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Save 143 Acres at the Plank Farm in Gettysburg

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A message from Jim Lighthizer, American Battlefield Trust president


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

May 24, 2019

Dear Friend and Fellow Preservationist, 

I’m writing to let you know about a rare and, to me, extremely exciting opportunity to preserve 143 acres at Gettysburg!

The Civil War Trust (a division of the American Battlefield Trust) has been approached about being an important partner in preserving, through an easement, a vitally important piece of that battlefield.

This is a unique transaction for us because, as you can see on the battle map I have sent to you, this land is more closely associated with several key troop movements during the multi-day battle, and it is also one of the main field hospital sites at Gettysburg.

We don’t usually seek out Civil War hospitals behind the battle lines to save, but this one, known during the battle as the Plank Farm, is so important, and is so close to the doorstep of the battlefield, we felt we had to join in the effort help preserve it.

But the best news is that for a total transaction valued at $435,000, we are only being asked to contribute $40,000! That’s a $10.88-to-$1 match of your generosity!

As I see it, this effort is essential for not one . . . not two . . . but six very important reasons:

Reason #1: By locking up this land now, we and our partner, the Land Conservancy of Adams County, are proactively protecting this part of the battlefield from the spread of devastating commercial or residential development. It was a farm at the time of the battle, it is a farm today, and if we are successful, it will be a farm forever!

Reason #2: This is important, historical land that was traversed by thousands of soldiers, North and South, during this multi-day battle:

On July 1, elements of the Union First Corps under General John Reynolds double-quicked across these fields as they moved to the sound of the opening shots fired in the battle. Reynolds, however, would not have long to live, falling to a Confederate bullet about a mile north of this property.

On July 2, the Confederate divisions of General John Bell Hood and General Lafayette McLaws, under the command of General James Longstreet, marched across this property as they sought to discover the Union left flank.

Their advance culminated with the attacks on Little Round Top, The Wheatfield, and the Peach Orchard. Longstreet called this “the best three hours’ fighting ever done by any troops on any battlefield,” but these two divisions suffered terrible casualties, many of which were removed from the battlefield and taken to this farm, described by one soldier as being “immediately behind the battle line,” owned by a man named J. Edward Plank.

On July 3, Confederate General George Pickett led his division over this land, up the slope to Seminary Ridge, and onto the battlefield, where the charge that came to bear his name was bloodily repulsed.

On all three days of the battle, and for many more weeks after it, this farm was one of the biggest hospitals in all of Gettysburg, with more than 1,500 soldiers documented as being treated there, more than 500 of which were too dangerously wounded to be moved when Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia began its retreat.

General John Bell Hood was treated there, and there were more than 60 documented burials on the property (most were later reinterred, but you never know with Civil War burials . . . there could be unknown graves on that property to this day.)

In the collection of the Adams Country Historical Society today, there is a Confederate surgeon’s case, containing a set of medical tools and implements, with the following note:

Presented to Dr. J.W.C. O’Neal by J. Edward Plank, Marsh Creek, May 1892. After the Battle of Gettysburg the Confederate right opened a hospital at the Plank Farm on Willoughby Run and occupied the farm for a number of weeks. Dr. J.A. Means (11th Georgia Infantry) who was left in charge of Longstreet’s wounded, gave this case to Mr. Plank . . . this interesting relic was used by Dr. Means and other surgeons quite a number of times at the Battle of Gettysburg!

So again, while we do not normally seek out hospital sites for preservation, I think you’ll agree that this is not a normal hospital site! And that brings me to:

Reason #3: By helping with this timely project right now, we help protect forever even more hallowed ground near the 18 acres Trust members like you preserved at Seminary Ridge earlier this year, and the preserved and restored Lee’s Headquarters site we saved in 2014!

Reason #4: Your donation is immediately multiplied $10.88-to-$1! As we are splitting the cost of this easement with federal and local grant sources, and a generous landowner donation, every $1 you send to invest in this property is increased by 1,088 percent!

Reason #5: While you and I will help save the land, the current landowners will continue to own it, meaning the Trust will not incur one penny of future taxes or maintenance costs, freeing up our funds to buy more hallowed ground at Gettysburg or other historically irreplaceable sites!

Reason # 6: Our share comes to exactly $40,000 for 143 acres of this ground at Gettysburg. That means we are paying less than a penny – $0.00642 cents, to be exact – per square foot! So, your gift of:

  • $32.10 saves 5,000 sq. feet
  • $64.20 saves 10,000 sq. feet
  • $128.40 saves 20,000 sq. feet
  • $280 saves one acre
  • $560 saves two acres
  • $1,120 saves four acres
  • $2,800 saves ten acres
  • $5,600 saves twenty acres!

No matter how you look at this transaction, this is a huge win for everyone involved. And to make it even more attractive for you, I have a special offer:

As a symbol of my personal gratitude for you sending a gift of $64.20 or more today (committing to save 10,000 square feet or more), I will ship to you a special reproduction of a historic map of the Gettysburg battlefield that will blow your socks off! This unique map is 12” x 16”, printed on special heavy-duty paper, and was “published by the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association, 1886.” So years before there was even a Gettysburg National Military Park, this group of concerned citizens created this map to help raise awareness and funds to purchase parts of the battlefield so that these hallowed grounds could be preserved forever. Gee, that mission sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

They even show “the land purchased and dedicated to the public” at that time and note that “additional lands will be purchased as means are from time to time appropriated by other States.” This map, which will be shipped to you in a protective tube, is your direct connection to those early preservation heroes who understood, almost as soon as the guns fell silent, this hallowed ground was special, and must be spared.

I hope that you will find a prominent place for it in your home or office, and that whenever you look at it, you are reminded of the hallowed ground you have helped to save at Gettysburg, and battlefields all across America.

By the time you read this, America will be approaching the 156th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. The fields are peaceful now, but for those of us who care about our nation’s history, who believe in saving all of these beautiful, poignant places for future generations, our battle never ends.

How important is our work, my friend? In the 1890s, when this battlefield was being created, the enabling legislation emphasized how a place like Gettysburg could bring us all together, stating that “no American need ever blush for the record of either side. It was a great battle, so grandly fought that it compelled each combatant to respect the other forever after. What grander evidence of magnanimity and strength could the nation give than thus to preserve the historical data of the great turning battle of the war?”

Also in 1890, Senator Joseph Hawley of Connecticut said that, if created, the park would “offer the grandest study in the world for students of the military art, and for lovers of patriotism and admirers of magnificent valor.” That it does, and that it will continue to do, as long as you and I do our job of protecting it.

That is precisely why our work to save Gettysburg and battlefields across America is still so important. 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

P.S. I was recently at Gettysburg touring the battlefield with a group of supporters, and it struck me once again that, with each acre of hallowed ground protected, we are truly insuring our future by preserving our past. I can’t thank you enough for your philanthropic leadership in this great cause, which is helping to create a better America. And there’s not much that is more important than that! Please let me hear back from you as soon as possible.

P.P.S. As always, I encourage you to visit the special page we have created on our website especially for this effort at There you will find many additional resources about this campaign, maps, photos, and links to a wealth of other Gettysburg – and Civil War medicine – content. If you are so moved, please go ahead and donate securely online. And remember, every gift of $64.20 or more will receive the special Gettysburg map reproduction. Thank you again.