Help Support Civil War Education
A Message from Jim Lighthizer, Civil War Trust President
Dear Fellow Preservationist,
When did it first happen for you?
When did you first realize that you loved history? Was there a particular book you read, like “The Killer Angels” or “The American Heritage History of the Civil War” with its iconic maps?
Maybe a parent or special teacher kindled that spark within you? Or did you “feel something” in your heart at a battlefield or other historic site?
If so, you are not alone. Almost every member of the Civil War Trust that I have spoken with over the past 13 years has a similar story. Now, if you could think back and recall that moment… I would really like to know about it, because it could help me find more committed people like you to get involved in our important mission.
Please give me the honor of thirty seconds of your time today and complete the Passion for History Survey. As I said, your timely responses could really help me identify other potential supporters to this crucial mission.
But even more important, your help and input could ignite that passion for history in even more of today’s young people, the way it was ignited in you… and what could be more important for our nation’s future?
Would you be willing to help just one student walk the hallowed ground of a Civil War battlefield for the first time?
Would you consider helping one teacher – who could not otherwise afford to pay for travel and lodging – to attend our “Teacher Institute,” where we equip teachers with the tools and strategies they need to teach the Civil War more effectively?
Your help could enable that one teacher to go back to his or her classroom and become a “force multiplier,” igniting a life-changing passion for history in literally hundreds, if not thousands, of students over the course of a career in education.
Or would you be willing to help fund just one of the “Traveling Trunks” filled with Civil War artifacts and information that the Civil War Trust sends annually to classrooms all across America, again, reaching thousands of students?
Perhaps recalling the impact a dedicated teacher had on your life, you can understand when teachers tell us how much their students light up when they get to hold a Civil War bullet, put on a kepi, wear a haversack or see hardtack for the first time in their lives.
I’m sure you agree that this type of hands-on and dedicated instruction about the Civil War is desperately needed today.
As students all across America head back to classrooms after the summer break, it seems nearly every year there is a new report showing many of them — from junior high through college — can't even place the Civil War in the correct century, let alone explain its importance, show where its key battles took place, or identify the people involved.
In one study I’ve seen, half of the college students surveyed thought the Civil War occurred BEFORE the American Revolution! In some schools across America, the Civil War is barely even covered in the standard curriculum…
… leaving gaping holes in students’ understanding of their country, their history, and what it means to be an American citizen.
If you are anything like me, your appreciation of our nation’s rich history is one of the most rewarding joys of your life. It has helped you succeed in your career, and in life in general.
And if you are like me, you are worried that we are becoming a nation of history illiterates. You worry about the future of our great nation when its own citizens have no appreciation for its history or heroes. You’re concerned that the young people coming of age in the next few years know appallingly little about the history and heritage of their own country.
I’ve got news for you… America’s teachers are concerned, too.
At our most recent Teacher Institute in Gettysburg last month (where 155 teachers from around the country gathered for several days of seminars and presentations on how they can be even more heroic in their classrooms), teachers were begging us for more help…
…more lesson plans, more media resources like our Battle Apps and Animated Maps, more ideas on how they can supplement the meager curricula so many of them are forced to teach.
These dedicated professionals know that year after year, too many students are being “educated” with little or no appreciation for, or knowledge of, the Civil War. Too many students have little or no chance to learn about how the epic battles of the Civil War – Manassas, Antietam, Vicksburg, Gettysburg and more – shaped our nation’s history.
But worst of all, teachers are concerned that their students aren’t learning about those values – shown on every Civil War battlefield – that make our nation exceptional: honor, duty, courage, commitment, bravery, valor and even compassion.
What kind of citizens do you think these students will become?
That’s why I am writing to you today about one of the Civil War Trust’s most important efforts: Education.
And while we are still dedicating the majority of our resources to land preservation, educating the next generation to care about history is a vastly important part of our mission.
Because, you see, you and I and all the best teachers in the world can't get people to preserve battlefields if they don't care about them, and we can't get them to care about them unless they know something about these places, and what happened there.
If you and I want the next generation to be the best possible stewards of the hallowed ground we are working so hard to save today, it is up to us to make that investment in the future, to train that next wave of battlefield preservationists.
If so many of today’s school systems can’t or won’t teach the Civil War, then just as a Civil War soldier would spring to action to fill a gap in the firing line, or leap to grab the falling colors, you and I have to step up.
I know… it’s a huge job… but you and I can do this – we must do this – one student… one teacher… one classroom… one school at a time.
Your gift today of $50 will help pay for one student to go on a field trip to a Civil War battlefield – maybe for the first time in their life!
What if that experience changes their life forever? Talk about having an impact for just $50!
Your gift of $100 will allow one of our “Traveling Trunks” to visit three schools, reaching about 100 students per school.
Your $250 gift will help five students go on a battlefield field trip, or will help fund one week of content creation for our industry-leading educational technology efforts.
Your gift of $500 will allow a teacher to attend one of our Teacher Institutes who would not otherwise be able to go – your gift will help pay for their travel and lodging costs, when so many cash-strapped school systems simply will not pay for these expenses.
A gift of $1,000 will pay for the costs for a Traveling Trunk for a full year, again, potentially reaching thousands of eager students. At this level, we will also put your name on a small brass plaque which will be permanently affixed to the trunk. I think it is important for these students to see your name and that you are investing in their future.
$1,500 will sponsor an entire class trip to a Civil War battlefield, including a bus, guide, admission fees and boxed lunch for up to 30 students.
And $2,000 pays the entire production cost for one of the Trust’s “Civil War in 4” videos, our newest offering of 4-minute videos, each on one specific topic of the War. This is exactly the type of focused, helpful content that teachers are begging us to provide… they just cannot get it anywhere else.
I hope you will join me in one of the most important tasks that faces our generation, preserving our nation’s history for future generations, so that it can never be forgotten.
The Civil War Trust is the only national non-profit organization that is saving the land where the soldiers actually fought and fell, and we are the only ones working to ensure that future generations can never forget this important history.
The only way we can continue to save important, threatened hallowed ground… the only way we can help more teachers reach more students…
… the only way we can continue to increase appreciation for America’s Civil War history… is through the generous support of concerned, committed and dedicated people like you.
It is my pleasure to report to you that several members of the Board of Trustees have recently made a special education challenge: If we can raise $50,000 before the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” on November 19th, they will match it dollar for dollar, adding a total of $100,000 to our urgent education efforts.
If you could give a gift today “above and beyond” your generous battlefield preservation donations, I would be in your debt – and so will those future generations of American students.
On behalf of our nation’s embattled teachers and those future leaders of our nation who are heading back to their classrooms right now, I thank you very, very much.
Fighting for our history,
P.S. Please don’t forget to complete your Passion for History Survey and return it with your most generous contribution before November 19, only about 90 days away. It will really help me to know how you got interested in history. And please, remember that your gift today will make an enormous and possibly life-changing difference for a student or teacher who cares as much about history as you do. Thank you.