Help Save Slaughter Pen Farm
A Message from Jim Lighthizer, Civil War Trust President
Dear Fellow Preservationist,
There’s no use denying it: I am very, very concerned about one of the most crucial pieces of hallowed ground the Civil War Trust has ever preserved: The Slaughter Pen Farm at Fredericksburg.
As you will recall, this June 2006 transaction was, at $12 million, the largest private battlefield purchase in America’s history, and remains the biggest transaction the Trust has ever attempted. But with the backing of our 53,000+ members, we accepted the risk, and secured these 208 acres of supremely hallowed ground.
In seven years we have already paid off 60% of this ground which is as pristine today as it was on the day of the battle more than 150 years ago when the soldiers experienced it.
During that time, taking advantage of the current low interest rates, we have also refinanced our loan, saving us many thousands of dollars and allowing us to make payments based on a 20-year repayment schedule.
However, as you can see, we still have several million dollars to pay back before the land can be considered truly “saved forever,” and that is what concerns me today.
Each year, about this time, I send a message like this to you and your fellow members of the Civil War Trust, and so far, every year we have raised enough to make our annual payment to the bank.
But I must be completely candid with you… with each passing year, fewer and fewer members are donating to this still-important campaign.
I understand that “paying down debt” is not terribly exciting, but over the last two years, we have raised just barely enough to make our payment, and that makes me very uneasy for this year. Remember, this land is not completely “saved” until every penny is paid back.
At a time when many people are still cutting back both on personal spending and charitable giving…
… and when we have so many absolutely crucial battlefield preservation projects “in play” at places like Gettysburg, Cold Harbor and a major upcoming effort at Chickamauga…
… well, it’s my job as the Trust’s CEO to be anxious that we might not raise enough this year to make our required payment AND save the must-have land that is coming onto the market.
Thousands of visitors have walked in the footsteps of heroes on this amazing field, following the Trust-created interpretive trail. The land, which was completely off-limits to the general public for decades, is now telling the full story of the Battle of Fredericksburg in ways that have never been told before.
Plus, our free Fredericksburg “Battle App™,” which allows anyone with an iPhone or Android smartphone to download the app, and tour the battlefield from anywhere in the world, has been downloaded thousands of times. (Go to www.civilwar.org/battleapps to learn more about our full line of FREE Battle App™ guides.)
Previously, I have always had confidence that we, as an organization, could handle the current Slaughter Pen Farm annual loan payment without jeopardizing other projects.
Today, however, well… I have already told you how deeply worried I am.
We absolutely cannot EVER default on our loan and not make a payment. I won’t let that happen.
But if I don’t raise enough each year with this debt-reduction campaign, I will have to “rob Peter to pay Paul,” that is, allow another preservation priority to slip away and use the funds to honor our contractual obligation to the bank.
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 or other difficulties, they just can't contribute or give at the level they used to.
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 2013. But there is one crucial expense that I cannot cut or put off, and that is the Trust’s annual payment to the bank for the Slaughter Pen Farm.
So today, I ask you please to be as generous as you can and once again help the Civil War Trust meet its annual loan obligation for the Slaughter Pen Farm. 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,