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Save 118 Acres at Bristoe Station

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A message from Jim Lighthizer, American Battlefield Trust President

 

…I am convinced that I made the attack too hastily…

General A.P. Hill

Well, well, General, bury these poor men and let us say no more about it.

General Robert E. Lee, the morning after the battle, on surveying the field strewn with nearly 1,400 killed or wounded Confederate soldiers.

 

Jim Lighthizer Square
Jim Lighthizer, president of the American Battlefield Trust.

10/18/2019

Dear Friend and Fellow Preservationist,

I’m writing to let you know about the largest matching-grant opportunity I can ever remember in our history, which will preserve 118 acres at Bristoe Station in Virginia, fought 156 years ago this week.

If you can help today, I can turn every $1.00 you donate into $593 of value! I cannot recall ever being able to save any hallowed ground anywhere in America at a $593-to-$1 match. Let me put that number in perspective for you:

At $593-to-$1, you could buy $150 worth of groceries . . . for a quarter!

At $593-to-$1, you could buy a $24,000 car . . . for forty bucks!

At $593-to-$1, you could buy a half-million-dollar home . . . for just $843.

I can almost hear you asking, “Jim, how is this possible?” Well, the first thing you need to know is that this land is in Prince William County, Virginia, a thriving suburb of Washington, DC., and one of the fastest-growing counties in the entire United States.

For years, the development pressures on this battlefield, located just a few miles from the Manassas National Battlefield Park, have been (and remain) incredibly intense. And while there are about 7 square miles of the Manassas Battlefield that have been preserved (mostly by the federal government, but 373 acres by us) . . .

. . . only 138 acres of the Bristoe Station battlefield have been preserved, mostly by the Trust, which we donated to the county as a Civil War heritage park.

As you can see, we now have the opportunity to complete a multi-year effort to acquire a pristine tract assumed lost to development as a business park and add significant acres on the Union side of the field. This 118 acres, together with a 34-acre portion you helped preserve in 2017, will be donated to the county, doubling the size of the Civil War park!

But before I get to the history about one of the most one-sided battles of the entire war, let me get back to briefing you on the numbers. Because of where this land is located, and because of the commercial development potential, this transaction has a market value of . . . are you sitting down?

. . . over $17.2 million!!!

If we were attempting to buy this land at that price, it would cost over $146,000 per acre!

Fortunately for us, the landowner is preservation minded, and between their donation of value, and an anticipated federal matching grant of over $1 million that we have applied for…

. . . today, you and I have a chance to preserve this land worth more than $17.2 million . . . for just $29,000!

Ordinarily, I might not even write to you about a $29,000 transaction, but this one is different. I thought you would want to be a part of the largest matching-grant opportunity in the Trust’s history, and, given the many projects we are tackling this year at places like the Wilderness, Stones River, Cold Harbor, Perryville, and many more, quite frankly, our budget is strained, and I could really use your help.

Let me tell you the full story of what happened at this battle and why it is so worthy of our extraordinary efforts to preserve it.

It is October 1863, only about 100 days after the great three-day conflagration at Gettysburg.

With the dispatch of General James Longstreet’s corps to Tennessee, Lee’s reduced army of 47,000 assumes a defensive position back in Virginia against General George G. Meade’s 77,000 Federals. Upon learning that Meade has also sent two corps west into Tennessee, Lee looks for a way to “strike a blow.”

He attempts a flanking march to get between Meade and Washington City, hoping to force a battle on open ground, perhaps a “Third Manassas!” Meade, however, has seen too many fellow Union generals embarrassed, defeated, or both, by Lee in this region of Virginia, and he wants no part of it. Detecting Lee’s movements, Meade begins an orderly withdrawal toward the Federal capital.

Then, on October 14, the impetuous Confederate General A.P. Hill, in pursuit, captures about 150 Federal Third Corps stragglers, indicating to Hill that he is right on the Yankees’ heels.

Pressing ahead to Bristoe Station, Hill beholds a sight that military commanders surely dream about. The Union forces are directly in his front, not in line of battle, but in the process of crossing the Broad Run stream – with half of a corps already over the water and still marching away, but half still penned in against the bank of the stream, waiting to cross, ripe for the picking.

Hill, seizing what appears to be a golden opportunity, orders an immediate attack, no doubt feeling elated at the prospect of a significant victory and the sure destruction of this portion of the rear-guard corps in the Federal army’s line of march. As men from General Harry Heth’s division step forward in accordance with those orders, however, they catch the glint of bayonets and feel the effects of some skirmish fire off to their right.

Two Confederate brigades shift to meet this meddlesome annoyance, driving Union skirmishers back toward a nearby railroad embankment . . .

. . . and directly into a deadly Union Second Corps trap!

At a signal, three previously concealed Union divisions (nine brigades) rise from behind the railroad embankment, where they had been instructed to lie in wait, and pour a devastating fire directly into the faces of the men in those two Confederate brigades.

You see, what Hill believed to be the last Federal corps in the line attempting to cross Broad Run was actually the next-to-last corps. In his haste, he had not conducted a proper reconnaissance.

Union General Gouverneur K. Warren – the first hero of Little Round Top and now in command of the Second Corps – was actually last in line a mile or so behind and, as he saw Hill launch his premature attack, realized that his own presence had gone unnoticed. Warren, with his eye for good ground, then patiently set up, as one observer termed it, “as fine a trap as could have been devised by a month’s engineering.”

Amazingly, even though the Confederates were outnumbered nearly 5-to-1, the momentum of their charge momentarily broke through part of the Union line. However, when two key Southern generals (John Cooke and William Kirkland) were cut down, their men decided the day was lost.

It had all lasted scarcely an hour, yet 1,380 Confederates lay dead or wounded upon the field, and the Army of Northern Virginia had suffered its most one-sided defeat in more than two years . . .

. . . and Robert E. Lee could only stew about more men lost – men he could ill-afford to lose.

The Union forces suffered only about 300 casualties, and only 50 of that number were killed.

A.P. Hill’s aggressiveness had served him well in many battles. Yet after at Bristoe Station, he admitted, “I am convinced that I made the attack too hastily,” but qualified this statement by adding that “a delay of a half an hour, and there would have been no enemy to attack. In that event I believe I should have equally blamed myself for not attacking at once.”

After all those “poor men” were buried, Lee determined that he was not strong enough to continue to pursue Meade, and the campaign ended.

With this $593-to-$1 transaction, we will save an important tract from imminent development and double the size of the preserved battlefield, in one of the fastest growing counties in the nation. And while I believe that is reason enough for you to want to be a part of it, I ask you to consider something else:

If we had not previously worked for many years to save every acre of land possible at Bristoe Station, and if the rest of the battlefield had been developed and lost, current and future transactions probably would not make sense as the context would be lost.

But our previous success set the stage for today’s opportunity and future preservation efforts.

And if we did not work so hard to advocate – year after year – for the various federal and state matching funds, we probably would not have even considered a transaction this large, and this land would be developed and destroyed forever.

By donating today, you are not only helping to save this hallowed ground, you are also providing the resources that allows the Trust to find and negotiate even more transactions like this. Your generosity is essential to helping us to secure the public matching funds that make our work possible!

I hope you see how it all works together and how it all depends on you . . . negotiating the land deals, securing the matching funds, and then generous members like you completing the process and saving the hallowed ground. You are the essential part of the equation.

I have been so excited about the historic $593-to-$1 match, I have not yet said a word about the 2020 American Battlefield Trust calendar I have sent to you today. It is my great hope that you will hang this beautiful calendar in your home or office, and that it will remind you every day that you are a part of something that has lasting and immeasurable importance . . .

. . . ensuring our nation’s secure future by saving its precious (but rapidly disappearing) history.

I know it is just a calendar, but I hope the beautiful photography and the educational historical facts noted throughout will inspire you to stay in the fight to save our country’s history in the coming year.

As a symbol of my personal gratitude for you sending a gift of $61.50 or more today (which will help save ¼-acre of this land at Bristoe Station), it will be my honor to send you a special reproduction of a unique and personal work of art.

Sunset Over Manassas
"Sunset Over Manasses" by David Duncan

The Trust’s Chief Development Officer David Duncan is a hobbyist painter. He painted a work entitled “Sunset Over Manassas,” which shows the iconic Stonewall Jackson statue on that battlefield against the vibrant colors of the evening sky.

David stresses that he is not a professional artist, but he is nevertheless donating this work to the Trust in the hope that it will help raise additional funds for this effort. There will be a limited number of prints available, printed on high-quality stock, and each will be hand-signed and numbered, and shipped to you in a protective tube.

Like the calendar, I hope this print will find a special place in your home or office, and that whenever you look at it, you remember the hallowed ground you have helped to save at nearby Bristoe Station, and battlefields all across America.

These fields are peaceful now, but for those of us who care about our nation’s history, who believe in saving all these beautiful, historic, and poignant places for future generations, our battle never ends.

Please let me hear from you as soon as possible, and please let me thank you in advance for your generosity.

Your partner in preserving our history,

Jim Lighthizer Signature

Jim Lighthizer, President

P.S. I encourage you to visit the special page we have created on our website especially for this effort at www.battlefields.org/bristoe2019. There you will find many additional resources about this campaign, maps, photos, and links to a wealth of other content. If you are so moved, please go ahead and donate securely online. And remember, every gift of $61.50 or more will receive the special “Sunset Over Manassas” signed and numbered print. I can’t thank you enough for your philanthropic leadership in this great cause, which is helping to create a better America. Please let me hear back from you as soon as possible.