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Civil War Trust

Save 120 Acres at Petersburg

A Message from Jim Lighthizer, Civil War Trust President

One hundred forty-eight years ago, Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee faced off against one another in the Petersburg Campaign, the longest and bloodiest siege in American history.

Today, you and I can embark on our own “2012 Petersburg Campaign” to save 120 acres that witnessed five separate battles on three battlefields, including one of the larger tracts of unprotected land remaining at Petersburg!

Dear Dedicated Member,

Jim LIghthizer Let me apologize to you in advance for the urgent tone of this letter . . . but I ask you to understand that opportunities like the one I’m about to describe to you are very rare.

You know that the Petersburg Campaign began in June of 1864, and lasted nearly ten months.

You know that the 1864-1865 Petersburg Campaign is considered by many to be the culmination of all the three previous years of fighting in the east. It was there that the world first witnessed the true horrors of trench warfare.

You know that in the ten months of the siege, the opposing armies clashed in major combat 16 times, several times over the exact same ground, with more than 80,000 men killed, wounded, captured or missing.

And you know that if any battlefield land anywhere is worth preserving, the battles around Petersburg have to be at the top of the list.

So after years of negotiations, we now have the chance to save 120 acres of this unprotected land – which could be developed at any time. (You can see the various parcels for yourself; they are indicated in yellow on our Petersburg Maps -  Assault on Petersburg, June 18, 1864 and Peeble’s Farm (September 30, 1864) / Breakthrough (April 2, 1865) battlefields.)

But that’s only part of the story. Let me tell you the rest:

Working with officials from the Commonwealth of Virginia, the City of Petersburg, and the federal American Battlefield Protection Program, we are putting together a project that will preserve those 120 acres . . .

. . . while building on our previous preservation successes and protecting the existing Petersburg National Battlefield!

What’s even better is that, as part of this landmark 120-acre deal, any support you provide today is matched and will be multiplied by a factor of 13.58! Every $1.00 donated to this 2012 Petersburg Campaign between now and December 31, 2012 becomes $13.58 instantly!

A $10 gift becomes $135.80, $25 becomes $339.50, $50 becomes worth $679, $100 saves $1,358 worth of hallowed ground, and so on.

Trust me . . . we will need every dollar of that leveraging power, as the price for preserving these key 120 acres is $1.1 million!

Now, ordinarily, with that high of a price tag, this land might be out of our reach, especially as we are working to save equally historic battlefield land at Gaines’ Mill before September 4.

But right now, you’re about to see how all of our previous years of hard work, preparation, and “spreading the gospel” of battlefield preservation are paying off:

Here for your review are the nuts and bolts of this landmark campaign:

This project will seek to utilize $984,000 of various matching grants provided by the Commonwealth of Virginia (this is one state that is putting its money where its heart is, when it comes to commemorating the Sesquicentennial) . . .

. . . plus another $35,000 from the federal Civil War Battlefield Preservation Program that we have applied for.

You can do the math. We anticipate receiving fully $1.019 million of the $1.1 million we need from these outside sources. That’s 92.6% of the total needed! All that remains is for the Civil War Trust to raise the final 7.4% of the money – $81,000 – to leverage those matching funds, and this hallowed ground will be saved.

When you consider that we will be saving 120 acres of core battlefield at about $675 acre, well, I believe you and I are up to that challenge.

A $13.58-to-$1 match may not be the biggest one we’ve ever had, but thanks to our preservation-minded friends in the U.S. Congress and in Virginia, it’s still a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to save $1.1 million of battlefield land for just $81,000.

Now, let me quickly tell you what happened on this hallowed ground:

Map #1: This map shows the action associated with the Assault on Petersburg, June 18, 1864, but this 81-acre tract is also closely associated with The Battle of the Crater on July 30, 1864, as well as the Confederate attack on Fort Stedman, March 25, 1865.

This amazing piece of Civil War history, known as “Cemetery Hill” and adjacent to the historic Blandford Church and cemetery (which is said to contain the remains of 30,000 Confederate soldiers, including General William Mahone), is part of the high ground above the city of Petersburg, and was among Grant’s key objectives throughout the Petersburg campaign.

And if you can think of another 81-acre piece of hallowed ground that 1) was instrumental in three separate, major Civil War battles; 2) was held continuously under threat of direct assault for 289 days; and 3) still contains hundreds of yards of existing earthworks, then you know the War far better than I do. Plus, this is one of the larger remaining parcels of land that still can be saved from the Petersburg Campaign.

Those three battles for this land – Petersburg, The Crater and Fort Stedman – saw a combined 20,500 casualties, 1/4 of all of the casualties for the entire Campaign.

At one point, early in the June ’64 fighting, the Union forces under General George Meade briefly enjoyed an 8-to-1 advantage in men. General P.G.T. Beauregard later wrote that he genuinely believed “the last hour of the Confederacy had arrived.”

But Robert E. Lee was able to get reinforcements to Petersburg in time to blunt the Union offensive, setting the stage for the long siege.

Which leads me to Map # 2: The Peeble’s Farm (September 30, 1864) / Breakthrough (April 2, 1865) battlefields. (I apologize in advance if this map is a little confusing, but I am trying to show you the two battles that were fought very close to each other in proximity, but in different months).

On the land to the south, Union soldiers helped to extend their lines farther west than they had been in the fall of 1864. This allowed the Union to build a key line of fortifications – Forts Fisher, Welch and Gregg – which would come in handy the following spring.

From these forts the Union launched the mighty “breakthrough” charge, partly across the land highlighted to the north, that finally broke through the Confederate lines. Richmond and Petersburg were evacuated that very night. The end was near.

These parcels, which total 39 acres, are located immediately to the north and south of priceless land you have already saved (and where we have just opened a new interpretive trail), build on our previous success there, and get us one step closer to “completing” those key battlefields.

Just last month, at the Civil War Trust annual conference, hundreds of your fellow members got to walk the length this preserved “Breakthrough Trail” for the first time, seeing the amazing preserved earthworks, and walking in the footsteps of the Union soldiers who finally broke the Confederate lines on April 2, 1865.

These 39 acres are some of the final, crucial, historically significant pieces of the puzzle for the Peeble’s Farm and Breakthrough battlefields.

There you have it, my friend. Three absolutely critical parcels of battlefield land, associated with five major Petersburg battles . . . 120 acres . . . $1.1 million, of which $1.019 is already essentially covered.

The rest is up to us. I hope you’ll agree that as we approach the 150th commemoration of the Petersburg Campaign, this is an opportunity that is just too significant to pass up.

Will you please help me secure this crucial land with your generous support today? As I mentioned earlier, our portion of this historic effort works out to about $675 per acre. Right now, to go to closing on these properties and save them forever, I need to raise our part as soon as possible.

If possible, can you consider making your commitment of $42 (1/16 of an acre), $67 (1/10 of an acre), $84 (1/8 of an acre), $168 (1/4-acre) or $337 (for a half-acre)?

Perhaps you can help cover a full acre at $675, or possibly two at $1,350. Whatever the amount, please know that you have my deepest thanks for your commitment.

Petersburg Map PremiumAnd as a token of my appreciation, I would like to send you a special map of Petersburg. Created by Trailhead Graphics, this map shows you every detail of the Petersburg battlefield. Printed on special nearly-indestructible paper, I hope you will take it with you the next time you go to Petersburg and walk the ground that you helped to save.

It will be my great pleasure to send you this enormous 36” x 24” double-sided, full-color map as a small thank-you gift for your donation today of $42 or more.

I want you to come along with me on this “2012 Petersburg Campaign.” You are the reason why we have been able to save over 32,000 acres of hallowed ground, my friend; I appreciate everything you have done for our nation’s battlefields. You are making a huge difference!

Please join me in this historic $13.58-to-$1 match, and help save another 120 acres of the most important Civil War ground at any battlefield anywhere. Please let me hear back from you as soon as possible, and please accept my deepest thanks for your generosity.

Awaiting your urgent reply,

Jim Lighthizer
President

P.S. Want to test your knowledge on the siege of Petersburg, and learn even more about this urgent effort to save 120 acres? Visit our website at www.civilwar.org/petersburg12 to take our newest Civil War quiz (if you’ve read this letter carefully, you should do well on it!), learn about our previous preservation efforts at Petersburg, read history articles, view maps and photos, and even make your preservation gift securely on-line. Thank you very much!

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