Help Save 45 Acres at South Mountain — and Ensure the Future of Battlefield Preservation
A Message from Jim Lighthizer, Civil War Trust President
** Update: Funding is complete, thanks to all of our supporters.**
Dear Friend and Fellow Battlefield Defender,
As we begin 2014 – my 14th year as President of the Civil War Trust – will you do me an urgent personal favor today that will help not only to save thousands of acres of hallowed ground, but also ensure the future of battlefield preservation?
Please – please – do me the honor of asking your two U.S. Senators and your Representative in Congress to support full federal funding of the Civil War battlefield matching fund program.
Please use our simple online advocacy form as soon as you can, so they can be delivered directly to your elected officials on Capitol Hill here in Washington.
Then, will you please take five minutes to place a personal phone call to each of these people and make the case – in your own voice – about how you support preserving America’s hallowed ground, and how you want them to do so as well?
To make it as easy as possible for you, visit this page to find their contact information, along with some suggested “talking points” you can use when you call.
These could very well be the three most important phone calls you make all year, and if your call helps tip the balance with the right elected official, and ensure the future of the federal matching grant program, well, your phone call could end up being worth millions of dollars in preserved hallowed ground!
So please, use our simple online advocacy form, and then make your phone calls as soon as you possibly can. Thank you in advance for being part of my “Brigade” working to educate lawmakers on Capitol Hill about the importance of saving our battlefields.
As you know, my friend, this federal matching fund program (officially known as the “Civil War Battlefield Preservation Program”) is the main reason you and I have been able to save as much hallowed ground as we have.
For every $1.00 we raise for battlefield land, this grant program matches it dollar for dollar, meaning that at the very least, the power of your donation is doubled. Of course, sometimes we can also bring additional state or local or private money to bear as well, increasing the power of your generosity even more.
Without these matching funds, there is simply no way we would be able to save as much endangered battlefield land as we have (the 2,700 acres we preserved just last year, for example, much of which was saved by taking advantage of these use-them-or-lose-them matching grants).
As I write these words to you today, Congress is back in session, and work is already beginning on next year’s budget and appropriations bills.
That is why it is so essential that your elected representatives in the Senate and the House hear from you right now, and hear that you support full funding of this wildly successful effort (and how often can we say that about a government program?) to save America’s threatened Civil War heritage.
I often joke that I am a “recovering politician” (two terms in the Maryland legislature, two terms as Anne Arundel County Executive and one term as the Maryland Secretary of Transportation). But in all seriousness, I can tell you that most of the hard work on these bills will get done in the spring of 2014, so the time to act is right now, as the future of battlefield preservation is being debated!
I can also tell you that nothing – nothing! – gets an elected official’s attention faster than a thoughtful, direct and well-reasoned phone call from a constituent.
You and I are not naïve; we know that there are many special interests out there competing for federal funds.
However, to lawmakers, I always make the case that making battlefield matching funds available is not a “special” interest; it is in the “national interest.”
And of course I am biased, but I believe that saving hallowed, threatened battlefield land – where American soldiers North and South fought and died, and where you and I and future generations can go to learn about how we became the greatest nation on earth – well, it is simply one of the best investments that the federal government could make!
Especially when what makes the battlefield preservation program so different from others is:
1. To get a dollar in federal funds, we have to raise a dollar from private sources, so this is a real partnership with government, and that is a rare thing these days;
2. This money goes ONLY to buy battlefield land. Period. Not so much as one penny goes to the Civil War Trust or anyone else for any expense, not even a paperclip!
3. This program, in the past, is one of the very few in ALL of government that enjoys wide bi-partisan support, from lawmakers all across the nation. It seems that preserving America’s Civil War heritage is the one idea that everyone, of every political party and every region, can agree on!
But even as widespread as that support is, you know that we are living in times of strained budgets, fiscal fights and deficits. You and I cannot take anything for granted, even if this successful program is a minuscule part of the overall federal budget; you have to make your voice heard, and let your representatives know that battlefield preservation is still vitally important to you.
The most current battlefield preservation opportunity before us is the perfect example of what I am talking about: 45 absolutely crucial acres of must-save hallowed ground at the Battle of South Mountain, in my home state of Maryland.
One look at the battle map that I have for you will confirm just how important it is that we save this land now: it is the largest and most historically significant part of the battlefield at Fox’s Gap that remains to be saved.
Nearly surrounded by previously protected battlefield land, this 45-acre tract is the “hole in the donut” for the battle for Fox’s Gap.
This tract is located along Reno Mountain Road, just to the southwest of U.S. Highway 40 that was known as the old National Pike during the Civil War.
On this land, Union General Jacob Cox’s Kanawha Division of Reno’s IX Corps opened the attack, meeting Confederate General Samuel Garland Jr.’s troops who took up position behind an extant stone wall. The Confederates resisted for eight hours, although Garland and Reno were killed in action. On the afternoon of September 14, 1862 the Union troops finally outflanked the Confederates, who retreated. Of course, this fight set the stage for the Battle of Antietam three days later.
This highly significant tract is one of the last unpreserved portions of the entire Fox’s Gap battlefield and remains largely undeveloped. If a developer were ever to get control of this land, it could be carved up into God-knows-how-many house lots, all but destroying the integrity of the rest of this part of South Mountain.
But even more than that, you should know that I keep a confidential list of about 25-30 key battlefield properties in my desk drawer. These are the most historically significant tracts in America, and are the ones I personally most want to save.
Often, these transactions can take a decade or more to materialize (as happened last year at both Fleetwood Hill at Brandy Station and Reed’s Bridge at Chickamauga) because landowners may not wish to sell, the land is overpriced or a host of other factors.
This 45-acre tract at South Mountain is one of those top-priority pieces of battlefield land, and has been a high priority of mine – personally – for many years.
The financial elements of this transaction are fairly straightforward:
$450,000 purchase price (there is a house on the property)
- $225,000 Federal Transportation Enhancement Matching Grant
- $112,500 Federal Battlefield Preservation Matching Grant
$112,500 to be raised by the Civil War Trust
As you can clearly see, my friend, federal matching grants account for fully 75% percent of the purchase price of this section of the South Mountain battlefield. Put another way, if we can raise $112,500 before our March 31, 2014, deadline when we close on the property, the federal matching grants will pay the other $337,500, and save the land! That’s turning every $1 you give today into $4 worth of hallowed ground – not a bad deal at all in my book.
This is your chance to start off 2014 with a huge victory, and do something that you can be proud to tell your grandchildren about… something that will live on forever. But we must act quickly. In fact, we must close on March 31, only about 60 days away from the time you are reading this letter. If we are to save this land, we must move right now.
So today, I ask you to do me two personal favors:
1. To help ensure the long-term survival of our successful battlefield preservation efforts, please contact your elected representatives, but even more important – please pick up the phone and call their offices, and say that you want them to support full funding in FY2015 for the Civil War Battlefield Preservation Program. I cannot stress to you how important your phone call is – it could be the one that helps secure literally millions of dollars in additional matching funds.
2. To help save another absolutely crucial piece of America’s heritage using those essential matching funds, please rush your most generous gift to help me raise the $112,500 we need to assure we get the $4-to-$1 match, and essentially complete the Fox’s Gap portion of the South Mountain battlefield.
Now, I place our future in your capable hands. Look at the map I have for you. Tell me that you would like to help save this crucial piece of our nation’s heritage, so that it can never be destroyed…
…but even more than all of this, decide today what you want your battlefield preservation legacy to be.
I hope that you just chose to join in this historic effort to save 45 acres at South Mountain, and even more, that you will join me in telling our lawmakers that saving America’s hallowed ground from desecration and destruction is one of your highest priorities. Please let me hear back from you today. Thank you.
With gratitude, appreciation and awe,
P.S. I believe future students of the War and battlefield visitors 200 years from now will validate our decision to pull out all the stops to save this part of the South Mountain battlefield, and all of the other hallowed ground that we will save, if the matching funds continue to exist. I’ve said this before but I believe it bears repeating: Future generations will forgive us if we try to save this hallowed ground, but fail; they will never forgive us – nor should they – if we fail to try. Please visit our website at www.civilwar.org/southmountain2014 for even more information on this historic effort. Thank you again.