Save 665 Acres at North Anna – The Entire First Day Battlefield
“General Hill, why did you let those people cross here? Why didn’t you throw your whole force
on them and drive them back as Jackson would have done?”
– A tired, angry and ill Robert E. Lee, rebuking A.P. Hill,
after the May 23, 1864, battle of Jericho Mill, North Anna
Dear Fellow Dedicated Preservationist
It was a key moment of the 1864 Overland Campaign, 150 years ago.
Between the slaughter at Spotsylvania Court House and the carnage still to come at Cold Harbor, is the fight at the North Anna River, which pitted U.S. Grant vs. Robert E. Lee for the third time in three weeks.
On May 23, 1864, Union forces laid a pontoon bridge across that river at Jericho Mill, engineers then carved a military road into the steep bank on the southern side, pushing infantry and artillery across and up onto a table-top plain of farmland…
…where Pennsylvanians, New Yorkers, Bay Staters, Hoosiers, Michiganders (and even the Iron Brigade and 20th Maine) from General Gouverneur Warren’s V Corps were hit by the North and South Carolinians and Georgians of General A.P. Hill’s Third Corps.
Fierce, brutal fighting see-sawed back and forth across these once-peaceful fields of the Fontaine Farm, with 1,100 men on both sides falling as casualties that day. As evening fell, the Confederates were unable to dislodge the Union boys from their now-entrenched beachhead. Grant’s Campaign would continue.
That’s right; all of it. The entire first day of the Battle of North Anna.
The site of original Jericho Mill, now a stately ruin… both sides of the river crossing where the pontoon bridge was constructed… the military road… multiple hastily constructed artillery lunettes, still clearly visible today… the vast open plain where every musket was fired in anger on this sector of the battlefield on May 23rd… We have the chance to save all 665 acres of it.
In all my years working to save our country’s endangered Civil War battlefields, to my recollection we have never before had the opportunity to save literally an entire battlefield, especially one as important as North Anna … an entire crucial day of the Civil War… at one time.
No small tracts or puzzle pieces of land here; my friend. If we move fast (and we will have to move fast – more on that in a moment), we can save it all.
This opportunity is unique in all of the Civil War Trust’s long history of preservation for a number of very important reasons.
Size: At 665 acres, this is one of the biggest single blocks of historic battlefield land we have ever attempted to secure at one time.
To put it into perspective, it is three times larger than the crucial land we saved at Slaughter Pen Farm at Fredericksburg in 2006 (665 acres vs. 208 acres), at about ¼ the cost!
History: I’ve already told you some of the important historic resources that still survive on this battlefield, but as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so I hope you will enjoy the collection of educational wartime and modern photographs I have for you, showing the Jericho Mill site, one of the most photographed places in the War.
Environmental: If we save this land, we also preserve more than two miles of river frontage of the North Anna River, a watershed of the Chesapeake Bay. Plus, the huge, pristine, table-top-flat battlefield, rising sharply from the river, that – with the exception of some woods that have grown up around the periphery over time – looks almost exactly as it did on May 23, 1864, when it was the scene of courageous charges, flying lead, choking smoke and deadly cannon fire.
Threat: I hate to say it, but we’re all friends here, so I know you will understand… this land – within easy commuting distance to Richmond – would (from a developer’s warped perspective) be “perfect” for a major subdivision of scores of “McMansions” on 10-acre lots, which is exactly what its current zoning permits.
And for reasons of confidentiality that I cannot divulge to you, I can tell you with 99.9% certainty that I believe this will be the fate of this hallowed ground if you and I cannot save it.
If the Civil War Trust cannot buy it, it will be sold to the highest bidder (most likely a developer), it will be carved up into lots, houses will be built, and the First Day at North Anna will be lost as a Civil War battlefield forever.
I am not going to sugar-coat this challenge for you. This effort at North Anna will be the biggest challenge you and I have faced so far in 2014.Thanks to you and your fellow Trust members, already this year we have saved 6 acres at Cold Harbor, 49 acres at South Mountain, a small but crucial parcel at Stones River, and we are well on the way to saving important ground at Mansfield, La., Petersburg, Appomattox, Glendale, and Port Republic in Va., and Bentonville, N.C.
That’s a very impressive list, one to be proud of, and I thank you for your generosity and support. But this effort at North Anna is in a class by itself, as one of the Top-Ten largest challenges we have ever taken on.
The purchase price for this amazing property is $3,140,000. That’s a lot of money, to be sure, but when you consider that this works out to less than $5,000 per acre, this is emphatically NOT the most expensive battlefield land we have ever purchased – not even close!
The good news is that your all-volunteer Board of Trustees, the staff and I have been working for months on this effort behind the scenes, and we are putting together one of those classic Civil War Trust packages of matching funds that should cover 90% of what we need to save this land.
This means I can turn every $1 you give to this effort into $10 of protected-forever North Anna hallowed ground. Here are the specifics you need to know:
|$3,140,000||Purchase price for 665 acres|
|($1,500,000)||Virginia Transportation Enhancement matching grant (must use or lose!)|
|($ 750,000)||National Park Service acquisition funding|
|($ 450,000)||Foundation grants|
|($ 50,000)||Federal Civil War Battlefield Preservation Program matching grant|
|$ 390,000||Civil War Trust portion, need to raise|
If you are good at math, you’re probably saying, “Hey, Jim, wait a minute. $390,000 is not a $10-to-$1 match of $3.14 million,” and you would be correct.
However, a very generous member of the Civil War Trust Board of Trustees (who wishes to remain anonymous and who is, in his own words, “so pumped” about this opportunity) has stepped forward and said that if the rest of the membership – you and I – raise the $314,000 that DOES represent the $10-to-$1 match, he will personally put in the final $76,000!
Such selfless leadership and generosity humbles me.
But it also clearly shows you how absolutely important this land is, that someone is not only issuing a challenge, but is also willing to put up $76,000 of their own money to save it.
I’ve been reluctant to mention the last critical element of this deal, because it really puts the pressure on. But there is no way around it:
We absolutely have to close on the property by Wednesday, August 13, 2014.
That’s just a little over 60 days from now.
If we are successful, this amazing piece of hallowed ground will always and forever be a place where future generations can go to learn about the importance of the Battle of North Anna, reflect on the valor and sacrifices made there, and remember the heroes who fought there – without modern development ruining it.
Because you have so generously supported the important cause of battlefield preservation, I am honored to make you a special Overland Campaign offer today. For your gift of $31.40 or more, it will be my privilege to send you a free DVD of the most recent animated map we have produced in conjunction with Wide Awake Films.
I guarantee that after you watch this presentation, you will understand the Overland Campaign – and the key battle at North Anna – better than you ever have before.
As soon as I receive your generous gift of $31.40 or more, I will makes certain that it is shipped out to you right away. I hope you will accept this token of my appreciation for your generosity with my thanks and compliments.
Before I close, please quickly read what esteemed historian Douglas Southall Freeman wrote in 1935 in his Pulitzer Prize-winning biography R.E. Lee, about this very land that we are racing to save: “The ford at Jericho Mills, now reverting to a wilderness, is one of the most picturesque spots on all the battlegrounds of Virginia.”
Of course, in 1935, no one ever dreamed that this hallowed ground would ever be threatened or potentially destroyed forever. But that is exactly what you and I face today, and our challenge is to raise $314,000 to secure over $2.8 million in matching funds, in the next 60 days.
As angry as General Lee was at A.P. Hill on that day 150 years ago, can you imagine his disappointment if you and I fail to save this land now? When I go to my great reward, I personally never want to hear, “Mr. Lighthizer, why did you let those people build here? Why did you not throw your whole force on them and drive them back?”
If you did not already realize it, my friend, you are a key member of my “whole force.” I need your help. Please stand with me today and help save these 665 acres. Thank you.
Fighing to save our history,
P.S. I hope you have the chance to visit this amazing, pristine, and fully intact battlefield, so that you can walk this ground for yourself. But until then, I urge you to visit it “virtually” via our website at www.civilwar.org/northanna14 for even more in-depth information on this historic effort. The website never sleeps! Thank you again, I look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible, but hopefully well before our deadline of August 13. Those 60 days will be gone before you know it.
P.P.S. Don’t forget, any gift of $31.40 or more earns you the special Overland Campaign DVD. I want you to see how we are working to get more people – especially the younger generation – interested in this vital and necessary work of saving our country’s history and heritage before it is too late. I’m truly counting on you to be as generous as possible to help save North Anna. Thank you again.