grants, a tremendous commitment from our friends at the Central Virginia Battlefield Trust, and from lead gifts already received from a handful of extraordinarily generous donors, we have all but about $350,000 of that amount covered.
That means every $1 you send today to help with this effort turns into $5.00! We are already 80 percent of the way there, with a still-formidable $350,000 to raise in the next 100 days, between now and July 31 of this year, when we close on the property.
So we absolutely still have a huge job ahead of us, especially considering that we have an astounding number of absolutely crucial preservation projects either already in process or about to break. It will not be easy, but we can do it.
Let me restate that: We can do it, if you will help.
And I pray you will, because if we are unable to raise the final amount we need, I shudder to think what will become of this place.
Quite frankly, today, this property is in one of the most threatened historic areas in America. Rampant residential and commercial development has already destroyed significant areas of both of these battlefields. This may be our last chance to save it.
If you are anything like me – if you care even remotely about preserving the important parts of our nation’s rich history – the sight of bulldozers scraping away the land where American soldiers fought and fell makes you sick.
But make no mistake – this is our last chance, right here, right now. If we do not save this property in the next 100 days, we may never have another chance.
I’m no Pollyanna. I know asking you to help me raise $350,000 is asking a lot. But I hope you will agree this is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and it is worthy of our absolute best effort to save it.
And in the end, my friend, whether you “lean” Union or Confederate, whether you have a Billy Yank or Johnny Reb in your family tree, or even if you just enjoy studying about the people and events surrounding this most important time in our nation’s history . . .
. . . wouldn’t you like to say you had a hand in saving – for all future generations – a huge tract of battlefield land that connects two of the biggest and most important battles of the Civil War?
If we lose this final chance to save this land, you and future visitors studying Chancellorsville and the Wilderness will have both the historic view and emotional resonance destroyed by hideous, intrusive, invasive development.
This place is one of those “hinges of history” that I like to talk about. Without the Crossroads Tract, you cannot tell the full story of these two battles, and without them, you cannot tell the full story of the Civil War . . .
. . . and I’ll even go so far as to say that without all of the above, you cannot tell the full story of this nation. That’s how it is with battlefield land, my friend, and that is why the work you and I are doing together is so important.
If you are able to help with a gift of $100 or more, I will add your name to our Roll Call of Honor donor display, which will stand in perpetuity on this property near the historic crossroads, so that you can bring your children and grandchildren to this spot and show them that you played a major role in saving this historic landmark.
These signs stand as silent sentinels at places like the Slaughter Pen Farm at Fredericksburg, the First Day at Chancellorsville, Longstreet’s Advance at Gaines’ Mill, Appomattox, Bentonville and many more. We are on schedule to have the displays completed this year at Franklin, as well as the biggest one we have ever done at Lee’s Headquarters in Gettysburg, as we restore that site.
These displays show every visitor to these battlefields that you and thousands – thousands! – of your fellow members care passionately about saving our nation’s history, by saving the last tangible part of these great battles – the land – as a gift to the nation and all future generations.
If you are moved to give more than $100 to this effort, it will be my honor to increase the size of your name as it appears on this Roll Call of Honor. Please seriously consider how large you would like your name to appear on this permanent marker. It’s going to be there a long time.
Please help the Civil War Trust take full advantage of this opportunity to raise the final $350,000 we need to save this crucial land by July 31. I can’t thank you enough for all of your help.
Awaiting your reply,
P.S. I can only pray that I have done a good enough job convincing you how important this effort truly is. Remember, my staff and I have already worked behind the scenes for many months to line up $1.4 million in anticipated government matching funds and private lead gifts, turning every $1 you send today into $5.00!
Now, I place the future of historic land in your hands. Look at the maps I have for you (and visit www.civilwar.org/crossroads2016 for even more!) Tell me that you would like to have your name included on the battlefield Roll Call of Honor display . . . . . . but even more than all of this, decide today what you want your battlefield preservation legacy to be.
Thank you very, very much. Remember, we have a hard and fast deadline of July 31. Please let me hear back from you as soon as possible. Thank you again.
P.P.S. Please understand that I am not asking you to help save this land as a personal favor to me. But I pray you will help anyway, for yourself, your grandchildren, and their grandchildren. You see, you and I are in the “forever” business: Your generosity today saves something important that lasts forever, for all time. And so, again, I thank you.