Save 285 Acres at Gaines' Mill -- We're Almost There!
An Updated Message from Jim Lighthizer, Civil War Trust President, June 2012
The Battle of Gaines’ Mill, June 27, 1862:
Robert E. Lee’s first victory...
The Largest Confederate Charge of the War...
...Today, we have the chance to save more of the battlefield
Than ever before, if we act by September 4, 2012!
Dear Fellow Preservationist,
I have to tell you: We’re almost there. We have almost saved 285 acres at Gaines’s Mill in Virginia. But we're almost out of time...
As often happens in big historic land preservation transactions, much has changed since I wrote to you last October about our effort to save more hallowed ground at this battlefield than has ever been saved before. If you have a moment, I need to update you on our progress; here’s where we stand today:
The purchase price of $3.2 million for this 285-acre tract – site of Robert E. Lee’s first victory as commander of the Army of Northern Virginia – remains the same as it did when we launched this campaign last October.
The good news is that we are on track to receive a wonderful $1.5 million matching grant from the Commonwealth of Virginia to help with the purchase, leaving $1.7 million as our portion.
The better news is that, through the generosity of several thousand Trust members and supporters (who have also helped save crucial hallowed ground at Shiloh, Perryville, Cross Keys at the same time!), we have already raised, as of today, $1,053,224, leaving us $646,776 to go.
One more bit of good news is that we’ve gotten an extension until Tuesday, September 4, 2012 to raise the funds. (Our original deadline was June 30!) Still, that's only about 60 days to go! Now, I understand that $646,776 is still a lot of money to raise, even with a 60-day extension.
However, I can tell you that The Mary Morton Parsons Foundation in Richmond has announced a $50,000 3:1 challenge grant; if we can raise $150,000 in new gifts, they will give $50,000 toward Gaines’ Mill!
That infusion of $200,000, would leave us with $446,776 to go and, confidently, one individual who prefers to remain anonymous had just recently agreed to give the amount as the "last money in," to get us over the finish line!
So if you could possibly help today by making a gift toward the FINAL $150,000 we need to raise so that we can take advantage of the $50,000 challenge grant before we have to close on the property on September 4, then we can declare this incredibly historic piece of hallowed ground saved forever!
As I said before, this is one of the top three most important pieces of hallowed ground you and I have EVER attempted to save – at one of the most important unprotected battlefields in America!
Gaines’ Mill, Virginia, is part of the Seven Days’ Battles of 1862, and Lee’s first major victory as the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia. To date, only about 67 acres of this 3,000+ acre battlefield have been saved. The rest of the battlefield is still in private hands. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that there is encroaching development all around this hallowed ground. If we don’t save this land now, mark my words, it WILL get carved up for a future subdivision of big houses someday. Imagine that – a subdivision on the bloody hallowed ground of Gaines’ Mill where the dead once lay “in heaps”! Saving this absolutely crucial piece of the battlefield will act as a further barricade against that sad fate.
There’s no doubt that this is one of the greatest battlefield preservation opportunities you and I will ever have, even as I fully realize that – in this still-difficult economy – it presents one of the greatest challenges we have ever faced.
There are several reasons why this is one of the most important preservation efforts we have ever attempted:
1. Gaines’ Mill is one of the most important battlefields in America, where only a fraction of the hallowed ground has been saved up until now. Back in the late 1920s, a group of dedicated Richmond residents got together and bought 60 acres south of Boatswain’s Creek, where the Union lines were, and where there was considerable fighting. This land is now owned and managed by the National Park Service. More recently, the Richmond Battlefields Association saved another 5 acres and, in 2011, you and your fellow Trust members saved another 2 acres. This new acquisition of 285 pristine acres more than quadruples the preserved area of this battlefield!
2. Gaines’ Mill is a crucial battle of the Seven Days’ Campaign, as it was Robert E. Lee’s first major victory at the head of the Army of Northern Virginia. In the 1993 Congressional report on America’s disappearing battlefields, Gaines’ Mill was listed as one of the Top 11 most highly threatened battlefields in the entire country, with less that 20% of the main battlefield preserved!
3. At the climax of the battle, Lee launched an assault all along his lines. This would turn out to be Lee’s largest Confederate assault of the War, more than two times larger than Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg, or the charge at Franklin!
R. E. Lee hurled forward all the troops at his disposal in a direct frontal assault across nearly two miles of ground. The most powerful portion of Lee’s available force crossed the land we are saving and confidentially, struck Daniel Butterfield’s Union brigade. Butterfield would be awarded a Medal of Honor for his actions at Gaines’ Mill on this day.
Historian Robert E. L. Krick tells us that, “Five brigades from James Longstreet’s division — Pickett’s, Pryor’s, Wilcox’s, Featherston’s, and Jenkins’s — moved forward from the protection of Powhite Creek. They charged over open, undulating farm fields — across the broadest section of land we are working to preserve. In the process they took very heavy casualties from Butterfield’s small arms fire and the supporting Union artillery on the high ground behind Boatswain’s Creek.
“The Confederate accounts are nearly unanimous regarding casualties. They agree that the tremendous majority of the killed and wounded fell dead during the initial charges north and west of Boatswain’s Creek. Writing a few weeks later, an Alabamian described it: ‘Up to the crest of the hill we went at a double quick, but when we came into view on the top of the ridge we met such a perfect storm of lead right in our faces that the whole brigade literally staggered backward….The dead lay in heaps….Just for one moment we faltered….and we swept forward…over the crest and down the slope….’ Once these brigades reached the ravine and Boatswain’s Creek, they enjoyed a degree of shelter.”
After this battle, a defeated General George B. McClellan sent his famously insubordinate telegram to the War Department in Washington, saying “If I save this army now, I tell you plainly that I owe no thanks to you or any other persons in Washington. You have done your best to sacrifice this army.” These last two sentences of his telegram were censored by the horrified telegraph officers on the other end.
Even beyond its obviously tremendous historic value, I will tell you that if we are successful in saving this key part of the Gaines’ Mill Battlefield, I would count this among my “Top Three” biggest personal achievements during my tenure as president of this organization. This piece of hallowed ground is simply that important.
And, just as we have done at the other remaining Seven Days’ battlefields of Glendale and Malvern Hill, saving this ground will set the stage for even more preservation victories in the future.
I understand that in this still-tight economy, many people are stretched to the limit, and must be careful in the charitable contributions they make.
But a “silver lining” of these tough economic times is that it has temporarily shoved a speed bump in front of many developers, giving us opportunities to save many acres of supremely significant battlefield land that might otherwise have been lost, like these 285 acres at Gaines’ Mill.
And I hope you will agree that together you and I are achieving the mission you want to accomplish: Saving America’s most important and threatened hallowed ground.
One quick glance at the Gaines' Mill battle map should tell you as much as I could say in ten letters. This is supremely important, blood-soaked, must-have hallowed ground, and this is exactly the reason why we have mounted a Capital Campaign – to raise the private funds needed to save the most important hallowed ground in America.
For your gift of $100 or more, I will do something that the Trust has done with great success at several other battlefields around the nation, such as The Slaughter Pen Farm at Fredericksburg, the First Day at Chancellorsville, Harpers Ferry, Parker’s Cross Roads and more:
For your donation of just $100 or more today, I will include your name on a permanent display that will stand on this hallowed ground.
Those who are motivated to give a higher donation will have their name listed in a progressively larger size.
Also, for those who gave a previous donation to this effort, I will add any additional gift you give today to your previous total, and if it bumps you up to the next level, I’ll make your name bigger on the donor sign!
This is my humble way of offering you a small piece of on-site Civil War immortality, and identify for future generations those 21st century heroes like you who came together with The Civil War Trust to save the land where 19th century heroes hallowed the ground forever.
Each gift gets us that much closer to ultimate victory. This is one of those very rare chances to do something that we can be proud tell our grandchildren about…something that will live on forever.
Now, I place the future of this “Top Three” hallowed battlefield in your hands. Look at the map I have sent, and please go to our website at www.civilwar.org/gainesmill12 for more detailed information on this transaction, one of the most important we have ever attempted, including incredible photos and exclusive videos of historian Bobby Krick recorded on the property...
…but even more than all of this, decide today that you want to add Gaines’ Mill to the growing list of victories that make up your personal battlefield preservation legacy.
I hope that you just chose to join in the Trust’s historic, unprecedented and absolutely necessary effort to save this key part of the Gaines’ Mill battlefield. Please let me hear back from you before September 4, so that we can be sure to match the $50,000 foundation challenge grant. Thank you.
With boundless appreciation and gratefulness, I remain, your friend,
P.S. Again, before you make your final decision to support this crucial 60-day campaign, I urge you to “reconnoiter” the tremendous amount of information about this battlefield on our website at www.civilwar.org/gainesmill12. There you will find detailed maps, photos of the land we are saving, information about Civil War balloons which were a part of this battle, and much more, describing the historic significance of this hallowed ground.
I don’t know of any other non-profit in America that provides supporters like you with so much information before asking for your support. Please learn all about this historic transaction, then make your donation now, either on-line or by mailing back your gift. Remember, I need your help by September 4. Many thanks.