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Civil War Trust

Save 84 Acres at Spring Hill

A Message from Jim Lighthizer, CWPT President

Dear Fellow Defender of America’s Battlefields,

Jim LIghthizerBecause so much is happening so fast here at the Civil War Preservation Trust, I write to you today to ask for your help, counsel and guidance on four crucial projects.

And to put you in complete control, I’ve sent you four separate reply sheets, so that you can decide if you want to help with one, two, three or even all four of these important preservation efforts.

The four projects are:

1. Purchasing 84 vital acres at the Spring Hill battlefield in Tennessee, at a match of $20-to-$1, from General Motors;

2. Buying and reclaiming a crucial quarter-acre in Franklin, Tennessee, right on the front lines of that battle, and contiguous to a parcel CWPT helped to save  earlier this year;

3. Replenishing our nearly depleted war chest so we can continue to fight against the cabal that is fighting to desecrate Gettysburg with a casino about a half- mile away from the southern edge of the battlefield;

4. Likewise, resupplying our fund to keep up the legal battle to convince Walmart not to build on the Wilderness battlefield in Virginia.

Let me briefly update you on each key effort, and then you can decide how much you want to dedicate to any or all of these.

Save Spring Hill

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Learn More about Spring Hill

Spring Hill, Tennessee, November 29, 1864. In one of the most memorable, unusual and controversial events of the entire war, the Union Army escaped a Confederate trap and literally marched right past the Southern Army.

After a day of heavy skirmishing, maneuvering for position and a piecemeal Confederate attack, the Johnny Rebs went into camp along the Columbia Pike, and the Confederate General John Bell Hood believed he had cut off Union General John Schofield’s Billy Yanks.

However, that cold, dark November night, brigade after brigade of Union troops passed quietly along the pike, many fearing that the nearby Confederates, whose campfires they could clearly see, would pitch in to them, capturing or destroying the army. 

Many Confederates, familiar with the sounds of an army on the move, sent alarms up the chain of command that the Union Army was escaping under the cover of darkness, and right under their very noses, but those messages went unheeded. 

Col. Ellison Capers of the 24th South Carolina wrote that the troops “could not understand why we did not attack, and every man felt and I heard hundreds remark that for some cause we were losing a grand opportunity.”  According to historian Eric Jacobson, author of For Cause and Country: The Affair at Spring Hill and the Battle of Franklin, Capers said the he grew so frustrated with the inaction that he drew his revolver and emptied it “at the sound of voices in our front.” 

Even General Patrick Cleburne would send a courier to headquarters with the urgent message “The enemy is passing in my front.” He would receive no reply. 

Jacobson says that the escape of the Union Army at Spring Hill “would be something that would haunt survivors of the Confederate Army the rest of their days.” (You can get even more of Eric’s expert analysis by watching a new six-minute video we have of him on our website, at the very ground you’ll be helping to save.)

On the Union side, Levi Schofield, an engineer officer on General Jacob’s Cox’s staff, recalled how a colonel put his index finger to his lips and told everyone “not to speak above a whisper and pointed to the campfires on the rolling slopes within sight of the road.”

An Ohio corporal marveled how “to our continual surprise we were permitted to move on, and on, and on.”  General David Stanley likened the surreal night march to “treading upon the thin crust of a smoldering volcano.”

The dawning of the next day found Hood furious at the failure to “spring” the trap at Spring Hill. And for thousands of Confederates, including six generals, November 30 may have begun at Spring Hill, but it ended – as did their lives – in the maelstrom, blood and fury of Franklin.

Today, the Civil War Preservation Trust is purchasing – with the help of an exceptional federal matching grant – the central 84 acres of those Spring Hill “rolling slopes” occupied by the Confederates that fateful night, adding to the 110 acres already preserved there. 

This land is owned by General Motors, and they have a large Saturn auto manufacturing plant nearby.  The concern had always been that they might someday develop this property, too, destroying forever the dramatic story of Spring Hill.

But in a welcome display of pride-in-America good citizenship, GM has instead agreed to sell these vital acres to CWPT, so that we can preserve them intact for all future generations. (Contrast that to those who refuse to cooperate with us to save our history, such a would-be casino moguls in Gettysburg and intractable Walmart executives. More on them in a moment…)

And best of all, most of the needed funds for this property will be coming from matching sources that will be announced soon, leaving us just $100,000 to raise from members like you to close the deal. 

That’s a $20-to-$1 match of your donation dollar to “buy American” at Spring Hill. We are buying important American heritage land from an American company, and preserving it in trust for all future generations of Americans!

Of course, we all know that the day after the Battle of Spring Hill would see one of the most dramatic battles of the war, a struggle now synonymous with valor, ferocity and desperate fighting: Franklin

Help Save Franklin

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Learn More about Franklin

Earlier this year, CWPT helped the great local group there in Franklin (called “Franklin’s Charge”) purchase a central one-acre parcel right on the Columbia Pike, right in the middle of the whirlwind of the heaviest fighting.

Today, we have the opportunity to buy another small parcel – with a modern house to be torn down later – contiguous to that previous land, and immediately adjacent to some already-preserved land that was the site of the famous war-time Cotton Gin.

The main Federal line of defense ran across this property, and was thus the scene of almost incredible slaughter.  Troops under Confederate Generals Cleburne, French and Walthall pressed their attacks on this ground. It was here that Union Capt. Aaron Baldwin, 6th Ohio Artillery, said that Confederates were “swept out of existence with every discharge” of deadly canister from his guns. 

At $206,000, this is expensive hallowed ground (because of that non-historic home that will need to be torn down), but the good news is that, again, we anticipate receiving fully one half the cost from the federal matching grant program, leaving us with a cost of $103,000.

Every $1 you give for this effort will be doubled!

As I mentioned before, Franklin’s Charge is taking the lead to reclaim the battle site, and their plan is to eventually restore it to the way it looked in 1864, recreating the breastworks, entrenchments, Cotton Gin and other features. 

Inch by inch, square foot by square foot, you and I are helping to restore one of America’s most important forgotten battlefields. (See more details on-line at www.civilwar.org/franklin).

Speak Out: Gettysburg Casino and Wilderness Walmart

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From Spring Hill and Franklin, I now direct your attention back to the east, to our two remaining projects: Fighting the casino at Gettysburg, and working to prevent Walmart from building a “supercenter” at The Wilderness Battlefield.

I don’t have to tell you what happened at either of these immensely hallowed battlefields. But you should hear that, in both cases, CWPT is carrying on the fight to protect them, both in the courtroom, and in the court of public opinion.

In Gettysburg, by the time you read this, there will have been a major press conference held by a group called “Veterans Against the Casino,” hundreds of historians have co-signed our letter of protest, and we continue to mount a wide-ranging grassroots effort to prevent this desecration of one of America’s premier historic sites. 

In the Walmart case, we are still working closely with the parties in a lawsuit to prevent the destruction of the battlefield’s integrity there.

Help Save the Wilderness

Join the fight to stop the Wilderness Walmart

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But let me be clear: CWPT is not anti-gambling, just as we are not “anti-development” or even “anti-Walmart.”  We simply believe we have the duty to protect America’s hallowed ground for all future generations, and that a casino or a mega-shopping complex each less than a mile away from an existing national battlefield would so negatively impact the park that we must get involved.

That’s why we are in this fight, and since in each case we are going against entities that have vastly superior resources, I estimate we will need at least $20,000 for each of these two initiatives – $40,000 total – just to keep us in the fight through the end of this year.

Still, I have read some of the e-mails and letters from a small number of CWPT members who don’t want their donations to go into these fights. That’s why I am including four separate reply sheets today, so that you can direct exactly where you want your support to go…

Do you want to help take advantage of the $20-to-$1 match to buy 84 acres at Spring Hill, or the $2-to-$1 match to buy another central part of the Franklin battlefield?

Will you help continue to fund our grassroots efforts to stop the casino at Gettysburg?  Or are you more incensed at the thought of a Walmart (and all the other development that will be attracted by it) at the doorstep of The Wilderness Battlefield?

As I said before, the choice is yours: I hope you will be willing to support all four of these important projects to the extent you are able to. But if you prefer to give only to help purchase land, I understand, and I thank you for it.

All I can tell you is that whichever projects you decide to support, I need your generous gifts as soon as possible, so that we can take full advantage of all matching grants, and that we have enough in our accounts to wage effective battles to protect Gettysburg and The Wilderness! 

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.

Awaiting your reply,

Jim Lighthizer
President

 

P.S. As filmmaker Ken Burns recently said, Putting a casino next to Gettysburg is like putting a peep show next to a cathedral. Believe me, I wish I did not have to ask for your help as often as I do, but our history faces so many threats, on so many fronts, and I have no one else to turn to. Please, all I ask is that you do what you can to help today. Thank you for all you do.

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