Save Three Important Battlefields of the Western Theater
A Message from Jim Lighthizer, Civil War Trust President, Civil War Trust
If you could buy a brand new $40,000 car for just $10,000, would you do it?
If you could buy a $400,000 home for just $100,000, would you consider doing that?
Well today, you and I have the chance to save $742,500 worth of Western Theater Civil War hallowed ground – at three major battlefields – for just $185,000, a $4-to-$1 match of your donation dollar!
The tracts are not large in size, but they are huge in significance: Two acres at Stones River, Tennessee, that the National Park there has practically begged us to step in and purchase…
…two acres at Perryville, Kentucky, where 956 acres have already been saved, and this purchase would give us complete control of the historically significant “Dixville Crossroads” on the battlefield…
…and 15 acres at Mill Springs, also in Kentucky, again, where we and others have already save saved 578 acres, and extinguishing a very real threat of commercial or residential development on this hallowed ground.
As you are absorbing the news of potentially saving key land at three 1862 Western Theater battlefields, at a $4-to-$1 multiplication of any support you might send (and I assume you may have already located the parcels on the battle maps of Stones River, Perryville, and Mill Springs), please let me tell you – confidentially – my biggest concern:
Too often, even stalwart members of the Civil War Trust turn down my requests for help when the land to be saved is in the Western Theater!
I know for many folks, the big battles of the Eastern Theater of the Civil War hold the largest attraction; we all love to study Gettysburg, Antietam, Bull Run, Jackson’s Valley Campaign, the Overland Campaign, etc., etc.
But we are not the “Eastern Civil War Trust,” and I do have a duty and an obligation to work to preserve those crucial Western Theater battlefields where, in many cases, the fighting was just as hard and the casualties were just as high, or even higher!
You may not know this about me, but one of my first jobs as a young man many years ago was selling typewriters for IBM. If you’ve ever done a stint in a sales job, you know that you often have to overcome a potential customer’s objections in order to make the sale. So, today, please let me proactively try to overcome any objection you might have to helping save these three crucial pieces of Western Theater hallowed ground.
If you were to say to me, “Jim, I think I might want to wait to make a gift until the Civil War Trust saves some land at one of my favorite battlefields.”
Well, while I can tell you that we hope to put together some amazing transactions for the rest of 2015, I cannot tell you for sure what they will be just yet, because I don’t know! It is also true that this is one of the best chances we will have this year to receive up to a combined $516,250 in grants and National Park Service land acquisition funds.
Plus it is our ONLY chance to get a $41,250 grant from a private Houston foundation (the FabEnCo Founding Fathers Foundation) specifically for the Mill Springs property. David LaCook, the foundation’s director, had an ancestor in the 15th Mississippi in this battle.
If you were to tell me, “Jim, I’m sorry, but I’m one of those people who is just more ‘into’ the Eastern Theater battles,” I would tell you that several years ago, I probably would have said the same thing!
But as with anything else in life, the more I learned about those fights, the more I studied them, and – of course – the more I walked that ground, the more I came to see that places like Stones River, Mill Springs and Perryville (not to mention Shiloh, Vicksburg, Franklin, Chickamauga, Chattanooga and scores of others) are just as hallowed as the places in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania.
Clearly, both Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis both viewed victory in “the west” as absolutely vital to their respective war efforts. Who are we to argue with them?
And of course, the men who fought and died on these Western battlefields deserve to have their sacrifices honored and remembered just as much as their Eastern brethren, don’t you think?
And finally, I would simply ask you to take a look at all of the other organizations you are involved with, and rationally evaluate all of the positive aspects of saving these 19 historic acres:
1. The value of your gift is increased 400 percent! This is your “investment” in America’s history, and I challenge you to find a higher rate of return anywhere!
2. You are saving three key chapters of the story of the Civil War, and of our nation.
3. You are saving something that will last forever. Once the Trust purchases the properties and protects them with easements, we will either sell the land to the park (Stones River), transfer it to the state park (Perryville) or eventually transfer it to a responsible local preservation group (Mill Springs).
4. By saving these parcels of land now, we are preventing future inappropriate development, protecting the integrity of each of these three battlefields.
I don’t know what else I could say to convince you to join in this crucial effort, other than to speak a little bit about the history of each battle.
Mill Springs, Kentucky, also known as Logan’s Crossroads, was fought on January 19, 1862. It was one of the first significant actions where a newly minted Union brigadier general named George Thomas (the nickname of “The Rock of Chickamauga was still nearly three hard years into the future) led troops into battle against his Confederate counterpart, a brigadier general named Felix Zollicoffer.
As the immortal Shelby Foote put it, “The crowning blow, however, came when Zollicoffer lost his sense of direction in the rain. Conspicuous in a white rubber coat that made him an ideal target, he rode out between the lines, got turned around, and near-sightedly mistook a Union colonel for one of his own officers. He was shouting an order when the colonel, a man who recognized an advantage when he saw one, leveled his revolver and put a bullet point-blank into Zollicoffer’s breast.”
Let’s fast forward to October 8, 1862, still in Kentucky, but a few miles to the north, where much larger armies clashed outside the crossroads town of Perryville. A day of furious and stubborn charges and countercharges ultimately led to a total of 7,600 casualties on both sides, and halted the Confederate drive to gain Kentucky for the South.
The two commanding generals shared a similar assessment of the brutality of the battle: Union General Don Carlos Buell predicted that the conflict would “stand conspicuous in its severity in the history of the rebellion,” while Confederate General Braxton Bragg reported that “for the time engaged, it was the severest and most desperately contested engagement within my knowledge.”
But even these two battles pale in severity to the carnival of death experienced on the last day of 1862 and the first two days of 1863, at the Battle of Stones River outside of Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
This time, it was Braxton Bragg against William Rosecrans, and instead of 7,600 casualties, there were 23,500 men who fell, over three days of bloody fighting. The section of the battlefield we are saving (at the direct request of Park officials, remember) is part of the ground near where 57 Union cannons stood hub to hub, and repulsed a fierce but ultimately doomed Confederate charge -- in just 70 minutes, 1,700 Confederates fell.
This is real history, and it is so important for us to save it now, while we can, and while we have matching funds on the table.
So today, I hope I have convinced you that it is important for you to send a generous gift to help save these important acres at Stones River, Perryville and Mill Springs.
Thank you for your continued generosity and dedication. I have every confidence that 2015 is going to be a banner year for Civil War battlefield preservation, as long as I have you by my side. Thank you again.
With sword held high, ‘til the battle is won,
P.S. If you prefer to put your $4-to-$1 donation to work immediately, I urge you to donate directly and securely on our website at www.civilwar.org/westerntheater15. Please visit our website today to sign up for e-appeals, see our exclusive animated battle maps, watch videos, keep track of all of our preservation victories, and so much more!
P.S. I hope by now you have heard that the Civil War Trust was able to close and save Robert E. Lee’s Headquarters at Gettysburg, our biggest effort of 2014, and one of our biggest and most significant projects of all time! We are getting all of our plans and permits lined up to begin restoration of the property later in 2015, and I will keep you apprised of our progress.