(Appomattox, Va.) – On the eve of the 150th anniversary of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell joined with the Civil War Trust and other conservation leaders at a news conference today to celebrate the remarkable battlefield preservation accomplishments achieved here using federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) monies.
“Our Civil War and other battlefields are hallowed places where we honor the fallen and come to better understand the forces and events that shaped the course of our nation,” Secretary Jewell said. “In partnership with states, non-profit organizations like the Civil War Trust, and other stakeholders, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has made it possible to permanently protect and interpret these places for generations of American people. I ask Congress for their support for full-funding and reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund to preserve our history while boosting tourism that has an important economic impact on communities across Virginia and around the country.”
LWCF funding, through its American Battlefield Land Acquisition Grant program, has been responsible for the protection of 45 acres at Appomattox Station and 63.6 acres at Appomattox Court House – the last battlefields of the Civil War in Virginia. More than 1,200 men in blue and gray fell in these two battles, seeing their duty through to the very end.
“The 108 acres saved on these last battlefields of the Civil War exemplifies the success of our long-standing collaboration with the Department of the Interior and the Civil War Trust,” remarked Danette Poole, Director of Planning and Recreation Resources for the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. The Commonwealth of Virginia has been an active partner in battlefield preservation at Appomattox, contributing $1.3 million in state funds since 2008.”
The battle at Appomattox Station occurred on April 8, 1865, as Union cavalry attacked Confederate supply trains after a sharp fight, captured the trains and 25 guns of the fleeing southern army. The next morning, a sunny Palm Sunday, Confederate Gen. Lee made a final attack at Appomattox Court House in a futile effort to break through the Federal forces in front of his army. With no other alternative except annihilation, Lee surrendered to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant on the afternoon of April 9 in the parlor of Wilmer McLean’s home in the court house village. Grant’s lenient surrender terms, which allowed officers to keep their side arms and men to keep their horses, set the tone for reconciliation between North and South.
“As the sun sets on the sesquicentennial commemoration of the Civil War, I am proud of the strong partnership we have forged with the federal government and Virginia to preserve battlefield land and leave a lasting legacy for the future,” stated Civil War Trust President James Lighthizer. “Of the nearly 41,000 acres the Trust has saved in its 37-year history, funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund has been essential in saving more than half of that land. State funds have been crucial in this effort as well, along with the generous contributions of Civil War Trust members.”
The 108 acres preserved with LWCF funds by the Civil War Trust at Appomattox Station and Appomattox Court House were purchased as the result of six separate transactions between 2008 and 2014, totaling $2.6 million. Trust currently owns the properties, with easements on three of the properties held by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (easements on the three other tracts are pending). The Appomattox Station property will be transferred to the non-profit Appomattox 1865 Foundation later this year to manage as a battlefield park.
The LWCF American Battlefield Land Acquisition Grants program is a matching grants program that encourages state and private sector investment in battlefield preservation. The program has been used to protect 24,000 acres of battlefield land in 17 states. The program is administered by the American Battlefield Protection Program, an agency within the National Park Service.
In December 2014, President Barack Obama signed into law legislation reauthorizing the American Battlefield Land Acquisition Grants program, expanding its mission to include protection of Civil War, Revolutionary War, and War of 1812 battlefields. Congress appropriated $8.9 million for the program for FY2015; the White House included the same amount in its FY2016 budget request.
“The continued bipartisan support from both the Obama Administration and Congress for the Battlefield Land Acquisition Grants program ensures that our mission to preserve America’s battlefields will continue long after the 150th anniversary of the Civil War comes to a close,” Lighthizer said. “We thank Secretary Jewell for her enthusiasm for this successful LWCF program.”
About the American Battlefield Trust
The American Battlefield 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, the Trust has preserved almost 41,000 acres of battlefield land in 20 states, including 21,900 acres in Virginia. Learn more at www.civilwar.org.