The Civil War Trust story began in 1987, when twenty or so stalwart souls met to discuss what could be done to protect the rapidly disappearing battlefields around them. Calling themselves the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites (APCWS), they were spurred to action watching the expanding suburbs of Washington, D.C. destroy Northern Virginia battlefields. The only way to save these sites for posterity, they decided, was to buy the physical landscapes themselves.
As word of efforts to protect these battlefields spread among the Civil War community, both membership and accomplishment lists began to grow steadily. In 1991, another national organization, the Civil War Trust (note: this predecessor organization now has the same name that we currently employ), appeared on the scene to further efforts to protect these vanishing historic landscapes. Eight years later, in an attempt to increase the efficiency with which preservation opportunities could be pursued, the two groups merged to become the Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT), with Jim Lighthizer, a former Maryland Secretary of Transportation and pioneer in the use of Transportation Enhancement highway funds for historic landscape preservation, at the helm.
With a single organization combining the influence and resources of its two successful predecessors, a battlefield preservation revolution began. Since 1999, it was the number one entity saving battlefield land in America, protecting land at a rate four times that of the National Park Service. Among the Trust's numerous successes was the protection of the Slaughter Pen Farm at Fredericksburg, the largest private battlefield protection effort in American history. In 2014, two decades into the modern preservation movement, the Civil War Trust saved its milestone 40,000th acre, but much work remains to be done.
In the opening days of 2011, the year that marks the opening of the nation’s sesquicentennial commemoration of this turning point in American history, the organization began the next era in its historic preservation efforts, officially shortening its name to the Civil War Trust and unveiling a dynamic new logo.
When making the announcement, Lighthizer stressed that it signaled no change in the organization’s mission, staff or management. Instead, the move was made after careful thought and deliberation as a means to modernize our image and improve outreach efforts during the sesquicentennial, which will prompt increased public awareness of Civil War issues. After all, what better way is there to commemorate the great struggle between North and South than to save the historic landscapes of the Civil War for our children and grandchildren?
Looking forward, the Civil War Trust is looking to expand its mission to cover the first century of American history. In 2014 the Civil War Trust, with the support of the National Park Service, formally launched Campaign 1776, a national initiative to foster the preservation and interpretation of battlefields from the wars that established and confirmed American independence from Great Britain: the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. By protecting the remaining portions of these hallowed grounds for future generations and as a permanent and tangible memorial to the brave patriots who established our American nation.