Save 70 Acres at the Trevilian Station Battlefield
A Message from Jim Lighthizer, Civil War Trust President
**Update: Preservation Victory! This land has been preserved**
Dear Friend and Valued Member,
I am sure you are aware of the phrase, “Getting the biggest bang for your buck.”
And I hope that, over the years, you have come to see the Civil War Trust as unique among other non-profit organizations in being able to make your donation dollar go farther than anyone else.
Well today, I need to brief you quickly on a situation that doesn’t just give you a big “bang” for your buck…
… no, it gives you a “ribcage-rattling-horse-artillery-boom” for your buck.
Today, to build on our tremendous past success at the Trevilian Station battlefield, will you help me turn every $1 donated today into $5.34 of crucial hallowed ground?
Or, more specifically, will you help me raise just $102,625 in the next 45 days so that I can turn it into $587,000 and save 70 additional key acres of endangered hallowed ground at the Trevilian Station battlefield in Virginia…
…bringing to more than 2,000 acres the total amount of land preserved forever for future generations at this crucial Civil War battleground?
Before you answer, please look at the battle map I have for you, and let me walk you through a brief retelling of the history of this site:
June 11 and 12, 1864: The Battle of Trevilian Station was the largest all-cavalry battle of the Civil War.
The casualty rate for two days of fighting in scorching heat was 60 percent higher than at Brandy Station (which included some infantry troops), fought a year earlier and only 32 miles to the northeast.
Union Brigadier General George Armstrong Custer and his command of Michigan troopers, at one point finding themselves completely surrounded, saved themselves only through good luck and hard fighting, surviving what historian Eric Wittenberg has called “Custer’s First Last Stand.”
And the victory won there by Confederate Major General Wade Hampton (former cavalry commander J.E.B. Stuart was just barely cold in his grave) prevented Union General Phil Sheridan from making a strategic link with forces in the Shenandoah Valley, which could have forced Lee out of his Petersburg / Richmond defenses, possibly ending the war much earlier.
Ed Bearss, the preeminent Civil War historian of our time, says that “this battle was as important in the ’64 campaign as Brandy Station was in the ’63 campaign.”
Eric Wittenberg is the leading historian on this battle – and on most aspects of the cavalry in the Civil War – today. When I recently asked him to comment on the tremendous significance of this transaction to this battlefield, he jumped at the chance, saying:
“Although the Battle of Trevilian Station was fought over two days on two separate battlefields, the opportunity to acquire a 70-acre critical piece of pristine ground – the land immediately around Danne’s Store – is a major accomplishment by the Civil War Trust. This ground saw heavy fighting during the second day of the battle, but more importantly, it is a ‘bridge’ providing a crucial, unbroken link between previously separated wings of the second-day action, thus ensuring that no interloper can place a development between in this space and obliterate its significance. Acquisition of this land also means that the entire main Union position during the second day's battle will be preserved.
“That makes this parcel of land as critical as any other parcel that has been acquired at Trevilian Station. That the Trust has already lined up more than $484,000 in matching funds (a $5.34-to-$1 match) only makes it easier for me to encourage anyone who can do so to make a contribution so as to facilitate the preservation of this critical and pristine piece of battlefield land for future generations.”
Here are the details so that you can make an educated decision:
The Trust has successfully negotiated the purchase of a 70-acre tract of land that joins together key previously preserved parts of this battlefield – as Eric said – areas of heavy action on the second day of fighting… consider it a “land bridge.”
As I mentioned before, the fair-market purchase price for this hallowed ground is $587,000, or about $8,400 per acre – a good price for that part of Virginia, but still expensive. (Trevilian Station is located almost exactly between Richmond and the Shenandoah Valley, on the Virginia Central Railroad, so it was of key strategic importance to both armies in 1864.)
Development is already encroaching upon this battlefield… self-storage operations, a lumber yard, auto repair and body shops, etc.
And as much as it pains me to tell you this, it is the truth; if the Trust had to pay the full $587,000, even as important as this land is, I think my counsel to the Board of Trustees would be for us to walk away. Now that would be a knife through my heart, but I hold it as my duty to spend your money like it was my own, and there are a lot of places where $587,000 would save even more hallowed ground. But fortunately, we don’t have to pay full price. Not even close.
In this case, utilizing federal and state matching grants, we have $484,375 of the total amount already in process – that’s fully 82.5% of the transaction already fully funded, just waiting for us to raise the final 17.5% of the money.
My friend, in the world of battlefield preservation, it just doesn’t get much better – or easier – than this. If, in your personal business, retirement plan or private investing, you could turn $1 into $5.34, earning a 534% return on your dollar, wouldn’t you jump at that chance?
To restate the obvious, to get these 70 acres at Trevilian Station for an investment of just $102,625…I think you have to agree that we’re getting some serious bang, boom, crash and pow for our buck!
And we are protecting our previous investment by preventing future development that would mar forever the land we have already saved.
Over the years, we have been doggedly building upon our previous successes there, clawing land away from developers one acre at a time.
As you can clearly see from your map, we are making enormous progress. But this next 70-acre acquisition is crucial; it joins the two separated sections of the second-day’s battlefield, preventing forever development in the heart of this hallowed ground.
I cannot stress to you enough how important this is. Two hundred years from now, when people come to learn about this battle, it is imperative that the battlefield not be split in half by gas stations or warehouses, or otherwise paved over by rapacious developers who care nothing for our past and its heroes.
Would you come away from Shiloh with the same appreciation for that battle if there was a housing development between the Hornet’s Nest and Pittsburg Landing? How about if there was a complex of self-storage units between the Wheatfield and Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg?
Again, don’t just take my word for it… here are a few closing words of wisdom from historian Eric Wittenberg on the incredible importance of this land:
“In short, these 70 acres are a linchpin to the entire battlefield at Trevilian Station. Seldom do such important parcels come on the market at a reasonable price, and this acquisition, combined with the Trust’s prior success, means that the entire Union line will be owned and preserved.”
New scholarship on Trevilian Station now evaluates this battle as a pivotal moment in General Ulysses S. Grant’s 1864 strategy. A clear Union victory here would have undoubtedly hastened the end of the war. But after two days of brutal fighting and nearly 2,000 casualties, the Confederates held on, and hard war would grind on for another 10 brutal months.
I know this letter is getting long, but you should also know that Union Lt. Edward Williston unlimbered four guns of his horse battery directly on this property and fought from this position for the rest of the day. Years later – quite appropriately – Williston was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his conduct, fighting his guns at point-blank range all day.
That makes this unique site even more important to preserve, so that the next generations coming up behind you and me will have a place where they can learn about the courage, valor and gallantry of an American soldier.
You can make that happen, and I can multiply every $1 you send today by $5.34. I really need to raise our $102,625 portion of this terrific match as soon as possible, hopefully in the next 45 days.
Please, be as generous as you can today, and accept my deepest appreciation, in advance, for all that you are doing to help preserve our nation’s rich history and heritage.
Most sincerely yours,
P.S. Let me close with a short but meaningful excerpt from Eric Wittenberg’s Trevilian Station book, Glory Enough for All: Sheridan’s Second Raid and the Battle of Trevilian Station:
“…nothing is more moving or more poignant than standing among those quiet rows of small stones marked “unknown”… The silent graves of the Confederate and Union dead… provide the most striking and most important reminder of the ferocity of those two days in June 1864. The final resting places of soldiers who fought and died at Trevilian Station bear mute witness to the sacrifices made by the hot, parched horse soldiers of both sides who clashed in the largest all-cavalry battle of the American Civil War.”
Isn’t that exactly why we must save this land? Please let me hear from you today.