Save 178 Acres at Malvern Hill
A Message from Jim Lighthizer, CWPT President
As this very tumultuous year winds down, I have been pacing the floor of my office here in Washington, D.C., wrestling with the best way to try to tell you something of both great concern and tremendous importance.
It’s about our newest effort to save another 178 vital acres at one of the Civil War’s most important battlefields – Malvern Hill!
My chief concern is that I have probably “gone to the well” too many times with you already this year, that – especially in this economy – I am really pressing my luck and “wearing out my welcome” with you... pick your cliché.
And for the sake of battlefield preservation in the future, I don’t want to do that! But at the same time, so much critical Civil War hallowed ground is nearly within our reach (while hundreds of thousands of matching dollars are about to expire) that I believe I’ve got to at least bring these opportunities to your attention, and then let you decide what to do.
All of us here are working very hard to make sure we maximize every possible dollar in battlefield matching funds from federal and state sources before they go away (any unspent Virginia money disappears December 31).
I truly don’t mean to inundate you, but I think you should have all the information on the projects we’re pursuing.
You already know Malvern Hill is certainly one of the most important battles of the Civil War, the culminating battle of the 1862 Seven Days’ Campaign, and one that would make most buffs’ “Top 25 List” of most important conflicts of the war.
In fact, in 1993, Congress named Malvern Hill as one of the Top 11 most endangered sites in the entire country (out of 384 battlefields!), one “with critical need for action,” and one of only 45 “Class A” battles that were noted to have “a direct impact on the course of the war.”
“The Guns of Malvern Hill” is a phrase that every student of the war knows, as well as the history of how Robert E. Lee’s Confederates launched a series of uncoordinated frontal attacks against massed Union artillery... and how the result was a horrible slaughter. After the battle, Confederate General D.H. Hill remarked, “It was not war, it was murder.”
If you will look at the map I have prepared (and I hope you like these maps as much as I do), you’ll see that 178-acre section printed there in yellow, in the north-eastern section of the battlefield.
Historian Robert E. L. Krick says that Confederate infantry and artillery gathered on this property under fire, in preparation for their unsuccessful assaults on the crest of the hill. A large portion of the artillery, unable to advance to the front, stood on this tract under a rain of the longer-range Union shells. Confederate General John B. Magruder, commanding the Confederates on this side of the battlefield, spent much of the battle on this ground, and some witnesses said he behaved so erratically than many thought he was drunk.
Virtually all of Magruder’s Confederate infantry and artillery that advanced into the attacks did so on the road (Carter’s Mill Road) that ran through this property at that time. So by saving it, future visitors could walk the same ground that many of those doomed Confederates walked, and see the land as they saw it.
Fortunately, this hallowed ground is virtually unchanged from its 1862 appearance. Trees have grown up in some places, but it could absolutely be restored to how it appeared on the day of battle.
However, there is significant residential development in the area, with several subdivisions already built. I’ve seen the plan that shows how this tract could be carved up for single family houses.
I hope you are sitting down. The purchase price is: $2,080,450.
That’s a big number, I know. But if we can close on this transaction before December 31, we will be able to use a whopping $510,150 from the Virginia Legacy Fund, $475,000 from the federal Civil War Battlefield Preservation Program, and – here’s a bit of great news – the landowner will also make a donation of $550,000 of the value of the property to CWPT.
So let’s see… $2,080,450 minus $510,150 from Virginia, minus $475,000 from the feds, minus $550,000 from the landowner… all that is fantastic, but by my math, we’re still $545,300 short.
That’s a big number to raise by December 31. So you see why I am concerned.
How many times can I come, hat in hand, to our fellow generous CWPT members… people who have already given so much to help save nearly 1,700 acres this year at places like Chancellorsville, Port Republic, Raymond and so many more?
So here is the plan: A big part of my job as CWPT president is to cultivate those potential large donors out there who might care enough about our mission to make a mega-gift (and that’s the key – Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Oprah have tons of money, yes, but they don’t care about battlefield preservation).
I have been talking to a few of these good people over the course of the year, setting the table with them about all of these projects and matching funds, and as I sit here today, I believe I have a better than 50-50 likelihood of getting a major gift toward this effort of $500,000.
If I am successful, we’d almost have enough. We’d need to raise the final $45,300 to seal the deal and save the land. That’s where the rest of the CWPT membership would fit into this picture.
If you could help CWPT once more this year with a gift that would help take down that $45,300 – with all of the other matching funds in place – it would be like multiplying every $1 you send into $46!
Any time we have a chance to get a $46-to-$1 match to save hallowed ground – especially crucial ground like Malvern Hill – I believe we have to go for it. I hope you agree.
I am optimistic that we can make this happen.
When you divide the $45,300 we still need to raise from members like you by 178 acres, it works out to you being able to save an acre of hallowed ground at Malvern Hill for just $254.
I know not everyone can step up and “buy” an acre or two, but even $50 or $60 from every CWPT member at this critical moment would really help. If the economy hasn’t slammed you too badly this year, I’d ask you to consider saving as many acres as you can. It would really help.
Thank you so much for your generosity, and for your dedication to such an important cause. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Yours, ‘til the battle is won,
P.S. Don’t forget that there is a wealth of information on our website about this important effort. Just go to www.civilwar.org/malvernhill09, for more photos, maps, history articles and many more resources. You can also make your gift securely on-line – putting your generosity to work at nearly the speed of light!