Jim Lighthizer, president of the American Battlefield Trust.
January 28, 2019
Dear Friend and Fellow Preservationist,
Over the years, I have written to you many times about saving priceless Civil War battlefield land from destruction.
Since 2014, I have also written to you about saving irreplaceable battlefield land from the Revolutionary War and War of 1812.
Today, however, is the first time I have ever written to you about saving a piece of highly threatened hallowed ground that was significant to what many call THE turning point of the Revolutionary War: The Battle of Saratoga.
Today, you and I have the chance to save 26 acres of land associated with this key moment in our country’s history, something that we have never done before.
Plus, we also have the chance to save an additional 68 acres at another important New York Revolutionary War battlefield, the Battle of Newtown, for a total of 94 crucial acres.
If you are like most people, you know more about Saratoga than Newtown, but I can assure you that both are crucial to telling the story of the Revolutionary War, and these 94 acres need to be saved now, while we have the chance.
I’m pleased to report to you that through a combination of state and local grants, we can save these hallowed acres at a tremendous $5.39-to-$1 match of your donation dollar!
The purchase price for these 94 acres is $307,000. Today, we can save this land for just $57,000!
Please take a look at the battle maps I have prepared for you. As you can see on both maps, we are adding significantly to what has already been preserved at each battlefield.
At Saratoga, in September and October of 1777, American forces met, defeated, and forced a major British army to surrender. This crucial victory renewed patriots’ flagging hopes for independence, secured vital foreign recognition and support, and changed the course of the war.
British General John “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne had believed that the Hudson River Valley was “precisely the route an army ought to take” to isolate New England, split the colonies, defeat the American armies piecemeal, and crush the rebellion. Coordination between the British armies broke down, however, and Burgoyne, after a series of battles, found himself growing short on supplies and men.
Retreating back north the way they had come, on miserable, muddy roads, Burgoyne’s 6,800-man army was ultimately surrounded at Saratoga, with the land we are buying being one of the key areas of the Patriot siege line, bristling with artillery. On October 17, American General Horatio Gates accepted Burgoyne’s surrender.
As historian Christopher Ward noted in his seminal work, The War of the Revolution, the surrender at Saratoga “was a stupendous victory . . . With two days after the arrival of the news of Saratoga, the King of France signed a note extending recognition . . . making his country the ally of the United States.” France also committed money, ships, arms, and men to the rebellion. Without this support, future victories, including the 1781 Yorktown Campaign, would not have been possible.
Think about that simple fact for a moment, my friend. Without the victory at Saratoga, America as you and I know it might not even exist. Our lives – if we were even alive at all! – our world, might be almost unimaginable if the outcome at Saratoga had been different. To me, this is why this place must be preserved, so this story can be told and retold down through the generations, on the ground where it happened.
And amazingly, the Saratoga Battlefield is also helping today’s soldiers. Let me explain . . .
Thanks to an innovative partnership between the Trust, the National Park Service, and a nonprofit called American Veterans Archeology Recovery, current veterans from the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam – some of whom are dealing with life-altering wounds as well as PTSD – will perform limited archeology of the battlefield.
This program helps these brave veterans effectively transition from military back to civilian life. By giving them an opportunity to do vital research work on the battlefield under the supervision of the Park Service, these veterans are helping to increase our understanding of this crucial piece of our history.
Now, turning to the lesser-known Battle of Newtown, we need to jump ahead two years in time after Saratoga, to August 29, 1779, to American General John Sullivan’s Expedition to seek out and destroy a joint Indian-British force that had been wreaking havoc in the area.
On the morning of the 29th, Sullivan’s force of about 5,000 soldiers, intent on destroying the Indian settlement which had been established at Newtown, advanced on the breastworks constructed by British Colonel John Butler and Indian Chief Joseph Brant, manned by about 300 soldiers and 800 warriors.
The ground was very steep, and it took a long time for the Patriots to reach their positions. Once the fighting broke out, however, it was brutal, even hand to hand in some parts of the battlefield, with the British commander finally calling for a retreat. The ground we are saving is in the heart of the fighting.
Sullivan, however, mounted a lackluster pursuit, but still managed to achieve the crucial objective of driving the demoralized Indians out of the area, denying them as an ally to the British.
Remember, through a combination of state and federal matching grants, we anticipate having $250,000 of the $307,000 we need – fully 81.4 percent – already lined up!
This means that if you and I can raise just the final $57,000 – just 18.6 percent of the transaction’s total value – we will prevent the loss of this crucial land at Saratoga and Newtown!
Today, I ask you to please consider making your most generous gift to this effort of the Revolutionary War Trust – one of the divisions of the American Battlefield Trust – and help take advantage of this tremendous opportunity to save 94 acres our nation’s Revolutionary War history.
I think you will agree that the New Year offers us all a time to reflect on what is important to us. Last year, I asked you and your fellow members to tell me, in your own words, why saving hallowed ground is important to you. We received literally thousands of responses, and I was awed by the eloquence and depth of feeling that so many members expressed. I hope you don’t mind if I share a small representative sample of those comments here – I believe you will agree with these sentiments as much as I do:
Bill Thomas of Scottsdale, Arizona, writes, “More than a decade ago, my late wife and I began taking our grandson on one- or two-week trips every summer to National Parks and other historic sites across America. We visited many Revolutionary War and virtually all Civil War battlefields. Looking back, I can recall him absorbing the wonder of being ‘on the ground’ of these momentous events. To this day, even as a college student, he asks, ‘Grandpa, where are we going next summer!’ Multiply this experience by tens of thousands of American families now and in the future, and we can see the incalculable cost of losing this hallowed ground.”
Preservation is personal for Janet Mills of Stanley, North Carolina. She likes to save hallowed ground, “to honor and respect my grandfathers and uncles who fought in the Revolutionary War and my two uncles who fought and died in the Civil War.” Wow!
“I look forward to each request for donations with great enthusiasm,” says Mike Rice of Houston, Texas, “knowing that I am helping to preserve our history, a history which many would like to forget. Our history, with all its blemishes, should absolutely be saved.” You’re my kind of guy, Mike.
Color Bearers Timothy and Deborah Riddle of Fayetteville, Georgia, say that, “Whenever we visit a historic site or battlefield, they speak to us. We firmly believe that we learn from our past – right or wrong. To help save these very important grounds gives us a feeling of success.”
I’m sure James Wood of Lakeview, Michigan speaks for many when he says, “I do like the fact that battlefield land is great for hiking and nature preservation – multi-usage!”
David Cupps of Richmond, Virginia, also makes an important point when he writes, “Many have fought and died for the freedom we enjoy today. We need to appreciate those sacrifices and the best way learn is to preserve these battlefields.”
I like how David O’Brien of Eugene, Oregon, gets right to the point: “Frankly, the idea that we will not be able to walk or ride around these old battlefields because of current and past commercial development makes me a little sick to my stomach.”
Long-time member Patricia Conrad of Long Beach, California, hits the nail on the head: “Preserving our battlefields is of the utmost importance, because if we lose this important part of our heritage, we lose a vital part of ourselves. The events that took place on these fields were what defined us as a nation. They are where our nation was born and where it matured, often painfully, into what it is today.”
Steadfast member Michael Deady from Katy, Texas (more than 200 lifetime gifts for preservation – Huzzah!) preserves battlefields “to help give future generations a chance to realize the sacrifices made to shape this great country, and to show respect to those who fought on these fields.”
“We, as a people, become hollowed out and diminished when we lose sight of the value of preserving our past. A developer sees profit, not historical value, in an undeveloped landscape. Preservation of the past speaks to a higher intellectual purpose,” notes Alex Beckjord of Cincinnati, Ohio.
Susan Gannaway from Winona, Minnesota (who has been a supporter since 1996, and who – I can tell you – has beautiful penmanship even at 80 years young), observes that “the study of American history seems to be fading in many schools. Couple that with increasing urban sprawl and we have a challenge. We need historic open spaces where we can stand with our children / grandchildren and say, ‘Here is where history was made, and here is where heroes stood.’”
I could go on and on, but let me close with just one more, from James Lewanski, of La Mesa, California, who says: “Visit the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor . . . observe the unbidden silence of respect from those among you. Visit the cemeteries at Normandy, row upon row of crosses and Stars of David . . . observe the awe and depth of emotion from those among you. Then, visit the sites of our great battles . . . observe the pizza shacks, tattoo parlors, car washes – stop, stop, stop! These sacred grounds must not, shall not, be further desecrated. Honor our ancestors on the very ground upon which they fought and died. They, and we, deserve no less.”
My friend, I hope these comments are as inspiring to you as they are to me. To know that there are nearly 50,000 of us all around the world who believe in the importance – the absolute necessity – of saving our nation’s hallowed ground fuels my passion to keep fighting to save ground like these 94 acres of New York Revolutionary War battlefield land at Saratoga and Newtown.
Over and over, the word “sacrifice” bubbles up through these member comments. Those soldiers who fought during America’s first century sacrificed – in many cases – everything. Today, is it appropriate for me to ask you to sacrifice just a little to help secure the places where they gave so much?
When I do the math and see that we can save 94 crucial acres of the Revolutionary War for just $57,000 from the Trust, that works out to just $606 per acre! $303 saves ½ of an acre, and $151 helps to save ¼ of an acre. Going the other way, if you can, $1,212 helps to save two acres of this historic land, and $2,424 will help save four acres!
Remember that no matter what you give, it will be multiplied in value by $5.39-to-$1! That’s a great way to start off 2019, if you ask me. But it’s not just the incredible multiplier effect of your generosity, as important as that is. The most important part of this effort is the chance to save something so significant for our country, to tell the story of our history, and to leave an amazing gift like this for future generations, so that they might learn how we became the greatest nation in the history of the world.
That’s really what you are doing with your generous support today… you are helping to teach everyone – young, old, and those yet to be born – about the sacrifices that were made to secure the freedoms we enjoy today.
Please don’t let this opportunity pass you by, and please be as generous as you can. I thank you for all you do for this cause of saving the most important places where our country’s history was made.
P.S. A $5.39-to-$1 match to save 94 acres of core battlefield land associated with two significant Revolutionary War battles, one of which – Saratoga – has been called THE turning point of the war. Please visit our website right now at www.battlefields.org/Saratoga2019 for more information, and to make your gift securely online today! I thank you in advance for your help in saving this crucial part of our history!