(Jackson, Miss.) - Three big announcements marked the beginning of the Civil War Trust's 2013 annual conference in Jackson, Miss. During today's opening luncheon, Trust president James Lighthizer honored former trustee John Haynes with the group's prestigious Shelby Foote Preservation Legacy Award and presented the Brian C. Pohanka Preservation Organization of the Year Award to the Friends of Vicksburg National Military Park and Campaign. Officials from the two organizations were then joined by representatives from the Vicksburg Convention & Visitors Bureau for the official release of the Trust's latest GPS-enabled mobile battlefield tour, the Vicksburg Battle App™ guide.
"The heart of this organization lies in the passion and commitment of our members and supporters," Lighthizer said. "These exceptional individuals and organizations have enabled us to save more than 36,000 acres of battlefield land through public-private partnerships and to become a world leader in using the latest technology to teach American history."
John Haynes of Baldwyn, Miss., began his involvement in the historic preservation movement in the early 1990s as a member of the board of trustees for the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites, a forerunner of the Civil War Trust. In that capacity, he was instrumental in orchestrating one of the fledgling organization's first preservation purchases outside Virginia, at Brice's Cross Roads, Miss. Building off that first success, the Trust has cumulatively protected 1,334 acres at the site, one of the organization's greatest success stories. As a former member of the Mississippi House of Representatives with significant political acumen, Haynes also played a vital role in pioneering the organization's now-hallmark use of governmental matching grants to multiply the private donations of its members for land acquisition projects.
Although a relatively young organization, Friends of Vicksburg National Military Park and Campaign has already left a significant mark on the battlefield through involvement in a number of landscape restoration and monument maintenance projects. These endeavors have already had a tangible impact on the battlefield's visitor experience and will continue to enhance future visits to the park for generations to come. During the 150th anniversary commemoration, the group has been an invaluable partner in the planning and execution of a variety of special programs.
Together with the Vicksburg Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Friends have also joined the Trust as an official sponsor of the exciting new Vicksburg Battle App™ guide, a GPS-enabled multimedia tour of the entire campaign. This product is the latest installment in the Trust's growing series of Battle App™ guides optimized for iOS and Android devices, and its first campaign-level project in the Western Theater.
"Using technology to interpret and educate our visitors of the rich history of our area will enhance the experience for so many," said Bess Averett, Executive Director of Friends of Vicksburg National Military Park and Campaign. "Our mission is to preserve the tangible reminders of bravery and perseverance of those who fought in the Battle for Vicksburg and to help each visitor experience and understand the impact of the people and events that comprised the most strategic and decisive campaign of the Civil War. We feel partnering with the Civil War Trust for the creation of this Battle App™ guide is a perfect complement to our mission. We are so pleased with the final product."
Numerous features of the Vicksburg Battle App™ guide enhance the battlefield experience by putting maps, audio and video content, factual resources and innovative programs for exploring sites into users' hands. Unlike traditional guided tours, the resources available through the Battle App™ guide allow users to move at their own leisure and with total confidence, thanks to extensive GPS-enabled maps. Three individual tours covering aspects of the Vicksburg Campaign ranging from Grant's approach to life in the besieged city take users to a total of 40 virtual signs and 70 additional points of interest.
"The Vicksburg Battle App™ guide adds a level of interpretation that is vital to interacting with today's travelers," said Vicksburg CVB executive director Bill Seratt. "It is a valuable resource for those seeking an overview of the Siege of Vicksburg and for those seeking a more in-depth study of the Campaign for Mississippi."
The Civil War Trust's 2013 annual conference, headquartered at the Hilton Jackson Hotel through Sunday, provides members an opportunity to celebrate the organization's successes while learning about the battles of the Vicksburg Campaign, which occurred 150 years ago this month. Participants partake in lectures, tours and presentations by top historians. During two full days of battlefield excursions, some tours will feature lengthy hikes of individual engagements, with others provide more general overviews of the campaign. The conference is made possible in part by a generous contribution from History™. Additional recipients of 2013 preservation achievement awards will be recognized during a Saturday evening banquet.
Civil War Trust is the largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization in the United States. Its mission is to preserve our nation's endangered Civil War battlefields and to promote appreciation of these hallowed grounds. To date, it has preserved more than 36,000 acres of battlefield land in 20 states, including more than 3,300 in Mississippi. Learn more at www.civilwar.org, the home of the Civil War sesquicentennial.