Preserve 15 Acres at Gettysburg – Willoughby's Run
The American Battlefield Trust is launching a multi-year campaign to save this essential — and highly threatened — “First Blood at Willoughby’s Run” tract. These 15 acres of incredibly hallowed land saw some of the earliest and most dramatic opening moments of the Battle of Gettysburg.
After months of negotiations, the developer agreed to sell it to us for the price of $3 million. Fortunately, a generous donor who cares passionately about Gettysburg has stepped forward with an offer to give — over the next few years — fully half of that amount, or $1.5 million, as a match, if we can raise the other half! Given our donor’s schedule of when he can make his generous gifts, we will still need to borrow from an outside lender, and then work to pay off the loan in installments over the next three to four years.
Unfortunately, time is working against us. We needed to pay $375,000 by November 20 of this year to ensure the preservation of this property. Although hundreds of Trust members gave very generously, we still came up $78,000 short. So, we dipped into our rainy-day fund and reallocated money earmarked for other priorities to meet the November 20 deadline.
Please help us raise the remaining $78,000 to ensure this hallowed ground at Gettysburg is preserved!
Battle of Gettysburg – Willoughby's Run
In the early morning of July 1, 1863, on Chambersburg Pike, a few miles west of the small Pennsylvania town called Gettysburg, the Confederates have reports of troops — perhaps just Pennsylvania militia or some isolated Union cavalry — near Gettysburg.
General Henry Heth sends part of his division to investigate, with the warning from his commander, Robert E. Lee, not to bring on a general engagement, as the widely spread army has not yet all arrived.
Union cavalry commander General John Buford knows there are Confederates west of Gettysburg, and likely in great numbers, but he also knows the Union infantry, though marching hard, is also not yet on the field, and his troopers must delay any advance as long as possible.
At 7:30 a.m. Lt. Marcellus Jones fires the first shot of the Battle of Gettysburg.
The Confederates are now alerted to the presence of real resistance to their front. Shaking out skirmishers and then deploying his brigades into battle lines, Heth slowly begins to push the tenacious dismounted cavalry back toward Gettysburg.
The 8th Illinois stubbornly fell back in good order down the incline from Herr Ridge, through a small valley cut by a stream called Willoughby’s Run.
Every man on the line knows that they must hold on for as long as possible, must fight for every inch of ground until the Union infantry arrives.
Looking up Herr Ridge, they see long butternut and gray battle lines stretching north and south, hundreds, perhaps thousands more soldiers than they have, cresting that ridge and moving down the slope toward them relentlessly, overlapping their own lines. The Union carbines can fire faster, but the Alabamians and Mississippians have far more rifles on the firing line, with greater range.
In Shelby Foote’s The Civil War, A Narrative: Fredericksburg to Meridian, we read that “down into the shallow valley ... two [Confederate] brigades started through the standing grain, the skirmishers whooping and firing as they went ... leading the way into the greatest battle of the war.”
The land the Trust is working so hard to save right now is that very same “shallow valley” between just east of Herr’s Ridge down to the west bank of Willoughby’s Run.
The retreating troopers cross this crucial piece of land in the face of the Confederate advance, some stopping — with bullets clipping the leaves of the trees around them — in the shallow water of Willoughby’s Run.
Ultimately, the weight of Confederate numbers, first, wave upon wave from the west, the north, and then from the northeast — plus the untimely death of General Reynolds — take its toll on the Union infantry, and by the end of that terrible day, both sides would suffer more than 17,000 casualties.
They could not know it then, but the First Day’s Battle at Gettysburg, if taken in isolation, would turn out to be the 12th bloodiest battle of the entire Civil War.
Continue the charge to protect hallowed ground at Gettysburg – Willoughby's Run
One hundred and sixty years ago, the Battle of Gettysburg, the largest battle ever fought on American soil, became enshrined as part of our nation’s history.
With your urgent help, the American Battlefield Trust can save a crucial part of where the battle began! Be a part of this historic effort with a gift of any amount today.