Robert Clutsam

American Battlefield Trust Honors Preservation Champions with Leadership Awards During Annual Conference

Leading battlefield preservation organization recognizes the efforts of Dr. Carroll Van West and Tennessee Wars Commission

Mary Koik, (202) 367-1861 x7231
Colleen Cheslak-Poulton, (202) 367-1861 x7234

(Franklin, Tenn.) — At the culminating banquet of its 2023 Annual Conference in Franklin, Tenn., the American Battlefield Trust recognized two top battlefield preservation advocates with the organization’s annual preservation leadership awards. Dr. Carroll Van West, state historian and longtime director of the Middle Tennessee State University Center for Historic Preservation, received the State Preservation Leadership Award and the Tennessee Wars Commission received the Brian C. Pohanka Preservation Organization Award. These leaders were recognized for their efforts in helping advance history and preservation in the Volunteer State. 

“Our work to preserve, inspire and educate requires passion and dedication from individuals from every corner of the nation,” said Trust President David Duncan. “The preservation leaders we recognized in Franklin are a strong representation of the hard work and commitment that it takes to advocate for our history and our hallowed grounds.” 

For more than two decades, the Trust has used its awards program to recognize individuals and groups for their unwavering support in protecting tangible links to our history. From historians and National Park Service personnel to lawmakers and local preservation groups, the Trust has been honored to recognize the efforts of these advocates through the years. Despite a myriad of backgrounds, Trust award recipients have ensured their work will have lasting contributions to historic preservation. 

The Tennessee Wars Commission was presented with the Trust's Brian C. Pohanka Preservation Organization Award in recognition of its work in advancing the study of military history in Tennessee. The state organization has successfully worked to preserve, protect and restore battlefields and historic sites in Tennessee related to conflicts in the 18th and 19th centuries — including the French and Indian War, Revolutionary War, Mexican-American War, War of 1812 and the Civil War. Together, the Trust and the Tennessee Wars Commission have saved hundreds of acres across the state and worked to administer grants related to interpretation and restoration work. The award is named after the late Brian Pohanka, a lauded historian and a founding member of the modern battlefield preservation movement. 

David Duncan with Tennessee Wars Commission Representatives
Trust President David Duncan presents the Brian C. Pohanka Preservation Organization Award at the Trust's 2023 Annual Conference. Buddy Secor

“Bringing people closer to Tennessee’s wartime stories, and the many perspectives they encompass, provides pathways to understanding the great depth of the Volunteer State’s past,” said Tennessee Wars Commission Program Director Nina Scall. “It is an honor for the Tennessee Wars Commission to be recognized by the American Battlefield Trust — who we’ve partnered with on numerous occasions — for the extensive work we partake in to protect and uplift these precious pieces of Tennesse’s military heritage.” 

Additionally, Dr. Caroll Van West was presented with the Trust’s State Preservation Leadership Award, for his work in championing Civil War history and preservation in Tennessee. As the gubernatorially appointed state historian, Dr. Van West has been a strong voice for preservation across Tennessee. Currently he leads the Center for Historic Preservation at Middle Tennessee State University, highlighting the power of place to younger generations. “Understanding the Civil War is fundamental to Tennessee history,” said Van West. “Preserving the places and stories associated with a time that changed America forever is always worth fighting for.” 

Earlier in the week, during a press conference at Nashville’s Fort Negley, the Trust presented Mayor John Cooper and Jeneene Blackman, president of the African American Cultural Alliance, with its Preservation Legacy Awards in recognition of their longstanding work on behalf of that important site. Continuing its recognition of preservation champions, the Trust paid tribute to novelist Robert Hicks, and former Executive Director of the Tennessee Civil War Preservation Association Mary Ann Peckham during the weekend. 

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 56,000 acres associated with the Revolutionary War, War of 1812 and Civil War across 155 sites in 25 states. Learn more at