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FAQs: Battlefield Preservation

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Find answers to frequently asked questions about the Civil War Trust’s work


What is the mission of the Civil War Trust?

The Civil War Trust is the largest and most effective nonprofit organization devoted to the preservation of America’s hallowed battlegrounds. Although primarily focused on the protection of Civil War battlefields, the Trust also seeks to save the battlefields connected to the Revolutionary War and War of 1812. Through educational programs and heritage tourism initiatives, the Trust seeks to inform the public about the vital role these battlefields played in determining the course of our nation’s history.

Haven’t all of the Civil War battlefields been saved already?

Actually, only about 20 percent of the actual land upon which the Civil War was fought is currently preserved either by nonprofits groups such as the Civil War Trust or in national, state or local parks – all of the rest of that hallowed ground is either unprotected or has already been destroyed. We are racing the developers to save what is left.


Who owns that unprotected land?

In most cases, it is held by private landowners. Some families have owned battlefield properties since the War. Until it is officially preserved, that land can be sold to a developer or rezoned for development by government action literally at any moment.

How much hallowed ground has already been lost?

According to a study done by the U.S. Congress, fully 20 percent of the hallowed ground of the Civil War has already been destroyed forever, covered by roads, housing developments and other inappropriate development. Battlefields such as Chantilly and Salem Church in Virginia are just two examples of battlegrounds all but destroyed.

How quickly are we losing key battlefield sites?

At current rates of development and due to rapidly increasing land prices, our nation loses approximately one acre of hallowed ground every hour. We calculate that the fate of the remaining unprotected ground will be determined within the next five to fifteen years, depending on its location.

Does the Civil War Trust ever get involved with “taking” land, or with eminent domain issues?

Never. We deal only with willing sellers and pay fair market value for properties.

Is the Civil War Trust “anti-development”?

Not at all. We recognize that communities need economic development to remain strong, and that people need places to live, work and shop. The Civil War Trust strives to ensure that such development is well-planned in such a way as to protect the irreplaceable historic resource that a preserved battlefield represents for that community, as well as for the entire nation.

Developers have flexibility when it comes to choosing sites for commercial ventures, but we cannot change where history happened. Battlefields cannot be moved or reconstructed elsewhere; their historic significance is fixed permanently by events that happened upon previously unexceptional ground. The land itself tells much of the story. 

How does the Civil War Trust buy hallowed ground?

The Civil War Trust has been one of the most successful non-profit organizations in America in securing federal, state, local and private matching funds to save battlefields. We then multiply those funds with money raised from our members around the world. What this means to you is that every dollar you, as a member, give to preserve America’s history is multiplied many times over.

In fact, over the past six years, the Civil War Trust has multiplied our members’ donations by a factor of four – every $1.00 given by our members has been matched by outside grants and turned into $4.00. In total, using this formula, we have saved more than 40,000 acres of hallowed ground nationwide. Learn more about how we work »

Where is the land that the Trust has saved?

Civil War Trust members have helped save more than 40,000 acres at battlefields such as Antietam (the bloodiest single day in American history), Fort Donelson (where a future U.S. president earned his nickname “Unconditional Surrender” Grant) and Morris Island (where the 54th Massachusetts made the charge immortalized in the movie Glory)…plus dozens of other sites in 20 different states. Chances are the Civil War Trust has saved land at every battlefield you’re familiar with, and maybe even some you’re not! View our Index of Saved Land »

What happens to the land once the Trust saves it?

Whenever possible, we seek to turn the land over to a responsible long-term steward who can properly protect and maintain the land, such as the National Park Service or a state park system. If this is not possible, the Civil War Trust will hold and manage the land in trust for the American people, investing significant resources into creating walking trails and safe parking areas, installing interpretive signs and restoring the landscape to its wartime appearance so that visitors get the full benefit of these irreplaceable outdoor classrooms.

Why is it so important to save these places?

Can you imagine a fast-food restaurant in the middle of Arlington Cemetery? Can you imagine paving over the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial? Can you imagine destroying the remaining original copies of the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution? Of course not. But with each square foot of battlefield land that is consumed, whole chapters of America’s history are being ripped out of the book of our national memory, and an irreplaceable piece of our important heritage is lost forever. The Civil War Trust needs you to help save our history!

Saving battlefields not only preserves our history, but also creates valuable open space; in the not-to-distant future, these preserved Civil War battlefields will be the “urban parks” of their communities, just like Central Park is to New York City.

What makes the Civil War Trust unique?

Several reasons:

1. We are the only national organization of its kind in America.
2. We provide tangible, measurable results.
3. We are here for a limited purpose and time,
but our results will last forever.

How can I help preserve battlefields?

The simplest way to help is to become a member of the Trust. Your contribution enables us to protect invaluable historic land and also educate the public about the importance of preserving America's Civil War heritage. You can also give to our fundraising campaigns, which help us protect key properties at specific battlefields and are promoted on our website and in fundraising appeals. In addition, you can help the Trust influence lawmakers by contacting local officials and telling them you think battlefield preservation is a governmental priority. You can also participate in Civil War Trust-sponsored events like Park Day, which enable us to clean up and restore Civil War sites throughout the nation. Help Support the Civil War Trust »