Two Opportunities in Tennessee
A Message from Jim Lighthizer, Civil War Trust President
Will you please help me get one step closer to the complete preservation of two key Tennessee battlefields?
What if I told you that, for these two urgent transactions (landowners want to close as soon as possible, no later than November), I could turn every $1.00 you donate today into $7.22 and $4.00, respectively?
That is exactly the opportunity and challenge we face today at the battlefields of Parker's Cross Roads and Franklin, both in Tennessee.
Parker's Cross Roads
Let me start with Parker's Cross Roads...the first thing you should know is that with this purchase, noted in yellow on your map, we will have finally saved the last, largest and arguably most important part of this battlefield.
This 52-acre purchase essentially completes the preservation of this important chapter in the history of the American Civil War, an effort that you, I and literally thousands of other Trust members have been fighting for more than a decade.
I’m sure you recall the colorful history of this desperate fight. After a day-long battle on this ground, Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest sought the surrender of the battered Union troops in his front. Suddenly, he found himself being unexpectedly attacked by a new Union force from the rear of his lines.
According to the legend, a staff officer cried, "General Forrest, what shall we do? What shall we do?"
Forrest’s famous reply: "Charge 'em both ways!"
While I can't say for certain whether or not a surprised General Forrest barked out that celebrated command at Parker’s Cross Roads, Tennessee, on December 31, 1862...
...I can tell you for certain that, today, you can have a hand in completing the battlefield he was fighting on when he issued the orders that resulted in his men "charging both ways!"
Forrest’s daring, decisive action at that moment in Civil War history saved his force from capture or destruction, and helped to ensure his reputation as one of the war's boldest military commanders.
Your daring, decisive action today will help save the final, most important 52 acres of this threatened battlefield — giving us a whopping 350 acres of preserved Western Theatre historic ground.
There may be a few more scattered acres here and there at Parker's Cross Roads that would be "nice to have." But there is no other big, central part of the battlefield that is considered "must-have" ground like this 52-acre parcel.
We have been working quietly behind the scenes for years to secure this last piece of the puzzle, and today, we have the chance to nail it down and save this hallowed ground forever.
The purchase price for this part of the battlefield is a hefty $1,300,000 (that is why it took so long to get to this point of being able to save it)! If it were up to the Civil War Trust alone to save this land, sadly, I would have to walk away from this deal. We just could not afford it, with our other obligations.
However, some wonderful elected officials in Tennessee understand the importance of saving historic ground — and especially the importance of Civil War tourism on their cities and towns — and they are willing to commit fully $1,120,000 in state grants to help save this land!
This means that 86% of the money we need is already committed; it is up to you and me to raise the final 14%, or $180,000, and then this land — and this battlefield — will be saved forever.
This also means that every $1 you can donate to this effort today will instantly be turned into $7.22, thanks to the state matching grants! Now I ask you: Is there anywhere else in the world where you can get that kind of a return on your dollar? And remember, this is a direct investment in your country’s history.
We cannot afford to jeopardize more than a million dollars in matching funds — or our excellent relations with sympathetic officials in Tennessee — because we couldn’t make our part of the match, my friend.
Especially not when the development threats against this important Civil War battleground are so ominous. With an interstate interchange already in the heart of the battlefield, little more than a stone’s throw from the 52-acre parcel we are saving today, this area has attracted commercial development, and more is surely on the way.
To call a retreat and lose this central 52-acre parcel now would seriously compromise all that we have already worked so hard to save, negating so much of the sacrifice, time and treasure we have already invested to save it.
Remember, too: We’ve got a $7.22-to-$1 match to save it now. Can we let such an opportunity go by?
The second opportunity we have today is, by comparison, somewhat smaller (5 acres with a $4-to-$1 matching grant opportunity), but the acres are every bit as important, if not more so.
The battlefield is Franklin, where you and I — working with the several wonderful local organizations in that city — have recently been relentlessly reclaiming that historic battlefield, acre by acre, expensive house lot by expensive house lot.
This time, however, there are no non-historic houses that will need to be torn down...just five, gloriously open acres only a quarter-mile or so from the site of the iconic Cotton Gin, that landmark which so defined the epicenter of that whirlwind battle.
Confederates under General John Bell Hood (A.P. Stewart's Corps), resolutely marched across this land on that fateful afternoon of November 30, 1864. Coming under fire from the entrenched Union troops just 750 yards in front of them, as well as from the guns of Ft. Granger across the Harpeth River, many of those boys in gray surely took their last breath on this land, before they were swept into eternity.
The main threat here today is that this five-acre parcel, already surrounded by houses, is the perfect size for a developer — especially one with somewhat limited means — to swoop in, buy this raw, open land, and either start building five, ten or twenty new houses on it, or just sit on the property until the economy improves.
Once again, the local preservationists there on the ground have been working to secure this land for many years, and today, thanks to a $100,000 matching grant from the Federal Civil War Battlefield Preservation Fund, as well as a commitment of $50,000 from our friends at "Save the Franklin Battlefield," the Civil War Trust is being asked to put the final $50,000 into this transaction and save this land.
Much as at Parker's Cross Roads, this blood-soaked ground at Franklin is one of the last intact and undisturbed tracts of this size on the whole battlefield. And its proximity to the Cotton Gin properties we have already worked so hard to preserve makes it all the more important for us to lock it up now, while these matching funds are available.
Confederate Major General E. C. Walthall, whose troops came under withering fire on this land, wrote in his official report that his troops marched
"...under far the most deadly fire of both small-arms and artillery that I have ever seen troops subjected to. Terribly torn at every step by an oblique fire from a battery advantageously posted at the enemy’s left, no less than by the destructive fire in front, the line moved on and did not falter… Brigadier-General Quarles was severely wounded at the head of his brigade within a short distance of the enemy’s inner line, and all his staff officers with him on the field were killed; and so heavy were the losses in his command that when the battle ended, its officer highest in rank was a captain.
Contrast that level of slaughter to the report submitted by Union Colonel J.S. Casement, who commanded the sector of the Union Works opposite this portion of the Confederate attack. After the battle, he reported that his entire brigade had only lost "total, 3 killed and 16 wounded." That is a breathtaking disparity in numbers, even for people like us who study a lot of Civil War history.
That is just one reason why it is so important for us to band together today, and help the strong local group that is looking to buy this land, and eventually create a new, publicly accessible park to tell this story.
My friend, I know that the economy continues to be "unsettled," to say the least. Depending on the week, the stock market looks and feels like a roller coaster on steroids!
I understand that this level of uncertainty may make it challenging to plan out your charitable giving.
But while I cannot see the future, I can tell you that unless we take full advantage of these matching funds today, we...will...lose...them!
Inch by inch, square foot by square foot, you and I are helping to complete two of America’s most important battlefields. (See more details at www.civilwar.org/franklin11 and www.civilwar.org/parkers11).
Whether it is preventing Walmart from building a "supercenter: at The Wilderness battlefield...whether it is stopping wannabe-casino-moguls from desecrating the Gettysburg battlefield...or whether it is saving for all time 57 acres of hallowed at two crucial Tennessee battlefields...
...I hope that you believe that the Civil War Trust is one of the most effective and efficient organizations that you support.
Do you want to help take advantage of the $7.22-to-$1 match to save 52 acres at Parker’s Cross Roads, or the $4-to-$1 match to help preserve another central part of the Franklin battlefield?
The choice is yours. Of course, I hope you will be willing to support both of these important projects to the extent you are able. But if you prefer to give only to one and not the other, I understand, and I thank you for your generosity.
You may write one check for any or all of the projects, or a separate check for each — or donate securely on-line, of course — whatever suits you best. Whatever you decide to do, please let me hear back from you soon, before the end of the month, if possible. Thank you so much for your dedication to saving America’s history.
Very sincerely yours
P.S. I recently came across an interesting quote from Jonas Salk, the inventor of the polio vaccine. He said, "Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors." I believe that one of the best ways you and I can be "good ancestors" to all future generations is to save the hallowed ground where the battles of the Civil War were fought.
Dr. Salk also said, "The reward for work well done is the opportunity to do more." You and I have already saved so much precious hallowed ground at both Parker’s Cross Roads and Franklin (as well as at scores of other priceless sites), it has given us the opportunity to "do more." I hope you agree that this important mission — saving our nation’s history — is rewarding work, and that we should do all that we can to save these places.