Save 2 Acres at Gettysburg

A Message from Jim Lighthizer, CWPT President

Dear Friend,

Jim LIghthizerOne hundred forty-seven years ago this year, the Battle of Gettysburg, the largest battle ever fought on American soil, became enshrined as part of our nation’s history.

Today, to start the New Year, CWPT can turn every $1.00 you donate into $5.00 so you can help save a crucial part of Gettysburg’s hallowed ground!

Will you help me start 2010 off with a bang by taking advantage of a $5-to-$1 match to save two key, central acres at the very heart of the Gettysburg battlefield?

You know what happened at Gettysburg on July 1 - 3, 1863.

You know that this land, for many people, is THE most hallowed ground in America.

And you know that if any battlefield land anywhere is worth preserving, Gettysburg has to be at the top of the list.

So when the opportunity arose to save two acres of unprotected land at the center of this battlefield, with sightlines to hallowed places like Devil’s Den, the Peach Orchard and Little Round Top, of course we “pitched into the battle” to save it. (As always, you can see the land for yourself; it’s indicated in yellow on our new map.)

This two-acre parcel (along with a post-war, non-historic house), sits directly on the Emmitsburg Road, and was part of the “Snyder Farm” in 1863. Union troops marched past and probably over this property on July 1, as they double-quicked into Gettysburg during the opening hours of the battle, and it is literally just a few dozen yards east of the Confederate lines on July 2 and 3, 1863.

This property is called an “in-holding,” that is, a privately owned tract of land within the boundary of a National Park. It is absolutely core battlefield land that the Park Service was never able to acquire before.

As privately-owned land, the owners are perfectly within their legal rights to do whatever they wish with their property… certainly, they could pass it on to heirs or sell it to someone who could hypothetically come in, tear down the old house, and build a huge, new modern and totally inappropriate “McMansion.” They could also add barns, garages or anything else local zoning would permit.

The Historic Synder Farm House at Gettysburg

So in-holdings are among the top priorities for National Parks to try to acquire, to ensure the integrity of the rest of the park is protected.

Well, as fate would have it, late last year, the owners of this property needed to sell. The good news is that Gettysburg National Military Park already had $300,000 on hand to acquire the property.

The bad news is that the property appraised for $400,000, and the owners wanted a fast settlement. It was going to take too long for Park officials to go back to Congress to try to get the extra money - meaning the owners were probably going to have to sell to someone else besides the Park.

That, of course, is where CWPT came in.

Even though we have drawn down our reserves dramatically in the last few months, and have spent literally millions of dollars recently saving crucial acres at places like Chancellorsville, The Wilderness, Malvern Hill, Raymond, Appomattox Station and many more, I believed that we simply had to bite the bullet and get a contract on this land, before anything bad could happen to it.

So I asked our all-volunteer Board of Trustees to approve CWPT buying this property for the $375,000, with the Gettysburg Park putting in their $300,000, leaving us with the final $75,000 to raise. (Unfortunately, because this property lies within the park boundary, under Congressional rules it is not eligible for a dime of the $9 million in federal matching funds that was approved for 2010. We’ve got to do this all on our own.)

Bottom line: As soon as we can raise the final $75,000, CWPT will buy the property for $375,000, then we will sell it to the National Park for $300,000.

In an era when we are constantly fighting to keep back the seemingly inevitable march of the bulldozer and the backhoe as they pave over our history, this is a chance for us to take back a piece of battlefield that had been lost. Protecting this piece of land, small though it may be, will have a tremendous benefit to the overall integrity of the Gettysburg battlefield.

As I mentioned before, nearly 1/3 of the Union Army marched right by this property up the Emmitsburg Road as they were getting to the battlefield on the first day.

On the second day of the battle, the Snyder Farm was between the lines, and General Anderson’s Georgia regiments crossed this land as they moved into position for their fight against elements of General Sickles’ Union III Corps in the Wheatfield.

And I will tell you this, which I am sure you can tell from looking at it on your map: This property is smack dab in the middle of many of the major landmarks of this supremely historic battlefield.

You can stand there today and look directly east toward Little Round Top less than half a mile away, with Big Round Top to the right. And to your left about than a quarter-mile away is the George Rose House, with the Wheatfield and the Peach Orchard just beyond.

It is not often - if ever - that we who care about saving America’s Civil War battlefields get the opportunity to save something so important.

To buy this property now (and then sell it to the Park, which will restore its wartime appearance) is like saving, preserving and restoring a central, scarred part of the Mona Lisa or other precious work of art… except that this is even more meaningful, because this land was hallowed by those Americans who gave their lives at Gettysburg, a fact that constantly seems to escape the pro-casino crowd.

View of the Target Property at Gettysburg

I know we hit you and your fellow CWPT members pretty hard for donations last year, to help secure the $5.2 million in Virginia matching money (in which we were wildly successful), and I know the economy is still hurting a lot of folks.

But every time I turn the calendar to a new year, I can’t help but remember that we are still racing the clock to save hallowed ground.

How many more "Januarys" do we have left before most of America’s crucial hallowed ground is gone? Five years? Ten years? Certainly not much more than that, and in many places, we certainly have much less time than that.

So please, if you possibly can, will you help me raise the last needed $75,000 so that I can add that to the funds the Gettysburg National Park already has, and save this crucial two-acre Snyder Farm property?

As soon as we raise our $75,000, we can close on this $375,000 property - that’s a $5-to-$1 multiplier of your donation dollar, and a great way to start 2010!

I want you to be a part of this historic effort, with a gift of any amount. You are the reason why CWPT has been able to save nearly 30,000 acres, my friend; I appreciate everything you have done for our nation’s battlefields.

Please join me in taking advantage of this terrific $5-to-$1 match, and help save a critical two acres of the most important Civil War ground at any battlefield anywhere.

Please let me hear back from you as soon as possible, and please accept my deepest thanks for your generosity.

Awaiting your reply,

Jim Lighthizer

P.S. Believe me, I realize how much you have done to help preserve our nation’s battlefields already. I am humbled by your generous commitment to CWPT. I feel it is my duty to keep you informed of the projects we’re working on, and hope that you will continue to support our efforts. Any amount that you can send today is greatly appreciated. If I haven’t said it enough times before: Thank you!

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