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Save 128 Acres at Perryville Battlefield

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A message from Jim Lighthizer, Civil War Trust President

 

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

7/15/2019

Dear Friend and Fellow Preservationist,

Will you help do something today that has rarely been done before in the history of our country?

Will you help to substantially complete the preservation of one of the most important battlefields of the entire Civil War?

Then, will you sign as a citizen co-sponsor on federal legislation that could provide – for the first time ever – up to $20 million for land preservation, battlefield restoration, and interpretation!

I hope you are already at least considering saying “yes” to these two important requests. Let me dive right in and give you the details:

First, let me report to you on our newest effort to save another 128 vital acres which will substantially complete the preservation of one of the Civil War’s most important battlefields – Perryville!

If we can save these 128 acres – the largest remaining unprotected part of the battlefield at Perryville – we and our partners will have preserved close to 90-95 percent of that battlefield!

Just a few weeks ago, The American Battlefield Trust concluded a very successful annual conference in Kentucky, and scores of your fellow members were able to walk this nearly-preserved battlefield, and see the land we are targeting.

I’m sure you already know Perryville was the largest and bloodiest battle fought in Kentucky. What you may not know is that Perryville saw more casualties (7,600) than many other well-known battles – far bloodier than Champion Hill (6,700), Resaca (5,600) or Kennesaw Mountain (4,000). The one-day battle of Perryville saw more casualties than all of Stonewall Jackson’s Valley Campaign combined!

In fact, even as far back as 1993, Congress named Perryville as one of the Top 11 most endangered sites in the entire country (out of 384 battlefields!), one “with critical need for action,” and one of only 45 “Class A” battles that had “a decisive influence on a campaign and a direct impact on the course of the war.”

Perryville is one of the key events of the war in the Western Theater, and when the Confederates under General Braxton Bragg withdrew after the bloody fight on October 8, 1862, Abraham Lincoln breathed a sigh of relief. What was it Lincoln said? Something like, “I’d like to have God on our side, but I must have Kentucky.”

If you will look at the map series I have sent to you (and I hope you still enjoy these maps as much as I do), you’ll see the 128 acres printed there in yellow, on the eastern section of the battlefield.

The Battle of Perryville on October 8, 1862, was fought between the Union Army of the Ohio, commanded by Major General Don Carlos Buell, and the Confederate Army of Mississippi, commanded by General Braxton Bragg.

Lasting just five hours, the battle was among the most ferocious of the Civil War. While the battle was a tactical victory for the Confederacy, it was an important strategic victory for the Union that left Kentucky in Union hands for the remainder of the war.

The first, ferocious attack of the day unfolded on this target property. After a midday bombardment, Major General Benjamin Cheatham’s mostly-Tennessee brigades began their fateful advance toward the Union position. All of these troops, three brigades, crossed this property in grand lines of battle. Some had to climb steep banks and cliffs along the Chaplin River to get into position. As Cheatham’s men approached, Union troops under the command of Brigadier General James S. Jackson and Brigadier General Lovell Rousseau filed into line, extending their flanks to a prominent hill known as Open Knob.

This deployment upended the Confederate plan to fall upon the Union flank and, as a result, Cheatham’s lead brigade under Brigadier Daniel S. Donelson got caught in a terrible crossfire in an area known ever since as the Valley of Death.

As Confederates sidled to their right to gain the Union flank, inexperienced troops, mostly from Illinois, advanced across a portion of the target property and clashed with regiments from Tennessee and Georgia. Jackson and one of his brigade commanders, William Terrill, were both killed during this action. Cheatham’s men and other Confederate divisions advanced, driving all before them, over one ridge and then another, but they eventually ran out of steam (and ammunition) just as Union resistance (and counterattacks) began to exact a high toll. Outnumbered, Bragg believed he had little choice but to abandon the field and, ultimately, Kentucky.

The property offers a tremendous opportunity for historical and recreational tourism, while preserving a unique historical resource that will benefit the citizens of the local community, state, and nation. However, if we cannot save this land, the tracts may be lost to development, thus preventing any future public access, and compromising the rest of the preserved battlefield. This truly is the “hole in the donut” needed to connect the various parts of the preserved battlefield.

Fortunately, as many of your fellow members saw just a few weeks ago, this hallowed ground is virtually unchanged from its 1862 appearance. Perryville is – thanks in large part to you, my friend – one of the best-preserved battlefields in America, with more than a thousand acres under protection.

As you can see on the map, there are still a few unprotected areas that I would consider “important to have,” to save some land where troops maneuvered, and where we could possibly save some high ground to protect the viewshed of the battlefield. But in reality, if we get these 128 acres – even if we were never able to save another acre here – you and I could be proud of the legacy we have created at Perryville.

Now we get down to the bottom line: How much is it going to cost us?

The purchase price and closing costs total $1,040,523. Not the most expensive land we’ve ever purchased, but still a lot of money.

I’m elated to report that we’ve got some matching fund sources lined up that would multiply the value of anything you could send today to help save this hallowed ground.

If we can raise the final 17% of the total, or $177,761, we can apply for $462,762 from the federal American Battlefield Protection Program, and – here may be the best news of all – we have already received word that we are to receive a grant from the generous HTR Foundation, which is helping with another $400,000!

This means that every $1.00 you give for this effort will be turned into $5.85 of value!

When you divide the $177,761 we still need to raise by 128 acres, it works out to being able to save an acre of hallowed ground at Perryville for just $1,389!

But before you decide whether you are going to help essentially complete the preservation of the Perryville Battlefield, my I ask you to take one more very simple – but very important action? Will you please proudly sign your name as a citizen co-sponsor of H.R. 307, one of the most important pieces of legislation in the history of the battlefield preservation movement?

Why do I say that? Well, H.R. 307 not only raises the potential amount of battlefield matching funds available each year from $10 million to $18 million, it also authorizes – for the first time – up to an additional $2 million in funds each year that can also be used for battlefield restoration and interpretation!

Now, this does not mean that Congress will appropriate the full amount in each of these categories each year, but it does at least make it possible. I like to think of it like a swimming pool: The “authorization” allows Congress to build a swimming pool. The annual “appropriation” is like the water that fills the pool. Some years, we may get filled all the way to the top, other years, maybe less.

But if you don’t have the authorization first, you can’t get the appropriation later. So it is no stretch of the imagination to say that your signature as a citizen co-sponsor today could potentially lead to $20 million being available for land preservation, restoration, and interpretation. This is big!

Please help in this truly historic effort, as well as the effort to save the last major part of the Perryville battlefield.

$1,389 per acre translates into a cost of – are you ready? – just 3.2 cents per square foot to save this part of the Perryville battlefield!

If you could help with a gift of $64 or more today – saving at least 2,000 square feet – it will be my honor to send you a free book that has just been released, as part of the “Command Decisions of the Civil War” series published by the University of Tennessee Press. This book, Decisions of the 1862 Kentucky Campaign: The Twenty-Seven Critical Decisions That Defined the Operation, is more than just a history of the Kentucky Campaign. Author (and American Battlefield Trust Color Bearer) Larry Peterson focuses on the critical decisions confronting commanders on both sides of the clash to provide a blueprint of the campaign at its tactical core.

I like how the authors in the series – which is now up to six books – identify and explore the critical decisions made during the battle, allowing students of history like you and me to go from a rudimentary sense of the “what” of warfare, to a mature grasp of “why.”

Complete with maps and a guided tour, Decisions of the 1862 Kentucky Campaign will give you key insights into the campaign and a deeper understanding of the Civil War itself. I hope you will claim your copy today with a gift of $64 or more.

And before I close, may I “pull back the curtain” and let you in on a piece of “battlefield preservation business intelligence?” In more than 19 years of fighting to save hallowed ground, we almost never raise as much in member contributions for Western Theater Civil War battlefields as we do for Eastern Theater sites.

It’s a shame, because you and I both know how important a place like Perryville is to tell the full story of the Civil War; but it is the truth. It would be just as much of a crime to see this hallowed ground desecrated by houses or other development in coming years, as it would be to lose 128 acres at Gettysburg, Antietam or Chancellorsville, don’t you think?

Was the blood spilled by soldiers on Western Theater battlefields any less worthy or patriotic than that of soldiers east of the Blue Ridge? Of course not.

That’s why today, I hope you will be able to help me make this effort – to save 128 acres at Perryville – the most successful Western Theater preservation effort in our history. If we can do this, my friend, it would be a remarkable accomplishment.

Any gift – from $32 which saves 1,000 square feet all the way up to $8,000 which saves 250,000 square feet – will help save this land at Perryville and support our mission all across America. And remember, every $1 you send today is turned into $5.85 in value, thanks to the grants from our friends at the HTR Foundation and the federal battlefield protection program.

Thank you so much for your generosity, and for your extraordinary dedication to such an important cause. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely yours,

Jim Lighthizer Signature

Jim Lighthizer, President

P.S. Don’t forget that there is a wealth of information on our website about this important effort. Just go to www.battlefields.org/perryville19, for more photos, maps, history articles and many more resources. You can also make your gift securely on-line – putting your generosity to work at nearly the speed of light! Please help with your gift today of any amount. Thank you again!