(Richmond, Va.) - With the sesquicentennial commemoration of the American Civil War now concluded, the Civil War Trust, the nation's premier battlefield preservation organization, has declared victory in Campaign 150: Our Time, Our Legacy, the organization's recent fundraising and land preservation initiative. Since the campaign was announced in June 2011, the group raised in excess of $52.5 million, which was used to protect more than 10,000 acres of hallowed ground at 64 individual battlefields in 16 states.
"Truly, there is no substitute for this hallowed ground, said Trust president James Lighthizer. "It is the one thing that will always endure. Once the myriad of books released during this four-year period gather dust; once all the speeches and reenactments fade from memory; once we begin to forget the profound sense of wonder gained during the anniversary; the land will still be there to remind us, teach us and inspire us."
The Campaign's success was remarkable, leading to the largest sum ever privately raised for heritage land preservation. After reaching its initial fundraising target with easily a year to spare, the Trust's Board issued a new "stretch goal" for the effort -to raise an additional $10 million in the final year of the anniversary period.
Trust leadership saw that the sesquicentennial would provide a natural resurgence of public interest in the Civil War period during the limited window of opportunity to protect highly threatened battlefield land, especially near growing urban areas. Thus, Campaign 150 was designed as a vehicle to help make the general public look forward, and not just back, over the course of the anniversary. It was positioned to shape the conversation of what the sesquicentennial would mean in the context of historical study.
"Saving battlefield land is not just about respecting our past, as important as that is," said Lighthizer. "Preservation ensures future generations of Americans have a powerful and tangible vehicle to learn the personal stories of courage and sacrifice by those who gave us the country. It is a solemn promise to the men and women who wear our military uniforms today, a pledge that they, too, will be remembered for their service a generation, a century or more from now."
Using the leverage of Campaign 150 financing, the Trust was able to make preservation and 21st-century interpretation part of the story of nearly every major battle anniversary, giving present-day implications to media coverage that might otherwise have amounted to a simple recitation of "this day in history." Under the campaign's banner, major acquisition efforts coincided with battle anniversaries and critical lands were transferred to the National Park Service during relevant sesquicentennial commemorations. Major emphasis was placed on substantively "completing" battlefields by obtaining large tracts that dramatically enhanced current holdings, and by securing inholdings within existing parks.
"By every measure imaginable, Campaign 150 proved to be a profound success, and all of that success is a testament to the dedication of many people and a great cause," said campaign chairman Jeff Rodek. "The Civil War Trust wishes to thank each and every one of the campaign's tens of thousands of donors and supporters across the nation for their role in this remarkable American success story."
The tally of victories achieved by the Trust through Campaign 150 reads like a summary of the war's greatest struggles: Manassas, Va. (49 acres); Wilson's Creek, Mo. (60 acres); Antietam, Md. (44 acres), Chancellorsville, Va. (133 acres); Brandy Station (56 acres); Gettysburg, Pa. (135 acres); the Wilderness, Va. (50 acres); Resaca, Ga. (473 acres); and Appomattox, Va. (52 acres). Moreover, the Trust made significant progress in its efforts to educate the public about the history of the Civil War and its relevance in shaping the American consciousness in the classroom, in print and online. Thanks to Campaign 150 donations, these exciting educational tools were free of charge. Through the generous support of Trust members, a host of major land stewardship initiatives restored landscapes and new interpretive trails in time for anniversary events.
Campaign 150 was envisioned as a focused, realistic roadmap for Civil War battlefield preservation in the 21st century - a systematic, disciplined and proactive marshaling of the resources necessary to save the most historically significant and threatened hallowed ground in a limited window before the forces of development overtake us. For all this success, however, much work remains before the Trust and its partners. Rather than rest on the campaign's successes, we refuse to relinquish our momentum. As long as there are historically significant pieces of land either critically endangered and on the brink of destruction or salvageable through targeted landscape reclamation efforts, the Civil War Trust will stand ready to continue the spirit of Campaign 150, stepping forward to protect America's hallowed ground.
The Civil War Trust is America's premier nonprofit battlefield preservation organization. Although primarily focused on the protection of Civil War battlefields, through its Campaign 1776 initiative, the Trust also seeks to save the battlefields connected to the Revolutionary War and War of 1812. To date, the Trust has preserved 41,000 acres of battlefield land in 20 states. Learn more at www.civilwar.org.
The Civil War Preservation Trust became the Civil War Trust in January 2011; the Civil War Trust became a division of the American Battlefield Trust in May 2018. Campaign 1776 was created in 2014 as an initiative of the Civil War Trust; in May 2018 it became the Revolutionary War Trust, a division of the American Battlefield Trust.