Save 73 Acres at Shiloh and South Mountain

A message from Jim Lighthizer, American Battlefield Trust president


Jim Lighthizer, president of the American Battlefield Trust.

April 5, 2019

Dear Friend and Fellow Preservationist, 

Dear Friend and Valued Member,

I am sure you are aware of the phrase, “Getting the biggest bang for your buck.”

And I hope that, over the years, you have come to see the Trust as unique among the other non-profit organizations you support in being able to make your donation dollar go farther than anyone else.

Well today, I need to brief you quickly on a situation that doesn’t just give you a big “bang” for your buck . . .

. . . no, it gives you a “full-battery-bombardment-boom” for your buck!

Right now, to build on our tremendous past success at the Shiloh battlefield in Tennessee, and the South Mountain battlefield in Maryland, we have the chance to take advantage of a tremendous matching-grant opportunity!

Today, will you help me turn every $1 you give into $6.89 of crucial hallowed ground?

This does not happen every day, my friend; today, through a combination of matching grants, I can take every $1 you give to help save 73 acres at these two 1862 battlefields – Shiloh in the west and South Mountain in the east – and turn it into $6.89 worth of hallowed ground.

Or, more specifically, will you help me raise just $103,000 in the next 45 days so that I can turn it into $709,500 worth of land and save 73 key acres of endangered hallowed ground, to prevent it from being developed?

Before you answer, please look at the maps I’ve enclosed for you, and let me walk you through a brief retelling of the history of these sites:

April 6-7, 1862: The Battle of Shiloh. After the fall of Forts Henry and Donelson, Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston was forced to pull back to Corinth, Mississippi, giving up Kentucky and much of Western and Middle Tennessee.

Seeking to strike a blow, Johnston and his army managed to surprise the Union army, under the command of General Ulysses S. Grant, near the Shiloh Meeting House.

As author and historian (and fellow Trust member) Greg Mertz writes in his new book on the Battle of Shiloh (more on that in a moment), Johnston’s plan for the morning of April 6, 1862, was, “We shall attack them at daylight tomorrow.”

As gunfire erupted with the Confederate advance, Johnston told his subordinates, “The battle has opened, gentlemen.” Mounting his thoroughbred, Fire-Eater, he announced to his staff, “Tonight, we will water our horses in the Tennessee River.”

Of course, Johnston would not live to see sunset that day, bleeding to death at 2:30pm on the battlefield after being shot in the leg.

On the far right of the Union line, General William T. Sherman (who had first dismissed accounts of Confederates nearby) was also almost shot from his saddle, exclaiming, “My God, we are attacked!” as an aide fell dead beside him, and Confederate buckshot sliced his hand. 

The four-mile-wide Confederate advance drove the Union defenders back until they encountered stout, obstinate resistance at places like the Hornet’s Nest, Bloody Pond, and the Peach Orchard, place names that are now enshrined in American memory.

The Union lines suffered terribly, but every bullet fired and every life sacrificed bought them precious minutes, while costing the Confederates dearly.

Eventually, the Union brigades were forced to fall back to a defensive line at Pittsburg Landing. Many of the generals around Grant counseled retreat, but he was having none of it. In words that echoed those spoken by Johnston just a few hours before, Grant declared, “Retreat? No! I propose to attack at daylight, and whip them.”

During the rainy night that followed, Federal reinforcements arrived, and Union gunboats relentlessly lobbed shells into the Confederate lines. When dawn broke on April 7, it was the Union army’s turn to push the Southern soldiers back on their heels.

After several more hours of intense bloody fighting (and you have to imagine that men on both sides had to avoid tripping over the bodies of comrades who had fallen the day before), to avoid destruction of his army, General P.G.T. Beauregard (who had assumed command upon Johnston’s death), ordered a retreat. The exhausted Federals did not pursue.

At the end of the two-day battle, the carnage was almost unimaginable. Nearly 24,000 casualties – killed, wounded, missing, or captured – made it the bloodiest battle in all American history up to that point in time. No one had ever experienced anything like the two days at Shiloh before . . . but unfortunately, it was only a prelude to what was in store.

If we jump forward a few months to September 1862, and shift our focus to Maryland in the eastern theatre, we know that the bloodiest single day in the Civil War – actually, the bloodiest single day in all American history – was at the Battle of Antietam, on September 17, 1862. But three days before that battle was fought, the Union Army under General George B. McClellan (reinstalled after the Federals suffered a defeat at Second Manassas), was pursuing General Robert E. Lee’s Confederates through the passes at South Mountain.

A few days earlier, of course, a copy of Lee’s campaign battle plans, Special Orders 191, were found wrapped around three cigars in a farm field near Frederick, Maryland.

Roused from his traditional excessive caution – “if I cannot whip Bobbie Lee, I will be willing to go home” – McClellan uncharacteristically pursued the scattered Confederate divisions aggressively to the three main passes through the South Mountain range, at Crampton’s, Fox’s, and Turner’s Gaps.

The fight at Crampton’s Gap was the most important of the three. Union General William Franklin was given the assignment of taking the gap. Displaying some of his boss’ former lethargic tendencies, Franklin took at least three hours deploying his 12,000-man force to attempt to dislodge a few hundred Confederate defenders. One southerner quipped that Franklin’s preparations resembled a “lion making exceedingly careful preparations to spring on a plucky little mouse.”

Historian Scott Hartwig tells us that the 18-acre tract we can save today encompasses the historic Jacob Goodman farm, which sat literally at the heart of the Crampton’s Gap battlefield. He further says, “In the Union assault that broke the Confederate line and swept up the mountain, the 96th Pennsylvania advanced across the northern part of this property to a bloody encounter with the 10th Georgia, while the 18th and 32nd New York, followed by the 5th Maine and 16th New York, dashed directly over this tract to assault the 6th Virginia.”

As you can see on your battle map, this is an absolutely key parcel to get, and, like the tract at Shiloh, puts us a huge step closer to being able to declare this battlefield completely protected. There has been so much land saved at Crampton’s Gap, some by us, some by the National Park Service, some by the state of Maryland, but it would all be compromised if this land were ever to be developed.

Development is a real and present threat to both these battlefields . . . self-storage operations, lumber yards, auto repair shops, McMansions . . . you name it!

And as much as it pains me to tell you this, it is the truth; if the Trust had to pay the full $709,500, even as important as this land is, we would have no choice but to walk away. That would be a knife through my heart, but I hold it as my duty to spend your money like it was my own. But fortunately, we don’t have to pay full price. Not even close.

In this case, utilizing landowner donations and federal matching grants, we have – are you ready? – about 85.5% of the funds lined up and ready to go. If you will help me raise the final 14.5% of the money, we can declare this land saved forever!

To restate the obvious, to get these 73 acres at Shiloh and South Mountain at a $6.89-to-$1 match, I think you must agree that we’re getting some serious boom, crash and pow for our buck!

Over the years, you and I have been doggedly clawing land away from developers one acre at a time. I cannot stress to you enough how important this is. Two hundred years from now, when people come to learn about these battles, it is imperative that they not be covered by houses or warehouses, or otherwise paved over by rapacious developers who care nothing for our past and its heroes. 

Would you come away from Shiloh with the same appreciation for that battle if there was a housing development between the Hornet’s Nest and Pittsburg Landing? How about if there was a complex of self-storage units marring South Mountain?

You can preserve this land today, so that the next generations coming up behind you and me will have a place where they can learn about the courage, valor and gallantry of American soldiers.

You can make that happen, and I can multiply every $1 you send today by $6.89. I really need to raise our $103,000 portion of this terrific match as soon as possible, hopefully in the next 45 days.

I thank you very much for your time, and thank you for seriously considering making yet another major contribution to the cause of historic battlefield preservation.

Most sincerely yours,

Jim Lighthizer Signature

Jim Lighthizer

P.S. Please note that I have also enclosed a very special personalized document for you. This certificate shows, based on your cumulative generosity to the cause of battlefield preservation, your current rank among nearly 50,000 Trust supporters. I thought you might like to see where you stood historically among your preservation peers all around the world, and please allow me to use this as one more opportunity to thank you for all you have done to help save our country’s history.

Today, you have it within your power to ensure that even more precious hallowed ground is preserved forever. That, my friend, is your legacy, and it is a significant one.

I encourage you to visit the American Battlefield Trust’s website to learn more about this effort, and your role in saving hallowed ground all across our nation! To see more maps, photos, and articles – and to make your donation online, go to today! You will receive an e-mail confirmation of your gift in seconds. Thank you!