Save 253 Acres at Trevilian Station
A Message from Jim Lighthizer, CWPT President
Dear Valued Member,
I am sure – especially in this economy – that you are well 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 Preservation 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 quickly brief you on a situation that doesn’t just give you a big “bang” for your buck . . .
. . . it doesn’t even give you a “sonic boom” for your buck.
No, it gives you a “Twenty-pounder-Parrott-gun-ribcage-rattling-roar” for your buck.
Today, to build on our tremendous past success at the Trevilian Station Civil War battlefield, will you help me turn every $1 into an astounding $112?
Or, more specifically, will you help me raise just $15,000 so that I can turn it into $1,677,000 and help CWPT save 253 additional 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, and before you decide whether or not you will join in one of CWPT’s biggest-ever matching grant opportunities, please look at the map I’ve enclosed 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, 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, were saved only through luck and hard fighting, surviving what historian Eric Wittenburg 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 by Christmas 1864.
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 significance of this transaction to this battlefield, he said:
“Although the Battle of Trevilian Station was fought over two days on two separate battlefields, the opportunity to acquire a critical piece of pristine ground – the other portion of the farm known as the Gentry farm at the time of the battle – has presented itself. This ground saw some fighting toward the end of the first day, but more importantly, it provides the crucial, unbroken link between the first day’s battlefield and the second day’s battlefield, thus ensuring that no interloper can place a development between the two days’ battlefields.
“That makes this parcel of land as critical as any other parcel that has been acquired at Trevilian Station, and I 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.”
Let me brief you on the urgent situation we now face:
CWPT has successfully negotiated the purchase of a 253-acre tract of land that joins together key portions of this battlefield, as Eric said, areas of action on both days of fighting.
As I mentioned before, the fair-market purchase price for this hallowed ground is a whopping $1,677,000, or $6,628 per acre – a good price for that part of Virginia, but still very 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.)
Well, of course, if CWPT had to pay the full $1.677 million, we couldn’t do it.
But fortunately, thanks to your generosity, dedication and support, CWPT has been successful at getting matching fund programs set up, and pulling together the expertise to perform complicated land transactions.
In this case, we helped the current landowners understand the significant tax benefits they would realize if they donated their land to CWPT – and in this economy, they saw that as the best case for them. So, of the $1,677,000 total, the landowners are donating $1,391,909! Let that sink in . . .
. . . these good folks are donating nearly $1.4 million in the value of their land. That’s $1.4 million dollars we don’t have to raise!
But it gets even better, because we can apply for a matching grant of $270,091 from the special Civil War Historic Sites Preservation Fund that was created by the Commonwealth of Virginia in 2008 – a $5.2 million fund, all of which needs to be obligated before the end of this year, or we could lose any unspent matching money!
So, $1,391,909 + $270,091 = $1,662,000, leaving the CWPT with just $15,000 to close the deal, and save an additional 253 acres of hallowed ground at Trevilian Station.
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 $112, wouldn’t you jump at that chance?
CWPT’s portion of this transaction works out to just – are you ready? – $60 per acre! To put this in perspective, CWPT had to raise more than $4 million to save the first 570 acres we preserved at Brandy Station back in the 1990s, and we are currently raising a total of $12 million to pay for the 208-acre Slaughter Pen Farm at Fredericksburg.
To restate the obvious, to get these 253 acres at Trevilian Station for an investment of $15,000 . . . 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 investment by preventing future development that would mar forever the land we have already saved.
Following the lead of the tremendous folks at the Trevilian Station Battlefield Foundation (we named them as the “CWPT Preservation Organization of the Year” in 2005), 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 great progress. But this next 253-acre acquisition is crucial; it joins the two separated sections of the battlefield, preventing forever development in the heart of this hallowed ground, and protecting forever what we have already preserved.
I cannot stress to you enough how important this is. Two hundred years from now, when people come here to learn about this battle, it is imperative that the two wings – representing the two days of fighting – not be split in half by warehouses or gas stations.
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 Wheat Field and Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg?
At Trevilian Station, 13,000 cavalrymen fought for two days straight, ranging over 7,000 acres of ground. Each side suffered more than 1,000 casualties.
As I mentioned before, George Custer – the “Boy General” – was completely surrounded at one point by Confederates, and only extraordinary luck and hard fighting saved him and his men . . .
. . . unlike the day twelve years later on the banks of the Little Big Horn River, where, surrounded once again, his luck tragically ran out. New scholarship on Trevilian Station now evaluates this battle as a pivotal moment in U.S. Grant’s 1864 strategy. A clear Union victory here would have undoubtedly hastened the end of the war.
Here’s the key part to know: we need to wrap up this transaction as soon as possible so that the Commonwealth of Virginia does not take these dollars – or any other part of that $5.2 million fund – away from preserving battlefields.
To make sure that doesn’t happen, I need to raise CWPT’s $15,000 portion of this astounding $112-to-$1 match as soon as possible, hopefully by the end of the month.
Please let me know today if you can help. Remember, you have it in your power to save a full acre of this ground for $60, a half-acre for $30.
Going in the other direction, you can save two acres for $120, ten acres for $600, 20 acres for $1,200 or even 25 acres for $1,500. Of course, you can always make a gift of any amount that suits your needs and budget.
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.
P.P.S. Before I put this in the mail, let me give you a quick status report on several recent projects, going back to late last year:
1. Cedar Creek, Va. – thanks to you, we raised 100% the $50,000 needed to preserve 49 acres;
2. Parker’s Cross Roads, Tenn. – we raised 100% of the $37,500 needed to preserve 4.5 acres;
3. Natural Bridge, Fla. – we raised 100% of the $20,000 needed to help the state preserve 55 acres;
4. Sailor’s Creek, Va. – we were successful in raising 100% of the $18,000 needed to help add another 35 acres to the 600 acres already preserved at this state park;
5. Tupelo, Miss. – we raised 100% of the $27,850 needed to save 12 acres, where only 1 acre had been saved previously;
6. The Slaughter Pen Farm loan payment – I am so overwhelmed; we were successful in raising 100% of the $200,000 needed for this year’s loan payment on these 208 acres at the Fredericksburg battlefield in Virginia! No one can dispute that CWPT members are the most generous and committed individuals in the entire country!
7. Davis Bridge, Tenn. – it is too soon to tell if we will hit our mark of $166,400 to save 643 acres; please visit our website at www.civilwar.org/davisbridge09 to learn more.
As you can see, my friend, CWPT is on a bit of a roll – in perhaps the worst environment for charitable giving in any of our lifetimes! That’s 362 acres saved this year to date, and if we are successful at Davis Bridge AND Trevilian Station, that number of preserved acres will jump to 1,258 – again, in an environment when many other groups are struggling to stay afloat.
To me, this shows two things: 1) This shows me how committed you are to the cause of battlefield preservation, and 2) this confirms that CWPT is one of the most effective and efficient organizations you can support. Thank you for keeping the preservation of America’s history as part of your personal legacy… and let’s keep it going