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Save Three 1862 Battlefields

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A message from Jim Lighthizer, American Battlefield Trust president

 

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

July 18, 2018

Dear Friend and Fellow Preservationist, 

Do you know what Hickenlooper’s Battery, Randol’s Battery, and Latimer’s Battery all have in common?

Yes, of course, they are all Civil War artillery batteries. But today, they are unique because each battery was part of key battle action near three important tracts on three 1862 battlefields – Shiloh in the west, and Glendale and Fredericksburg in the east.

And today, through a combination of grants, support from generous donors like you, and a tremendous landowner donation, you and I can save these three crucial tracts – which have a transaction value of $1,178,000 – for $243,000, a $4.85-to-$1 match of your generosity.

Let me tell you about the current opportunity to save nearly $1.2 million worth of hallowed ground, turning every $1 you send into $4.85 of value. Let’s take the battlefields in chronological order, starting with Shiloh, April 6, 1862:

Early that morning, Confederates marched out of the morning mists toward unsuspecting Union regiments, positioned as outposts about three miles south of Pittsburg Landing.

The Confederate brigade under Brigadier General Adley H. Gladden, comprised of the 21st, 22nd, 25th, and 26th Alabama regiments as well as the 1st Louisiana, stepped off their advance across the 8-acre tract we are working to save.

They moved steadily north toward Colonel Madison Miller’s Union brigade of the 18th Wisconsin, the 18th Missouri, and the 61st Illinois. In his book, Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862, historian O. Edward Cunningham writes:

“Miller’s infantry permitted Gladden’s hungry, muddy soldiers to advance up the slope to about one hundred yards range before squeezing their triggers. Men began to go down all around. The momentum of the attack broke down, and a stubborn fire fight quickly developed. Some of the Southerners began drifting toward the rear, but the officers went to work rallying them. ‘Men, do not disgrace yourselves by deserting those brave fellows.’ Thanks to the efforts of [the] officers, the withdrawal soon halted.”

The Union artillery battery of Captain Andrew Hickenlooper (ancestor of today’s governor of Colorado and fellow Trust member John Hickenlooper) was “located just to the right rear” of Miller’s brigade, and he worked his guns as quickly as possible to hold back the gray tide.

Sensing victory, Gladden ordered another charge, then suddenly slumped in his saddle, his shoulder shattered into a “mass of flesh and bone,” a wound from which he would die six days later. His men pressed forward, and Captain Hickenlooper later wrote that a Rebel yell caused “an involuntary thrill of terror to pass like an electric shock through even the bravest of hearts.”

Miller’s brigade began to fall back, and joyous Confederates soon swarmed over the Union camps, many surely believing that the battle was all but won. But the two-day Battle of Shiloh was just beginning and would go on to become the bloodiest battle in American history up to that point.

Today, the battle you and I are fighting is to protect the vulnerable southern sector of this battlefield. Shiloh is one of those places where we are within reach of saying it is completely preserved, but until we can save the dozens of unprotected parcels in this part of the battlefield, our work is not yet done.

The good news is that this land is not very expensive, and we need “just” $33,000 to save these 8 acres, a cost of just over $4,000 per acre.

I wish that was the case at the Virginia battlefield of Glendale, also known as “Frayser’s Farm,” just a few miles outside of Richmond. Because untouched this 9-acre tract can be developed into five building lots, it will cost us $195,000!

However, this tract is what I call a “hole in the doughnut” piece of land, because you and I have saved battlefield land all around it, and it would be a shame to see it snatched up by a developer, who would think nothing of building new houses right on the battlefield.

In the spring of 1862, Union General George B. McClellan was inching ever closer to the Confederate capital at Richmond… General Robert E. Lee, elevated from his desk job, had been in command of the Confederate army opposing “Little Mac” for about 30 days.

The two armies clashed at a succession of places that are now enshrined in our nation’s history and memory…Beaver Dam Creek, Gaines’s Mill, Savage’s Station. Then, of course, came the Battle of Glendale.

On the night of June 29-30, General Lee put his forces in motion, seeking to cut off and smash McClellan’s army (who were “changing their base”) before it reached the sanctuary of the James River. Key to Lee’s plan was the critical crossroads at Glendale.

The Union brigades positioned around that intersection were not expecting a Confederate attack. And, as so often happened in that campaign, Lee’s orders miscarried, meaning that he could only bring a portion of his army to bear against the Federals. Confusion reigned supreme that day. The result, however, was a furious battle that none of the combatants ever forgot. Let Confederate General E. Porter Alexander briefly describe that afternoon for you:

“No more desperate encounter took place in the war; and nowhere else, to my knowledge, so much actual personal fighting with bayonet and butt of gun. [Lieutenant Alanson M.] Randol’s battery, over which it began, was taken and retaken several times. Once, when in possession of the 11th Alabama Regiment of Wilcox’s brigade, it was charged by McCall’s Pennsylvania Reserves, and after a desperate bayonet fight each side fell back to the adjacent woods.”

Union General George G. Meade, leading his men in those 4th and 7th Pennsylvania Reserves throughout this frenzied battle, was severely wounded during the fight. Just imagine how different our history might be if Meade had not survived those wounds to go on to lead the Union Army at Gettysburg!

All the eyewitness accounts tell of desperate, brutal, savage combat on and around this land we are trying to save today.

And because Glendale is such a success story, I always like to show people the “then and now” maps of this battlefield, showing what was saved in 1987 (almost nothing) and what has been preserved up to now (almost everything), by you and your fellow Trust members. Like Shiloh, we really are getting very close to declaring this a preserved battlefield, too, so I pray you will help save this crucial 9-acre tract today.

Finally, I urge you to look at the map of the Fredericksburg battlefield. This is a detail of the southern end of that very large battlefield, near the “Slaughter Pen Farm,” which you and I have done so much to save. The 11-acre tract noted in yellow is a key part of the battlefield, located adjacent to “Latimer’s Knoll.”

This sector was aflame with fighting on the afternoon of December 13, 1862. After a spirited charge by the 15th New Jersey regiment, which drove the 16th North Carolina – the regiment covering Captain Joseph Latimer’s artillery pieces – from the field, Latimer feared for the loss of his guns. In his book, Fredericksburg: Winter War on the Rappahannock, historian Frank O’Reilly writes:

“Latimer spotted Law’s Brigade in the tree line behind him. He bounded across the field furiously waving his cap. The artilleryman appeared ‘very excited,’ as he reined in front of the infantry. ‘Don’t come up here,’ Latimer shouted, ‘unless you will promise to support me.’ ‘Go back, Captain, to your battery,’ the foot soldiers assured him, ‘this is the old 4th Alabama.’ ‘Thank God, I am safe,’ Latimer allegedly answered as he hurried back to rally his command.”

Law’s Brigade would eventually advance to within just 300 yards of the Bowling Green Road until they ran into a Union column directed by – of all people – a newly elevated division commander named Daniel E. Sickles, who sent the Confederates back across the field!

The owner of this property intends to donate a conservation easement with a value of more than $900,000 to us, meaning that we can save this crucial part of the Fredericksburg battlefield by paying just $15,000 in closing costs! That’s the equivalent of a $60-to-$1 match! I think it is worth $15,000 to ensure that this property is not lost, don’t you?

Swaths of contiguous open “raw” land are back in high demand by developers in both the Richmond and Fredericksburg areas. There’s no denying that many landowners are looking to sell, and a developer’s promise of ready cash for their land may prove too attractive for them to pass up.

So please, although you have already done so much to help save hallowed ground this year, will you help once again with your generous gift to make sure we can raise the $243,000 we need to secure these three transactions valued at $1,178,000?

Please send your most generous donation today to help take advantage of the great $4.85-to-$1 match to save hallowed ground at Shiloh, Glendale, and Fredericksburg. Please know that you have my deepest thanks for all you are doing to save our nation’s history. You are a hero in my book.

Most sincerely yours,

Jim Lighthizer Signature

Jim Lighthizer
President

P.S. Today, I ask you to please be as generous as you can and once again help the Civil War Trust, a division of the American Battlefield Trust, save this crucial hallowed ground. There is so much more information about this current effort on our website at www.battlefields.org/1862campaign.

Thank you again for all you do for this important cause of saving our history!