Help Save 643 acres at the Davis Bridge Battlefield

A Message from Jim Lighthizer, CWPT President

Dear Stalwart CWPT Member,

Jim LIghthizer

I know you’re very busy, so let me quickly give you the important facts about one of the most significant battlefield preservation opportunities we have ever had, and then I will fill in the details for you.

Then, I need a personal favor of you.  Let me explain:

CWPT currently has the chance to preserve essentially the rest of an entire Civil War battlefield, creating one of the largest Civil War state parks in Tennessee:

Save Davis Bridge

With a $12 to $1 match $258 buys a full acre!

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Learn More about Davis Bridge

The battle:

Davis Bridge, or sometimes known as Hatchie’s Bridge.


October 5, 1862, the final significant action of the operations around Corinth, Mississippi, one of—in my humble opinion—the most neglected theaters of the entire war.

The transaction:

CWPT has the chance to purchase an astounding 643 acres for $1,979,000 – with just $166,400 of our own money!

The match:

CWPT is applying for a federal battlefield preservation matching grant of $948,600, and has already secured a grant of $864,000 from the Tennessee Heritage Conservation Trust Fund—I’ll save you the trouble of doing the math—that’s a total match of nearly $12-to-$1 of your donation dollar!

In this era of bewildering stimulus packages, confusing bailouts, and unsteady consumer confidence, how about a plain, pure and simple good deal:

If CWPT can raise $166,400, we will:

- secure a whopping $1,812,600 in matching grants, turning every $1 of your generosity into nearly $12;

- save 643 pristine acres at one of the 384 most important Civil War sites, as decided by the U.S. Congress in 1993;

- add to the 196 acres that have already been preserved there, creating, at 839 acres, one of the largest state Civil War parks in Tennessee.

I’ll be the first to admit that Davis Bridge might be considered by many people to be a lesser-known battle.  But by saving such an enormous part of this site, CWPT is fulfilling not only our preservation mission, but also our education mission, by bringing this important “outdoor classroom” back to life for all Americans.

Plus, with the convergence of matching grants that have aligned to save this site, it is

crucial that we act immediately to save this pristine site, while we still can.  We don’t get many chances like this one, my friend.

The history:  On October 5, 1862, U.S. Grant sent a force of 8,000 under Maj. Gen. Edward O. C. Ord, from Bolivar, Tennessee, to intercept Confederate General Earl Van Dorn.  Ord slammed into the vanguard of the retreating Confederate column at Davis Bridge on the Hatchie River two miles south of Pocahontas, Tennessee.

Ord drove the head of the Confederate column back across the river, seized the bridge, and charged his troops into the thicket east of the river.  (Please refer to the official CWPT battle map I have sent to you—please note that we are buying THE ENTIRE battlefield east of the Hatchie River!)  Confederates defending the heights overlooking the crossing to the east inflicted heavy casualties on the Federals and checked their further advance.

His route west blocked by Ord, Van Dorn managed to extricate his army from between the two converging enemy columns and crossed the Hatchie at Crum’s Mill six miles upstream, retreating to Holly Springs, Mississippi.

The fierce battle at Davis Bridge ended Van Dorn’s Corinth offensive and resulted in 500 Union casualties and 400 Confederate casualties.  The unsuccessful autumn campaign was the last Confederate offensive in Mississippi. 

The bridge across the Hatchie River has long since washed away and the banks of the river have undergone erosion, but the battlefield site retains an extremely high degree of integrity.  See the Davis Bridge Map

You probably don’t know this about me, but one of my first jobs as a young man many years ago was selling typewriters for IBM.  If you’ve ever done a stint in a sales job, you know that you often have to overcome a potential customer’s objections in order to make the sale.

Well, today, let me proactively try to overcome any objection you might have to helping save this crucial piece of hallowed ground.

If you were to say to me, “Jim, the economy still hasn’t come back enough for me to make a gift at this time,” I would say to you that I understand, believe me I’m right there in that boat with you, but at the same time, it really doesn’t take a very large gift to have a tremendous impact—because I am able to multiply ANY gift you give by a factor of nearly 12-to-1!

Plus, remember, if you itemize your taxes you still get a tax deduction.

Perhaps you’re thinking, “I might want to wait to make a gift until CWPT saves some land at one of my favorite battlefields.”

Well, while I can tell you that—despite the rough economy—CWPT is still putting together some amazing transactions for the rest of 2009, it is also true that this is the only chance we will have this year (and probably next year) to get the $864,000 grant from the state of Tennessee.  If we don’t use it now, for Davis Bridge, it is gone.

(And speaking of “consumer confidence,” don’t you think it speaks volumes about CWPT’s effectiveness that Tennessee is willing to grant us nearly a million dollars to go buy this battlefield?)

And finally, I would simply ask you to take a look at all of the other organizations you are involved with, and rationally evaluate all of the positive aspects of saving these 643 acres at Davis Bridge:

1. The value of your gift is increased nearly 1,200 percent!  This is your “investment” in America’s history, and I challenge you to find a higher rate of return anywhere!

2. CWPT is putting in the final 8.4 percent of the total cost, with 91.6 percent coming from other sources.

3. You are saving a key, neglected chapter of the story of the Civil War, and of our nation.

4. You are saving something that will last forever.  Once CWPT purchases the property and protects it with an easement, we are going to donate it to Tennessee, so that it remains as part of their state park system forever.

5. It seems like everyone’s going “green” these days; I can’t even begin to calculate the number of trees on these 643 acres, so you can say you’ve certainly done your part to help protect the natural environment. 

6. Acreage-wise, this is the second-largest single transaction in CWPT’s history—which, again, given this economy, has to be seen as a major victory.  And it is crucial land outside of Virginia. 

I don’t know what else I could say to convince you to join in this crucial effort, other than to tell you that any and every gift is both needed and appreciated.

But even in the event you decide not to send a donation to help save Davis Bridge, I still need you to do a very big favor for me.

As you can see, I have also sent you a double petition, one addressed to President Barack Obama and one addressed to the new Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar.

Your signature, on both of these documents, could be absolutely critical to the future of battlefield preservation.

As you know, and as you can see from this transaction at Davis Bridge, a huge part of CWPT’s success over the years has been our ability to secure federal, state and local matching funds for battlefield preservation.  (Remember, not a cent of this taxpayer money ever goes to CWPT rent, salaries or any other “overhead.”  Every penny goes into buying land for the benefit of the American people.)

We all know what is going on in Washington right now, but all of the stimulus money and bailout packages flowing out seem to be going everywhere except into programs to preserve America’s crucial history and heritage. 

In fact, as things stand right now, I can’t tell you for sure that any matching funds for battlefields will be included in President Obama’s 2010 budget.

The federal Battlefield Preservation Program is authorized to receive up to $10 million per year for the next five years.  (Wouldn’t it be a great problem to have if we got that full amount, and had to raise the money to match it, and could save $20 million worth of battlefields every year?  Wow.)

But the actual appropriation—what the president asks for and what Congress puts in the pot to fund the program—could literally be any number between $10 million and ZERO! 

That’s why your urgent help today is so necessary.  We need to let this new administration know just how important Civil War battlefield preservation is to you and your fellow members, especially as America approaches the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, beginning in 2011.

Your signature on both of these documents will tell President Obama and Secretary Salazar that this is no time to kill or even under-fund this winning matching-grant program, perhaps the best example of a successful public-private partnership in the entire federal government.  (If anything, they ought to trumpet CWPT far and wide as to how these programs should work!)

If we can get battlefield preservation included into the first Obama budget in 2010, chances are pretty good it will be in there for at least the next three years.

But quite frankly, if we get shut out, without these millions of dollars in matching funds available each year for land purchases, my ability to multiply your donation dollar is drastically limited, and our ability to save even more important sites will be, if not crippled, at least severely diminished.  That’s the bottom line.

So today, I hope I have convinced you that it is important for you to send as generous a gift as you can to help save Davis Bridge—you can save a full acre for $258!—and I pray that you will take one extra minute and sign the double petition I’ve sent, to help secure the future of battlefield preservation for years to come. 

Thank you so much for taking these two crucial actions today, and for your continued generosity and dedication.  I have every confidence that, despite the hard times, 2009 is going to be a banner year for Civil War battlefield preservation, as long as I have you by my side.  Thank you again.

Very sincerely yours,

Jim Lighthizer

P.S.  If you prefer to put your $12-to-$1 donation to work immediately, I urge you to donate directly and securely on our website.  Also, the time is coming when we will stop sending mailed appeals to those members who have requested to receive future appeals via e-mail.  This will allow us to save an enormous amount of money each year on printing and postage costs.

We go to closing on the Davis Bridge 643 acres at the end of June, so please let me hear back from you as soon as possible.  Thank you.

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