American Battlefield Trust Celebrates 58,000 Acres Saved at End of Landmark Year of Accomplishments
Melissa Winn, (202) 367-1861 x7252
Colleen Cheslak-Poulton, (202) 367-1861 x7234
(Washington, D.C.) — In a year that presented increasing development threats to land preservation, the American Battlefield Trust ramped up its advocacy efforts and is especially pleased to have celebrated high-profile preservation successes at Gettysburg and Antietam battlefields that have helped push the organization’s total acres of hallowed ground saved over 58,000. The nonprofit began 2023 with the announcement of having preserved land in its 25th state, but that was just a starting point for a year filled with dramatic achievements. The organization moves into 2024 energized by the launch of digital programming and educational efforts that will expand its outreach to educators and the public.
“The success of our organization is a victory for our membership, donors and for this great country and its history we strive every day to preserve,” said Trust President David Duncan. “We’re especially proud to have had a year full of milestone accomplishments that everybody can celebrate and will continue to inspire future generations.”
Working closely with landowners and preservation partners during 2023, the Trust completed 49 transactions at 29 battlefields in 11 states, amounting to 2,088 acres. This included high profile projects such as the Jacob Avey Farm and House at Antietam. The Trust also launched a $3 million national fundraising campaign to acquire the remainder of the former Gettysburg Country Club, continuing a preservation process begun nearly 15 years ago in partnership with The Conservation Fund and National Park Service. Located along the Chambersburg Pike between McPherson Ridge and Herr’s Ridge, and just past Willoughby’s Run, this 15-acre property saw intense fighting in the opening phase of battle on July 1, 1863.
After taking possession of 117 acres at Buffington Island, site of the largest Civil War battle in Ohio, the American Battlefield Trust reached its 25th state and can now claim to have permanently protected hallowed ground at half the states in the Union. The Trust also launched Phase IV of the Gaines Mill/Cold Harbor Campaign, a multi-year effort to preserve some of the most historically significant land in the U.S. Additional acreage saved in 2023 includes properties at Belmont, Ky.; Bentonville, N.C.; Boydton Plank Road, Va.; Brice’s Crossroads, Miss.; Cedar Mountain, Va.; Chancellorsville, Va.; Chickamauga, Ga.; Chickasaw Bayou, Miss.; Dinwiddie Court House, Va.; Fort DeRussy, La.; Franklin, Tenn.; Gaines’ Mill, Va.; Glendale, Va.; Hobkirk Hill, S.C.; Mill Springs, Ky.; Mine Run, Va.; Newtown, N.Y.; Petersburg Breakthrough, Va.; Reams Station, Va.; Seven Pines, Va.; Shiloh, Tenn.; Spotsylvania Court House, Va.; Trevilian Station, Va.; Wyse Fork, N.C.
The Trust also worked with Nashville’s Metro Council and Mayor, as well as the African American Cultural Alliance, to pursue the protection of 2.36 acres adjacent to Fort Negley Park — a critical step toward reintegrating this land into the city’s popular park and landmark. The project, expected to be funded by a combination of federal, state and local funds, will help advance the city’s ambitious Master Plan for Fort Negley.
Several development threats to hallowed grounds this year compelled the Trust to ramp up its advocacy efforts in some arenas, including especially Virginia, where together with local nonprofits and private citizens, the Trust in May filed a legal challenge in Orange County against a mega-development that would blanket a historic landscape near the Wilderness Battlefield with more than 2,600 acres of residential, commercial and industrial development, including data centers and distribution warehouses. The filing, made in Orange County Circuit Court, identifies a host of substantive and procedural flaws with the development project and the County’s approval, requiring its invalidation.
The Trust has also been actively involved with efforts to prevent a proposed gas station at Chancellorsville and plans to build the world’s largest data center complex adjacent to the Manassas Battlefield in Prince William County, Va. Although the Prince William County Board of Supervisors approved the data center rezonings on December 13, the Trust and its allies are evaluating any remaining mechanisms to oppose the project.
On the legislative front, the Trust celebrated the U.S. House of Representatives’ vote to pass the American Battlefield Protection Program Enhancement Act, a measure that will streamline and create efficiencies in the already successful program, supercharging our ability to protect threatened landscapes.
A key component of the Trust’s mission is educating the public about what happened on the hallowed battlegrounds we preserve and why it matters today. In 2023, the Trust’s virtual and in-person teacher institutes professionally developed more than 1,335 teachers from nearly every state and multiple countries. The History Field Trip Grant Program made it possible for 6,000 students and teachers to visit battlefields and historic sites in 2023, pushing the total number of students and chaperones who have benefited from the program to more than 45,000. Five new virtual tour field trips took some 425,000 learners to Charleston, Boston, New Orleans, Baltimore and Vicksburg. We’ve also added online hundreds of new articles, biographies, battle pages and more than 235 new videos, including our all-wars map, anniversary videos and our new “Step Into History” series, which has been nominated for a 2023 Anthem Award.
New digital offerings include an improved Civil War Battle Maps App that now offers GPS-enabled maps to allow users to locate their position on the map and follow in the footsteps of those who fought in America’s defining conflicts. The Trust’s new Fort Watson AR App also allows users to travel back in time to the American Revolution and to a pre-contact Santee Indian village with augmented reality. We combine augmented reality and GPS to enable highly accurate placement of a 3D model of the Tavern in the place it originally sat at Cold Harbor Crossroads outside of Mechanicsville, Va. Using photogrammetry, a cutting-edge video capture technology, the Trust’s website now provides visitors with a photo realistic virtual tour of the exterior and interior of Lee’s Headquarters.
In 2023, the Trust also ventured into new territory, launching two exciting new ventures, including a traveling exhibit in partnership with the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) and the Trust’s inaugural ‘Prize for History’. The American Revolution Experience is a pop-up exhibit based on the Trust’s award-winning digital experience of the same name. Starting in January 2024, it will travel to scores of libraries, historical societies and museums through the winter of 2025, introducing visitors to a cast of historical characters with diverse experiences throughout the founding conflict and the places they visited on their journey. The exhibit launched in December 2023 at DAR headquarters in Washington, D.C. The Trust’s new Prize for History, also launched in December, will award a $50,000 prize annually to a work of military history or biography that underscores the essential role of the nation’s military conflicts on the founding, formation and perpetuation of our exceptional country. In creating the award, sponsored entirely by a generous donor, the Trust is encouraging authors to create works that showcase the rich research potential of historic battlefields.
Expanding the Revolutionary War’s memory through preservation and programming, the Trust persevered in its goal to save 2,500 acres of Revolutionary War battlefields to mark the upcoming 250th anniversary of that conflict and augmented well-established educational programs. A new campaign was launched to preserve 261 Founding Era acres at Newtown (N.Y.) and Hobkirk Hill (S.C.), as well as propel the transformative “Washington’s Legacy” plan for landscape rehabilitation and expanded interpretive experiences at the Princeton Battlefield (N.J.) — the scene of the climactic victory in General George Washington’s Ten Crucial Days Campaign on January 3, 1777. Additionally, the Trust expanded its teacher-favorite Traveling Trunk program to include Revolutionary War Traveling Trunks, which provide more than 30 items for students to explore, including a Continental Army uniform jacket, colonial dress, powder horn, haversack, hats, flags, hardtack, fife and more. The Trust’s “Generations” programming, which offers interactive tours for kids of all ages, included its first Revolutionary War-themed event in 2023 at Washington’s Ferry Farm in Fredericksburg, Va.
The Trust’s 2023 land preservation accomplishments were made possible by the assistance of numerous government and private partners, including: American Battlefield Protection Program; Battle of Franklin Trust; Central Virginia Battlefields Trust; Commonwealth of Kentucky; Commonwealth of Virginia; Georgia Battlefields Association; Franklin’s Charge; Friends of Cedar Mountain; Friends of Fort DeRussy; Friends of Shiloh National Military Park; Friends of Vicksburg National Military Park and Campaign; Gettysburg Foundation; HTR Foundation; Maryland Heritage Areas Authority; Mill Springs Battlefield Association; Mississippi Department of Archives & History; Mississippi Historic Site Preservation Fund; National Park Partners; National Park Service; North Carolina State Capital Infrastructure Fund; Petersburg Battlefields Foundation; Red River Water Commission; Richmond Battlefields Association; Save Historic Antietam Foundation; Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation; South Carolina Battleground Preservation Trust; South Carolina Conservation Bank; State of Georgia; State of Maryland; State of New York; State of North Carolina; State of South Carolina; Tennessee Historical Commission; Tennessee Wars Commission Civil War Sites Preservation Fund; Trevilian Station Battlefield Foundation; Virginia Land Conservation Foundation; and the Virginia Battlefield Preservation Fund.
The American Battlefield Trust is dedicated to preserving America’s hallowed battlegrounds and educating the public about what happened there and why it matters today. The nonprofit, nonpartisan organization has protected more than 58,000 acres associated with the Revolutionary War, War of 1812 and Civil War across 155 sites in 25 states. Learn more at www.battlefields.org.