Help Save Shiloh on the Battle's 150th Anniversary
Message from Jim Lighthizer, Civil War Trust President
Dear Fellow Preservationist,
Over more than 12 years, with your help, support and generosity, we have been fortunate to save more than 32,000 acres of hallowed Civil War battlefield land all across America.
Even after all that we have already accomplished, today I write to tell you about one of the most important, most significant and most exciting battlefield preservation efforts in American history.
Today, on the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Shiloh, you and I have the once-in-a-lifetime chance to save an unprecedented 491 acres of battlefield land there...
... more than has been saved at any one time since the formation of the Shiloh National Military Park in 1894!
Even better, thanks to the unique funding sources we have negotiated, you and I can save these 491 acres at a tremendous $5-to-$1 match.
This rugged 491-acre swath of land is one of the last and largest areas of major combat action that remains to be saved at this incredibly historic battlefield.
Featuring steeply wooded slopes, deep ravines and bottom land on the Tennessee River, this land will be a crucial addition to the national park; in fact, it has been the park's #1 target for acquisition for decades.
This land saw crucial fighting in the opening hours of the Battle of Shiloh, on April 6, 1862, as Confederates from Mississippi and Tennessee, attempting to flank the end of the Union left, slammed into troops of the 54th Ohio and 55th Illinois regiments, who stubbornly held the high ground.
If that sounds a little familiar, Shiloh chief park ranger Stacy Allen says that the Union defense of the high ground on this 491-acre parcel was the "Little Round Top" of the west.
The purchase price to save this wonderful, absolutely crucial piece of our country's history? $1.25 million. Fortunately, a government grant of $1 million is available to put into the transaction, leaving us -- the 53,000 members of the Civil War Trust -- to raise the final $250,000.
Again, that turns every $1 you donate for this effort today into $5.00 -- a 500 percent return on your preservation dollar! If you can find ANY investment that will give you an instantaneous 500 percent return, well, I'm no investment advisor, but I'd suggest you take it!
As you can see on your official Trust battle map, this 491-acre tract essentially completes the battlefield's southeastern corner, saving previously privately owned and wholly unprotected ground that saw early combat during the battle, as well as adding absolutely crucial buffer land to protect Shiloh against future development.
Saving this land today further protects some of the battlefield's key landmarks for all time... Confederate commander Albert Sidney Johnston was mortally wounded about a quarter-mile from this tract... the famed Peach Orchard and Bloody Pond are each only about a half-mile from the western boundary of this 491-acre tract.
Can you imagine if a private developer were to swoop in, buy this land, and begin planning for a new subdivision of houses, with one of those grotesquely ironic names like "Shiloh View Estates," with the streets named after the generals who fought there?
Here are a few more details on the important history of this land:
Late in the morning of April 6, 1862, about 800 men of the 54th Ohio and the 55th Illinois retreated north from their camps to make their battle line on the southern edge of a deep, rugged ravine – not less than fifty feet deep. As recounted by Captain Lucien Crooker in the regimental history of the 55th, here they defended the extreme Union left, much as Joshua Chamberlain and the 20th Maine would do 15 months later at Gettysburg:
“Without experienced officers or artillery support, with only stern patriotism and forty rounds, they met the great wave of secession, and for hours, withstood it upon this historic ravine. When their ammunition was all expended, even the cartridges of the dead and wounded, and they were forced to abandon it, half their number were dead or bleeding upon its rugged border…”
During this retreat, the high ground above the ravine was occupied by swarms of exultant, yelling Confederates, pouring a shower of bullets down upon the survivors. Crooker quotes Major Whitfield of the 9th Mississippi: “We were right on top of you. It was like shooting into a flock of sheep. I never saw such cruel work during the war.”
Confederate Brig. Gen. James R. Chalmers made this report on the action, as seen from his side of the line:
“When we had gone about a quarter of a mile we again encountered the enemy in a strong position on a hill with a deep ravine in his front, and a very stubborn fight ensued, in which we lost many gallant men.
"Here again Gage’s battery did good service, though it was some time before it could be brought into position, owing to the rough nature of the ground and the want of roads, and I here take occasion to say that I cannot speak too highly of the energy, skill, and labor displayed by the men of this battery throughout the day in cutting their way through a thickly-wooded country over ravines and hills almost impassable to ordinary wagons.
"After about an hour’s hard fighting the enemy again retreated, leaving many of his dead on the field. About this time the gunboats from the river began to throw their shells among us, and we pressed rapidly forward in line of battle toward the center, where the battle seemed to be raging fiercely.”
Today this unnamed ravine is the most significant unprotected point of contact on the historic Shiloh Battlefield. This critical high ground is the only part of the eastern edge of Shiloh Hill not currently under ownership of the national military park. This land even bears evidence of occupation during prehistoric times, and was the landing spot for much of General Buell’s men and supplies in the days after the battle.
Wouldn't you like to make saving this supremely historic land part of your personal preservation legacy? I hope that you will also consider a special gift to help me raise the $250,000 we need by August 15 – about 120 days – to complete the preservation of these crucial 491 acres at Shiloh.
With the $1 million in matching funds we have on the table right now, you could save one full acre of hallowed Shiloh battlefield for $509, two acres for $1,018, a half-acre for $254.50, or a quarter-acre for $127.25. If you can give $50 or more, it will be my pleasure to send you a special pre-release copy of the new Shiloh documentary DVD that is being produced by Wide Awake Films, utilizing new footage they are shooting at this week’s re-enactments at Shiloh. (As this documentary is not even finished yet, it will be June or July before I can get your copy to you; I ask for your patience, with the assurance that it will be well worth it!)
I thank you very much for your tremendous on-going support of this important cause, and I look forward to declaring victory at Shiloh with you!
Most Sincerely Yours,
P.S. Another way to receive up-to-the-minute updates on our successes is to become a “fan” of the Civil War Trust on Facebook. As I write this, we are approaching a total 80,000 friends, with hundreds more signing up every day, making us larger than most Civil War armies! If you are on Facebook, please search for “Civil War Trust,” and click the “like” button (or go to www.facebook.com/civilwartrust). We’d love to hear from you! Plus, it sure wouldn’t hurt to have more current Trust members on our Facebook page extolling all the great work we have done over the years together – maybe we can convert a few thousand of those “friends” into generous supporters just like you! Thanks again, and all the best.
P.P.S. Isn’t it exciting to look at a map like this one of Shiloh and see just how amazingly close we are getting to preserving every important acre of hallowed ground at that battlefield? I sure think so, and hope you do, too!