A Message from Jim Lighthizer, Civil War Trust President
Dear Preservation Friend,
Before I update you on the tremendous opportunity you and I have today to save nearly 400 acres of hallowed Civil War battlefield land, at a $10.48-to-$1 match of your generosity . . .
. . . please let me call your attention to the incredible strides we have made in saving key portions of America’s most important Civil War battlefields. Nowhere is this more true than in Virginia where we have saved more than 22,000 acres of hallowed ground.
Thanks to your support we have protected these crucial landscapes for future generations of Americans to cherish forever.
You are part of a very special group of people . . .
. . . those who care about ensuring our country’s secure future by saving its precious and rapidly disappearing history.
I don’t have a crystal ball to predict what challenges 2017 — the Civil War Trust’s 30th anniversary year — will bring. But I can tell you this:
- Over the next 12 months, you and I will have the chance to save some of the most important – and most expensive – hallowed ground in Civil War Trust history;
- I expect development pressures in areas such as Richmond, Virginia, Franklin, Tennessee, and a half-dozen other states to flare up again and again in 2017;
- This coming year may be a turning point in our culture, as more and more educators and history organizations sound the alarm about the dangerous and precipitous decline of knowledge about and interest in our country’s history and its heroes.
I hope you have good things to say about your experience and your partnership with the Civil War Trust, and the important work you make possible through your support.
All in, you and I can save $2,147,650 worth of battlefield land for $204,915.
Another way to say it: we believe we already have 95.4 percent of the purchase costs covered, either through anticipated federal and state matching grants and other funds.
If you will help me raise the final 4.6 percent of required private-sector matching funds we will be able to save more than $2.1 million worth of hallowed ground . . . at a cost to us, literally, of a few pennies per square foot!
I guess I’d better tell you about the land that you are helping to buy today, shouldn’t I?
As you can see on the battlefield maps I have for you, we are working on three battlefields – Gaines’ Mill, Cedar Mountain, and Cold Harbor (although Gaines’ Mill in 1862, and Cold Harbor in 1864, were fought on much of the same ground!) Here are some of the key statistics:
Date of Battle
June 27, 1862
U: 6,800 | C: 8,700
August 9, 1862
U: 1,400 | C: 1,300
May 31-June 12, 1864
U: 13,000 | C: 2,500
U: 21,200 | C: 12,500
Gaines’ Mill was not only Robert E. Lee’s first major victory of the Civil War, the Confederate assault at Gaines’ Mill, made by at least 32,000 soldiers (maybe as many as 50,000!) after an entire day of brutal fighting, was, by many estimates, the largest charge of the Civil War, even bigger than Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg or Hood’s advance at Franklin!
By late June 1862, Gaines’ Mill was already the second deadliest battle in American history
Only the Battle of Shiloh (April 6-7, 1862) was bloodier than Gaines’ Mill up to that point in time.
The land we are saving at Gaines’ Mill today encompasses two critical tracts right in the heart of the battlefield, as you can see on this battle map. We will be removing the modern structures on one of the properties, restoring the landscape to its 1862 appearance. The other one looks much as it did on the day of the battle 154 years ago.
Wave after wave of Georgians, Mississippians, North Carolinians, Louisianans, and finally Texans under General John Bell Hood crossed over this land to assault New Yorkers, New Jersians and Pennsylvanians during hours of close-quarters fighting that was so fierce, it convinced Federal Commanding General George McClellan that he needed to “change his base.”
Historian Robert E.L. Krick tells me that casualties on this land, known as “Griffin’s Woods,” were heavy, and that this “forested area dominated the central portion of the Gaines’ Mill battlefield.”
He also says, “When combined with the adjacent Civil War Trust purchases (already completed) to the north and south, the western one-third of the historic woodlot is preserved forever.”
I do love those two words – “preserved forever” – don’t you?
Just six weeks later, portions of these two armies clashed again in the Virginia Piedmont at Cedar Mountain. Union forces under new commander General John Pope ran into General Stonewall Jackson’s corps, and Jackson had to personally rally his troops to prevent disaster.
As you can see on the map, by securing an easement on the eastern portion of this battlefield (almost none of which has been previously preserved), we are more than doubling the size of this battlefield, and protecting all the good work we have already done there by preventing the threat of future development in this growing part of the state.
Plus, you should know that we have been working for some time with officials in Virginia to create a new state park, the Brandy Station – Cedar Mountain State Park, so that we could transfer the more-than-1,400 acres you have helped purchase at those two battlefields to the Commonwealth for perpetual protection.
In fact, I have a petition to the leaders of the Virginia General Assembly that I ask you to sign as soon as possible. The legislature will make the final decision on the creation of this new state park, and your signature on this petition will carry great weight in Richmond. Thank you.
Finally, we turn our attention back to the Richmond area, and the battlefield at Cold Harbor.
We have the chance to save 50 extremely significant acres of this tragic battlefield, where grim-faced Union soldiers – believing they were likely heading to their deaths – pinned slips of paper with their names written on them onto the backs of their uniforms, so their bodies could be identified. (See the map)
The land we are specifically saving is associated with a very large Union fort called “Fletcher’s Redoubt,” which still stands in the woods of this property.
Bobby Krick tells us that “other Ninth Corps field entrenchments exist on the property as well. This tract represents approximately half a mile of the Federal army’s 4½ -mile front during the second week of Cold Harbor. At various times on June 6, 7, and 8, fighting swirled on this property, north of Fletcher’s Redoubt, as the Confederate Second Corps launched attacks to test the integrity of the Ninth Corps line.”
I mentioned before how much of the battles of Gaines’ Mill and Cold Harbor were fought on the same ground. On this 50-acre tract near Fletcher’s Redoubt is a trace of what is believed to be the wartime road that 30,000 men under D.H. Hill and Stonewall Jackson used to reach the Gaines’ Mill battlefield in 1862. What’s more, the properties we are saving at Gaines’ Mill were just a few hundred feet behind the center of the Confederate line during the battle of Cold Harbor!
It is not every day that you and I get the chance to save a tract of battlefield land that was part of two very important battles. Today, we have the chance to do that with three tracts of land, plus more than double the amount of preserved land at Cedar Mountain.
Today, I ask for your help in two very important ways. First, please sign this petition to the Virginia General Assembly to help the Civil War Trust push to create the new Brandy Station – Cedar Mountain State Park.
As we approach the end of 2016, I hope you will send whatever amount feels right to you, to fully take advantage of this one-time chance to multiply the power of your gift by $10.48 and save 393 acres of “Old Dominion” hallowed ground.
I can’t thank you enough for all you do to save our country’s history. I look forward to hearing from you very soon.