Campaign 1776 is a national initiative to foster the preservation and interpretation of battlefields from the wars that established and reaffirmed American independence from Great Britain: the Revolutionary War (1775–1783) and the War of 1812 (1812–1814). It is a subsidiary project of the Civil War Trust, the nation’s leading battlefield preservation organization, that will utilize public-private partnerships to permanently protect remaining portions of these hallowed grounds for future generations and as a permanent and tangible memorial to the brave men and women who forged our nation.
What kinds of properties will be protected through Campaign 1776?
As with the Civil War Trust’s preservation efforts to date, projects undertaken by Campaign 1776 will be limited to battlefield properties, rather than other associated sites from either the Revolutionary or Early Republic eras. Specifically, we will focus on properties identified as within the core or study areas of the 243 combat sites identified as decisive to the outcome of the Revolutionary War or War of 1812 in the 2007 report of the American Battlefield Protection Program (a copy of the report is located here: http://www.nps.gov/abpp/Rev1812_Final_Report.pdf).
How did the Civil War Trust reach the decision to expand?
In 2013, the National Park Service approached the Trust about expanding into Revolutionary War and War of 1812 preservation. When fully briefed on the imminent danger confronting these battlefields and the stark reality of their likely fate should we demure, Trust leadership felt duty-bound to explore the feasibility of such an undertaking.
Since then, the Civil War Trust has thoroughly analyzed the logistical aspects of a potential Revolutionary War preservation campaign. We have surveyed our members, spoken with our most generous donors, and talked earnestly with historians and trusted partner groups and associates. Amidst an overwhelmingly positive response, our path was clear: broadening our mission fully embodies the Trust’s deepest creed — that the battlefields where the fate of our nation was decided are truly hallowed ground and must be protected.
Why is now the right time to do this?
In accepting this challenge now, the Trust will have the benefit of tools never before available to preservationists. In 2014, Congress passed landmark legislation providing federal matching grants for preservation of Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Battlefields. The National Park Service is partnering with the Trust to undertake an unprecedented mapping study of Revolutionary War battlefields. In addition, the American Battlefield Protection Program’s report on the status of Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Battlefields provides a prioritized roadmap for preservation of these battlegrounds, just as the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission Report has done for Civil War battlefields. Further, we feel that bringing a holistic, top-down view of the opportunities available across the broader battlefield preservation will maximize the efficacy of the expanded grant program, protecting the most meaningful and threatened properties, regardless of conflict.
Why will Campaign 1776 succeed where other attempts have failed?
For three decades, the Civil War Trust has led the charge to protect endangered battlegrounds from America’s bloodiest conflict. We have secured millions of dollars in private sector donations to preserve these living memorials to the valor and sacrifice of the soldiers who donned the blue and gray, and engaged partners on all levels of government to assist this citizen crusade to save our nation’s Civil War history. This unique public-private partnership has resulted in the permanent protection of 45,000 acres of hallowed ground in 23 states.
Unfortunately, there has never been a successful national entity dedicated to protecting the battlefields of America’s other defining struggles. In its report on the status of Revolutionary War and War of 1812 battlefields, the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program urgently recommended the creation of such a national advocacy entity, citing the Civil War Trust as “an excellent model for such an organization,” and, in 2013, proactively approached the Trust about expanding its preservation mission. Through Campaign 1776, we are committing to bring our expertise in heritage land preservation to bear on a fuller spectrum of American history.
How do you protect battlefield land?
We will preserve land utilizing several well-established conservation strategies that protect significant battlefield properties in perpetuity. We work only with willing sellers, paying fair market value for land. While each project has its own subtleties, in general, there are two types of preservation transactions:
Conservation easements, in which the owner retains deed to the land, but restrictions are placed on future development; and fee simple transactions, in which a preservation entity takes ownership of the land and then voluntarily places it under easement.
Is Campaign 1776 “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. The Civil War Trust brings to the table its long history of working with developers to protect battlefield land, including national and regional developers Centex Homes, The Silver Companies, Toll Brothers, and Tricord Homes at the Bristoe Station, Chancellorsville and Wilderness battlefields.
How significant is this opportunity in terms of acres/deals/etc.?
Although the impact of the Revolution and the War of 1812 looms large in our history, the universe of relevant battlefield land is far smaller than that associated with the Civil War. The National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program has identified fewer principle engagements for those conflicts — 165 for the Revolutionary War and 78 for the War of 1812, compared with 384 for the Civil War. Also, with fewer troops engaged and a shorter weapon range, the battlefields themselves are physically smaller. Our ongoing mapping process has identified more than 15,000 acres of preservation-worthy land at priority battlefields from those earlier conflicts — a figure dwarfed by the 250,000 similarly extant, unpreserved Civil War acres. Thus, while we anticipate being able to make a tangible impact in protecting Revolutionary War and War of 1812 sites, Civil War battlefield preservation will certainly remain our bread and butter.
Can we make a difference? Places like Brooklyn or Long Island or Boston are long since lost.
The National Park Service study found that “almost 70 percent of all battlefields studied lie within urban areas as denoted in the 2000 U.S.” Despite this, 100 of the 243 battlefields identified “retain significant features and lands from the period of battle.” Portions of 82 of those remaining sites have a public or nonprofit stewardship entity for us to work with, but the other 18 are currently without any legal protection whatsoever and desperately need our advocacy.
Although some of these battlefields have, indeed, been destroyed, by taking action today, we can make a real and tangible difference at others.
What is the current status of these battlefields? Are they better or worse off than CW?
As with Civil War sites, commercial and residential development are principle threats to Revolutionary War and War of 1812 battlefields. With decades more time elapsed before modern efforts at battlefield preservation began in earnest, the battlefields of the Revolutionary War and War of 1812 are desperately in need of protection. Of the 243 Revolutionary War and War of 1812 battlefields identified by the National Park Service, 141 are either lost or so extremely fragmented that only commemorative, rather than land acquisition, opportunities remain.
How will you finance any Rev War acquisitions?
Campaign 1776 preservation projects will follow the same proven framework as Civil War Trust transactions. We will present individual projects, alongside maps demonstrating the specific land under consideration and the events that occurred there, and let donors choose whether, and how much to contribute. We will maximize these gifts by seeking to leverage them against funding from competitive government matching grant programs and awards from foundations, corporate sponsors and major donors.
How can I make a difference?
We encourage you to become a member of Campaign 1776, or contribute to any one of our current preservation efforts, including the preservation of nearly 15 acres at the Princeton Battlefield. You can also keep abreast of the latest news by following Campaign 1776 on Facebook.