Save 313 Acres of at Five Virginia Battlefields
A Message from Jim Lighthizer, Civil War Trust President
Dear Friend and Fellow Preservationist,
I have a question to ask you: How much is a square foot of hallowed ground worth to you?
If you were replacing carpet in your home, you might expect to pay around $3 to $4 per square foot, or $7 to $10 or more per square foot for hardwood flooring.
What if I told you that today, through an incredible combination of federal and state grants and some targeted funds available from the National Park Service for land acquisition . . .
. . . you can help save and restore 313 acres of hallowed ground at five Virginia battlefields for less than a penny per square foot!
I can forgive you for being a little skeptical of my claim; at first, I was too, but then I “ran the numbers” and saw that it is true.
Today, if you and I can raise just $91,000 to match $889,000 in expected matching funds, we can save and restore 313 acres at five (or six, depending on how you count one of them) Old Dominion battlefields.
That means I am able to multiply every $1.00 you might give for this effort into $10.80!
Another way to say it: we’ve got 92.8% of the purchase and restoration costs covered through anticipated grants and other funds.
If you will help me raise the final $91,000 in required private-sector matching funds – just 7.2% of the total – we will be able to save nearly $1 million worth of hallowed ground . . . at a cost to us, literally, of less than a penny per square foot!
I can’t recall ever having the chance to save this much important battlefield land in Virginia at this low cost before. It would be a crime not to save this land today, while we have the chance.
I hope you will agree, especially as you examine the parcels we hope to buy:
|Battlefield||# of Acres||Date of Battle||Union Casualties||Confed. Casualties|
|Williamsburg||3||May 5, 1862||2,283||1,560|
|Gaine' Mill*||6||June 27, 1862||6,800||8,700|
|Ream's Station||3||August 25, 1864||2,747||814|
|White Oak Road||12||March 31, 1865||1,870||800|
|Sailor's Creek||289||April 6, 1865||1,148||7,700|
You will note that I put an asterisk (*) next to Gaines’ Mill in the chart above; that’s because you could say that the three acres we are looking to save there are also part of the June 1864 Battle of Cold Harbor! So technically, that counts as a sixth battlefield.
As you can also tell by the high casualty counts at each battlefield, these were all significant and bloody fights, spanning nearly three years of the war in Virginia.
At Williamsburg on May 5, 1862, nearly 41,000 Federals and 32,000 Confederates fought the first pitched battle of the Peninsula Campaign. Following up the Confederate retreat from Yorktown, General Joseph Hooker’s division caught up to the Confederate rearguard near Williamsburg.
Hooker assaulted Fort Magruder, an earthen fortification alongside the Williamsburg Road, but was repulsed. Confederate counterattacks, directed by Major General James Longstreet, threatened to overwhelm the Union left flank, until General Philip Kearny’s division arrived to stabilize the Federal position.
Hancock’s brigade then moved to threaten the Confederate left flank, occupying two abandoned redoubts. The Confederates counterattacked unsuccessfully. Hancock’s localized success was not exploited. The Confederate army continued its withdrawal during the night.
Much of the Williamsburg battlefield has been lost to development, but we are working to save as much as we can, and these critical three acres (see map ») near the heart of the fighting are crucial to that effort.
At Gaines’ Mill seven and a half weeks later, much had changed. A wounded General Joseph E. Johnston had been replaced by General Robert E. Lee (still derisively called “Granny Lee” by many of his own troops), and what had only recently looked like a relentless Union drive on Richmond was fast becoming a demoralizing “change of base” for the Yankees under General George B. McClellan.
Gaines’ Mill was not only Robert E. Lee’s first major victory of the Civil War, the Confederate assault at Gaines’ Mill, made by at least 32,000 soldiers (maybe as many as 50,000!) after an entire day of brutal fighting, was, by many estimates, the largest charge of the Civil War, even bigger than Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg or Hood’s advance at Franklin!
By late June 1862, Gaines’ Mill was already the second deadliest battle in American history. Only the Battle of Shiloh (April 6-7, 1862) was bloodier than Gaines’ Mill up to that point in time.
And speaking of General Hood, I know our Texas members would never forgive me if I did not mention that it was at Gaines’ Mill where the famed Texas Brigade, led by John Bell Hood, achieved its first great feat of combat arms. Considered by many to be the toughest fighting brigade in the Army of Northern Virginia, the Texas Brigade (comprised of the 1st TX, 4th TX, 5th TX, 18th GA, and Hampton’s South Carolina Legion) led the charge that broke the Union line atop the Watt House plateau. It was this determined charge that helped seal the Confederate victory at Gaines’ Mill.
The land we are saving at Gaines’ Mill today (see map ») encompasses two small but critical house lots right in the heart of the battlefield, as you can see. We will be removing the modern houses that are on the property, restoring the landscape to its 1862 appearance.
On August 24, 1864, during the Richmond-Petersburg Campaign, the Union II Corps was moving south along the Weldon Railroad, tearing up track, preceded by Gregg’s cavalry division.
On August 25, Maj. Gen. Henry Heth attacked and overran the Union position at Ream’s Station, capturing 9 guns, 12 colors, and many prisoners. Major General Winfield Scott Hancock’s old Second Corps was shattered. Hancock withdrew to the main Union line near the Jerusalem Plank Road, bemoaning the declining combat effectiveness of his troops.
After the war, Heth was invited to visit his old friend Hancock. Rather than hurt Hancock’s feelings, Heth never brought up the subject of this battle, writing in his memoirs, “Knowing how sensitive he was about the battle of Ream’s Station, we never touched on that . . . If Hancock’s heart could have been examined there would have been written on it REAMS as plainly as the deep scars received at Gettysburg.”
The 3-acre tract we are saving (see map ») is an absolutely crucial part of the battlefield, preserving the spot where the Confederates hit a gap in the Union line, unhinging the entire Federal position. You and I have already saved 180 acres at Ream’s Station – but none of them is more important than these.
White Oak Road (March 31, 1865) and Sailor’s Creek (April 6, 1865) are both part of that epic Appomattox Campaign, where bone-weary Confederates were relentlessly pursued by energized Federals, both sides realizing that home – or a grave – were getting closer by the hour.
At White Oak Road, we are adding another central 12 acres (see map ») to the 903 acres we have already saved there! And at Sailor’s Creek, where Lee’s army was dissolving before his very eyes, we are adding 289 acres (see map ») to the 885 already saved there, ensuring that this land can never be developed or destroyed.
That’s a lot of history you can save today for less than a penny per square foot!
These transactions are all closing at various different times this summer and early fall, but to be safe . . . to make sure we have the ready money on hand to secure the matching funds and save each of these properties, I ask you to please offer your most generous support within the next 60 to 90 days.
And to thank you for your generosity today, I would like to send you a special gift that, quite frankly, I should have sent many years ago.
If you are like most Civil War Trust members, I suspect you enjoy the battlemaps I send to you.
I have heard for years that many people like to save their maps, and take them when they go to visit a battlefield, to walk the ground they have helped to save.
I think that is a terrific idea, and one I want to encourage you to do, too. Speaking personally, it is such a feeling of overwhelming satisfaction to stand on a piece of ground that you know you had a hand in saving, and know that it will be preserved for all future generations.
I believe that it is essential to America’s future to get more people onto more battlefields with more Civil War Trust maps.
So even though I may lose my shirt on this deal, for your gift of just $18.65 or higher today, I will send you an exclusive specially prepared Civil War Trust three-ring map binder in which you can store your collection of maps.
We already three-hole punch the maps for you; now, you will have a handsome official binder to organize your maps, and take them with you when you go battlefield tromping with your family and friends.
Of course, I truly hope (actually, pray) that you’ll be able to send a gift greater than the $18.65 minimum I am asking to receive the binder. Between the cost of the binder itself and the expense of the packaging and shipping, there won’t be much left over with which to buy any land if everyone only sends $18.65.
We do still need to raise $91,000 in the next 60 to 90 days to leverage $889,000 in matching funds. If 1,000 members send $91, or if 2,000 members send $45.50, we will hit our goal.
In the end, I hope you will send whatever amount feels right to you, to fully take advantage of this one-time chance to multiply the power of your gift by $10.80 and save 313 acres of “Old Dominion” hallowed ground for less than a penny per square foot!
I can’t thank you enough for all you do to save our country’s history. I look forward to hearing from you very soon, and when you see me on a battlefield, please show me that you are carrying your Civil War Trust map binder, spreading the word about your heroic efforts to save hallowed ground!
Your humble servant,
P.S. I don’t recall that we have ever had the chance to save and restore 313 acres of hallowed ground at a cost of less than a penny per square foot! Can we let this opportunity go to waste? I sure hope not, but I can’t do it without your help and generous support today. Thank you again, and again, and again.