Save 108 Acres at Gettysburg
A Message from Jim Lighthizer, Civil War Trust President
March Update: Since the original publication of our 2011 Gettysburg Campaign Appeal, we have added two new Gettysburg tracts to the campaign. These two new tracts are located on the Baltimore Pike, near historic Spangler's Spring and Culp's Hill. The purchase price for the two Baltimore Pike properties is
$460,000, but due to matching funds, our fundraising goal for those two
tracts is $164,000 (more than a $2 to $1 match). These two new properties will add another 3.6 acres to our effort -- for a total of 108 Gettysburg battlefield acres (a combined $10.50 to $1 match). Read Jim's new letter about this opportunity here »
Wow!! So much has happened since I last wrote to you!
I’m sure by now you’ve heard the wonderful news that Walmart has done (in their own words) “the right thing,” and abandoned their misguided plans to build a superstore at the Wilderness battlefield in Virginia.
They have even indicated that they would like to see the site preserved! I’m still not exactly sure why – after three contentious years – they suddenly came around to our way of seeing things, but all I can say is that sometimes, good things happen to good people, and you and I fought the good fight every step of the way, so we deserve this bit of good news.
Further, thanks to the generosity of you and your fellow Trust members, we have successfully raised the $1.1 million in gifts and commitments we needed so that we can save the 49-acre Saunder’s Field tract at the Wilderness!
(And while I can’t prove it, I’ve got to believe Walmart noticed that the Civil War Trust raised $1.1 million in just 70 days to save this hallowed ground – with no matching funds! Maybe they decided we are serious about saving our country’s heritage after all.)
So like any good and successful Civil War army, we continue to pile up victory after hard-fought victory to the point where, today, you and I now have the chance to achieve one of the greatest preservation triumphs in our history:
Saving an unprecedented 104 acres at Gettysburg!!
That’s right. I am so excited today to tell you about the chance to save a whopping 104 acres – fully 13% of the 803 acres the Gettysburg National Military Park has identified as “high priority” targets for preservation within its boundaries – contained in two extraordinarily significant tracts.
The first one I want to tell you about is the huge one; frankly, a transaction that Civil War battlefield preservationists have been dreaming about for a long time. These 95 crucial acres – which until recently were part of the Gettysburg Country Club golf course – would represent one of the largest preservation victories in decades!
Location: The golf course property is strongly associated with the opening of the bloodiest battle fought in the Western Hemisphere. Situated along and south of the Chambersburg Pike between Confederate positions on Herr Ridge and Union positions on McPherson’s Ridge, soldiers from both sides fought, bled and died on this hallowed ground July 1, 1863. (See the Map »)
Size: 95 acres (!), the second-largest single parcel available for preservation anywhere within the Gettysburg battlefield park boundaries!
Cost: $1.6 million! Amount needed from the Civil War Trust to help save this land forever: Just $25,000!!
That’s right, my friend, just $25,000 from helps our partners secure this incredibly important portion of the First Day battlefield forever!
(I know I’m using a lot of exclamation points, but one glance at your map shows the overwhelming historic significance of this part of the battlefield! This project, which is being spearheaded by The Conservation Fund, has been literally years in the making. Our contribution covers essential and necessary transaction costs.)
Just as we saved a key part of the Franklin battlefield in Tennessee that was once a golf course in 2005, so too, today we can help save the most important unprotected part of the “First Day at Gettysburg” story.
Eight Confederate brigades totaling more than 15,000 Confederate soldiers (more than 20% of Lee’s entire army) was positioned upon or fought from this land.
Union cavalry, after opening the battle west of town, retired and fought on the property. Members of the 8th Illinois Cavalry, credited with firing the first shots of the Battle of Gettysburg, fought on this land, slowing the Confederates as they retired toward McPherson’s Ridge.
As the men of the Union’s famed Iron Brigade took positions opposite the property on McPherson’s Ridge, Confederate General James Archer’s Brigade of Tennessee and Alabama troops splashed across Willoughby Run and engaged the Iron Brigade in intense combat.
Union troops launched a successful flanking maneuver which carried them across Willoughby Run and onto the parcel. There, Union soldiers captured the first general in the battle – General James Archer.
This fighting was so bloody, in fact, that two regiments that fought each other along Willoughby Run, the 26th North Carolina and the 24th Michigan, lost more men than any of the regiments in their respective armies at Gettysburg!
As thousands of gray-clad soldiers arrived on the land in long lines of battle, Union troops fell back. Confederates launched their most fearsome assault of the day from this land. The Southerners victoriously advanced to the Town of Gettysburg leaving dead and wounded behind on the property.
A field hospital was established on the banks of Willoughby Run and there were at least 23 Confederate burials documented on the property.
For more than a century, and still today, the fierce fighting on McPherson’s Ridge has been interpreted by necessity from the Union perspective. Saving this property will permit visitors and students of the battle to also walk in the footsteps of the Southerners.
I hope you agree that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity at one of those “must-have” pieces of American hallowed ground that we’ve got to save, and one that will substantially complete the “First Day at Gettysburg” battlefield.
On the other side of your map, you will see the additional battlefield parcel that we are working to save. It was part of the fighting near Barlow’s Knoll, also during the “First Day” action, northeast of the town.
This 9-acre parcel contains the historic Josiah Benner House, which was standing on the day of the battle. On July 1, 1863, as the battlefield widened from west to east, Union troops under Gen. Francis C. Barlow occupied the knoll just across the Rock Creek from the Josiah Benner farm.
In the vicinity of the house, four companies of the 17th Connecticut were fired upon by the advance forces of Jubal Early’s Confederate Division. The skirmishers fell back upon the main line.
Elements of two Confederate Brigades, under John B. Gordon and Harry Hays, advanced over the Benner farm to attack the Barlow’s Knoll position. The Confederate troops encountered Union lead and iron as they advanced on the tract. Blood was spilled and soldiers died on this land. The fight was a short one and the battle soon moved toward and then south of the town of Gettysburg.
After the battle, the Benner farm became a hospital, too. General Barlow himself was treated here. There were scores of documented burials, Union and Confederate, on the original farm tract.
The cost of these 9 acres (plus the historic home) is $450,000, but the good / great / fantastic news is that the Gettysburg National Military Park has $405,000 in acquisition funds they can put into the transaction (that’s 90% of the total asking price). If we can raise the final 10%, or $45,000, we can save the land and it will become part of the park as well!
I’d like to tell you why I personally value this land as highly as any ground you and I have ever saved together: We know that there were scores of known burial sites of both Union and Confederate soldiers on these two properties BEFORE they were disinterred and moved to national and memorial cemeteries near and far.
I don’t know if it is just because I turn 65 in a few days, but this really resonates with me.
Not only were there soldiers all over these properties during the maelstrom of the battle, since troops were buried near where they fell, these places were truly the first Civil War cemeteries at Gettysburg. Don’t you agree that story is worthy of preservation?
And despite the meticulous best efforts of the re-burial crews, they missed hundreds of battlefield dead and it is entirely possible – perhaps even likely – that some of these men (or, let’s be brutally honest, some parts of these men) rest there still.
And that leads me to the key thought that I believe you and I can never, ever forget:
Each one of those graves represents an actual American life!
Each one was a living, breathing 19th century father, son, brother, uncle or cousin… a farmer, a store clerk, a blacksmith, a laborer… they read their Bibles by candlelight, led hard lives, loved their sweethearts, wives and children, they answered their country’s call, died violently and were buried alongside a road or stream in Pennsylvania’s farm country on a hot July day. As I said, some may lie there still.
Each of these lives was important… each one of these people mattered… each one of these lives is worthy of our remembrance and respect, just as we hope to be remembered and respected. And by honoring these lives now, today, by saving the ground they consecrated, we bring a little honor to ourselves, as future generations will be grateful we did this. I know they will!
So if we can raise $70,000, we will help save $2.05 million worth – 104 acres – of irreplaceable Gettysburg battlefield land. What a way to kick off the Sesquicentennial, and what a legacy!
I know that’s a lot of money in these still-uncertain times; and certainly I don’t want to become over-confident. But that is a fantastic $29-to-$1 return on your donation dollar!
Plus, we just prevailed in a three-year battle against the world’s largest retailer… our members rallied to the cause and donated $1.1 million to save a crucial part of the Wilderness battlefield… and we’ve saved nearly 4,000 acres over the past 24 months alone.
Two things before I close: First, I strongly encourage you to visit our website for even more fantastic information about this preservation effort at Civilwar.org/gettysburg2011. Maps, photos, an exclusive battle flags exhibit and much more await you there, reinforcing even more the importance of saving these amazing 104 acres.
Second, if you can send a gift of at least $30 in the next 30 days,
it will be my honor to send to you as a thank-you gift, our new Civil War Trust cap,
embroidered with our updated logo, so you can wear it proudly to show your support for battlefield preservation.
We’ve been closely watching our expenses, as you know, for years now, and I have not been able to offer many gifts recently in return for your generous support. But this one truly helps the Civil War Trust, because every time you wear it, you help spread the word about our preservation mission.
So please, let me hear back from you as soon as possible. Thank you!
P.S. I know we all get caught up in the day-to-day activities that fill our hours. But when we have the chance to save 104 crucial acres at America’s best-known Civil War battlefield, we must take advantage of it, all the while recalling why it is so important to press forward in this great task of saving hallowed ground:
- We must save it to honor those who fought and died there;
- We must save it so that future generations can learn what happened there;
- We must save it to show the world that America never forgets its heroes or its history.
If you agree, I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you again.