The Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT), the nation’s largest nonprofit battlefield preservation group, has announced its land preservation accomplishments for 2009. Despite the difficult economy and challenges facing all charitable organizations, CWPT helped to permanently protect 2,777 acres of hallowed ground at 20 different Civil War battlefields in five states during the last calendar year. Overall, CWPT has protected more than 29,000 acres of battlefield land at 109 sites in 20 states.
“Despite the worst economy in recent memory, we pressed onward with our mission and achieved a level of success that surpassed all expectations,” noted CWPT President James Lighthizer. “We posted one of the most successful years in this organization’s history — including our second-highest-ever tally for acres preserved in a calendar year.”
With 30 acres of Civil War battlefield land lost to development each day, there has long been a pressing need to see these hallowed grounds protected, but many preservation projects in 2009 took on an added sense of urgency. In 2008, the Commonwealth of Virginia approved $5.2 million in matching grants for battlefield preservation, specifying a limited time frame for use of the landmark allocation.
“At a critical time in the fight to preserve some of this nation’s most hallowed ground, Virginia’s landowners, citizens, organizations and the government leaders at all levels have led the way to secure these battlefield lands for future generations of Americans,” remarked Kathleen Kilpatrick, director of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. “There is so much to celebrate in these remarkable accomplishments, even as we prepare for the hard work ahead.”
However, in order to secure these funds, CWPT and other preservation groups had to secure $2 from other sources for every dollar they requested from the state. Understanding the once-in-a-lifetime nature of the opportunity, CWPT members responded, contributing to a “Virginia Legacy Fund” to meet the match requirements.
“CWPT’s members are the lynchpin of our success,” said Lighthizer. “They are smart, savvy people who want to know exactly what they are contributing toward — they want to examine a map, see pictures, read a personal account of the fighting on that property before they write a check. We respect our members and work hard to be responsible stewards of their generosity.”
In addition to land purchases, the year was also notable for the organization’s donation of 176 acres of the1862 battlefield to Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. The land was purchased by CWPT several years ago with the express intention of being transferred to the National Park Service once it was able to incorporate the gift. Incorporating newly protected land into existing parks is a perpetual goal for CWPT. In 2009, the organization participated in the preservation of land at two sites — Davis Bridge, Tenn. and Cedar Creek, Va. — where the acreage was transferred to a state or national park. In the case of Davis Bridge, the state of Tennessee contributed $864,000 toward acquisition of this key battlefield site.
Recognizing that the work of protecting historic landscapes is often beyond the scope of any single organization, CWPT strives to work in partnership with a wide variety of regional and local preservation groups to purchase significant pieces of land otherwise outside the reach of either independently. For example, CWPT this year partnered with the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust, based in Fredericksburg, to protect 93 acres at the Wilderness Battlefield, lending technical expertise to the transaction process, as well as contributing financially.
Another hallmark of CWPT preservation strategy is working toward reaching a “critical mass” of preservation at individual battlefields and connecting previously protected the parcels into unified entities. In 2009, the joint effort between CWPT and the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation to protect 209 acres at Third Winchester, Va., created a 576-acre swath of protected battlefield land. Recent preservation efforts added 11 acres at Glendale and 178 acres at Malvern Hill, both in eastern Henrico County, Va., — an area in which CWPT has now protected a total of 1650 contiguous acres, almost 900 of which have already been transferred to the National Park Service’s Richmond National Battlefield.
In addition to land purchases, CWPT remained actively engaged in education and advocacy programs designed to inform the public of the threats facing Civil War battlefields. In 2009, two major news conferences with Academy Award-winning actors — Richard Dreyfuss unveiled CWPT’s annual History Under Siege report in March and Robert Duvall called attention to Walmart’s plans to build on Virginia’s Wilderness Battlefield in May — raised the profile of historic preservation efforts and brought national attention to the cause. Also last year, CWPT received national-level awards of excellence for the complete overhauls of its website and Hallowed Ground, its quarterly membership magazine.
The full roster of sites protected by CWPT in 2009 includes: 55 acres at Natural Bridge in Florida; 60 acres at Wood Lake in Minnesota; 66 acres at Raymond and 12 acres at Tupelo in Mississippi; 643 acres at Davis Bridge and 5 acres at Parkers Crossroads in Tennessee; 68 acres at Aldie, 47 acres at Appomattox Station, 433 acres at Brandy Station, 85 acres at Chancellorsville, 11 acres at Glendale, 178 acres at Malvern Hill, 35 acres at Sailor’s Creek, 730 acres at five Shenandoah Valley battlefields, 253 acres at Trevilian Station and 94 acres at the Wilderness in Virginia. The value of these transactions totals more than $38 million.
“Although it is incredibly satisfying for me to reminisce on the successes of the past year, our work is far from done. The staff, trustees and members of the Civil War Preservation Trust will continue our efforts to protect these unique resources for future generations,” said Lighthizer.
With 55,000 members, CWPT is the largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization in the United States. Its mission is to preserve our nation’s endangered Civil War battlefields and to promote appreciation of these hallowed grounds. CWPT has preserved more than 29,000 acres of battlefield land across the nation. CWPT’s website is www.civilwar.org.