Save the Slaughter Pen Farm

Project Update from Jim Lighthizer, Civil War Trust President

Dear Valued Friend,

Jim LIghthizer Well I have to tell you: I’m very concerned.

We all know how much the economy is still working to get back on its feet.

I still hear from members who want to support our mission, but due to job losses, stock market losses or other difficulties, just can't contribute or give at the level they used to.

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And right now, looking forward, The Board of Trustees and I have to make some very difficult decisions about just how much we can tackle in the rest of 2012. But there is one crucial expense that I cannot cut or put off, and that is Trust’s annual $200,000 payment to the bank for the Slaughter Pen Farm -- the decisive southern end of the battlefields -- at Fredericksburg, Virginia.

As you will recall, this June 2006 transaction was the largest private battlefield purchase in America’s history, and it was the biggest transaction that the Trust had ever attempted – by a factor of four!  But with your help, we accepted the risk, and went after these 208 acres of supremely hallowed ground.

I have to say that your generosity and that of your fellow Trust members has been nothing short of phenomenal. To have already paid off 60% of this land just six years after we bought it is a tremendous accomplishment. 

During that time, taking advantage of the current economic climate, we have refinanced our loan, saving us several percentage points (and many thousands of dollars) and allowing us to make payments based on a 20-year repayment schedule!  Although I had hoped we could pay the entire balance off sooner, the downturn in the economy makes that goal very difficult to achieve right now, as you can imagine.

Already, thousands of visitors have walked in the footsteps of heroes on this amazing field, following the newly installed Trust-created interpretive trail. The land, which was once off-limits to the general public, is now telling the complete story of the Battle of Fredericksburg in ways that have never been told before. Plus, last year we launched our free Fredericksburg “battle app,” which allows anyone with an iPhone or Android phone to download the app, and tour the battlefield from anywhere in the world. (Click here to learn more about our full line of free battle apps »)

I have always had confidence that we, as an organization, could handle the $200,000 annual loan payment without jeopardizing other projects. We have never yet missed a payment.

Today, however, when many people are cutting back both on personal spending and charitable giving…

… and when we have so many crucial battlefield preservation projects “in play” at places like Shiloh, Chancellorsville and Perryville…

… I am concerned that we might not raise enough this year to make our required payment AND save additional land that is coming onto the market.

You might not know this, but large acres of contiguous open “raw” land are still highly in demand by developers who are looking to “buy and hold” until the housing and commercial building markets recover.

And there’s no denying that many landowners are hurting financially, too, and a developer’s promise of ready cash for their raw land may prove too attractive for them to pass up, especially if they are unemployed, their pension is getting squeezed or other bills are piling up.

But you and I both know that the Slaughter Pen Farm at Fredericksburg cannot be truly considered saved until the final dollar of that debt is paid off. At the very minimum, the Trust needs to pay our $200,000 commitment or we risk default. So please, although I know you have already done so much to help recently, will you help once again with your gift to help make sure we can cover the $200,000 loan payment we owe for 2012?

That way, I can continue to work on the many other projects we have in the pipeline, including:

1. Building on our previous success at places like Bentonville, North Carolina; Perryville, Kentucky; and Chancellorsville, Virginia;

2. Some intriguing opportunities to help complete the preservation of Second Manassas, in Virginia;

3. Additional potential projects at places like Gettysburg, Franklin, Petersburg, South Mountain, and many more.

So today, I ask you to please be as generous as you can – consistent with your other financial obligations – and help the Civil War Trust meet its financial obligations. I have no substitute for your generosity. You have my deepest thanks for all you are doing to save our nation’s history.

Most sincerely yours,

Jim Lighthizer

P.S. One quick but very important final thought: Please take this letter right now and go to your computer. In your web browser, type in this: Then sit back and watch the very special animated map we have created, a presentation that brings our popular paper maps to life in a whole new way, and gives you an even greater appreciation for the importance of this hallowed ground that we are saving. While you’re there, you can watch our other animated maps on Shiloh, FranklinChancellorsville, Chantilly, Bentonville and Cedar Creek. Then, to make things even easier for you, you can donate with ease, confidence and security by clicking on the “DONATE” button that you’ll see at the end of the map. Thank you very, very much.

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