(Washington, D.C.) - Twenty five years after the beginning of the modern Civil War preservation movement, the Civil War Trust has completed the most successful year in its history, permanently protecting 3,735 acres of hallowed ground in 2012. Cumulatively, the group and its predecessor organizations have now helped saved in excess of 35,700 acres at 120 historic sites in 20 states.
"I am confident that 2012 will long be remembered as one of the greatest years in the history of the modern battlefield preservation movement," said Trust president James Lighthizer. "The ongoing commemoration of the Civil War's sesquicentennial and our own silver anniversary proved to be a powerful combination, allowing us to leave a meaningful and permanent legacy of this profound period in American history."
In 2012, the organization closed 39 separate transactions at 26 individual battlefields in eight states. The battlefields where land was preserved in 2012 are: Resaca, Ga.; Mill Springs, Perryville and Rowlett's Station, Ky.; Mansfield, La.; Averasborough and Bentonville, N.C.; Gettysburg, Pa.; Fallen Timbers, Franklin, Johnsonville and Shiloh, Tenn.; Appomattox Court House, Cedar Creek, Cedar Mountain, Chancellorsville, Cool Spring, Cross Keys, Gaines' Mill, Kelly's Ford, Middleburg, Mine Run, Petersburg, Tom's Brook and the Wilderness, Va.; and Summit Point, W.Va.
Not only was the Trust's preservation track record in 2012 notable for the total number of acres saved, but also for the incredible historic significance of the battlefield land protected in perpetuity. For example, a $1.3 million campaign at Cedar Creek, announced in February, preserved for the first time land associated with the dramatic Union rally and counterattack that carried the day on October 19, 1864 - as well as the site of the 8th Vermont Monument, one of only three memorials on the battlefield. In November, the Trust completed what Lighthizer declared one of the organization's three greatest achievements: preservation of 285 acres at Gaines' Mill, effectively quintupling the amount of preserved land, thanks to member donations and a $1.5 million matching grant from the Commonwealth of Virginia's transportation enhancement program.
Throughout the year, the Trust strove to coordinate preservation initiatives with sesquicentennial commemoration activities. Sometimes - as at Mill Springs in January, Cedar Mountain in August and Perryville in October - this meant announcing a new fundraising campaign to preserve land for that battle's 150th anniversary. Other times - as at Fort Donelson, Tenn., in February - it meant holding ceremonies to transfer land previously preserved by the Trust to the National Park Service. At Shiloh in April, the Trust did both simultaneously, transferring 167 acres to Shiloh National Military Park and beginning a new effort to protect 504 additional acres -the largest single acquisition of land at Shiloh since the establishment of the park in 1894.
Such land preservation success, however, is rarely achieved without partnerships between the Trust, government officials and other nonprofit entities. These 3,735 acres preserved in 2012 would not have been saved without the generous assistance of: the American Battlefield Protection Program, the National Park Service, the Kentucky Heritage Council and Kentucky Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Louisiana Office of State Parks, Johnsonville State Historic Park, the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site, the Tennessee Department of Transportation and Tennessee Wars Commission and the Virginia Departments of Conservation and Recreation, Historic Resources and Transportation. Numerous nonprofit preservation groups - including the Bluegrass Conservancy, Central Virginia Battlefields Trust, Franklin's Charge, Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield, the Georgia Battlefields Association, the Land Trust of the Eastern Panhandle (W.Va.), the Land Trust for Tennessee, the Mill Springs Battlefield Association, and the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation - as well as supportive municipal governments also played a crucial role in the process.
"While the protection of battlefield land where the Civil War was fought will always remain at the heart of our mission," said Lighthizer, "we also seek to promote appreciation and understanding of American history through a variety of advocacy, education and interpretation projects. We hope that these efforts will help inspire the future generations of Americans to study their heritage."
The Trust also continues to lead the field when it comes to using 21st century technology to bring 19th century history to life. In 2012, the group's flagship website www.civilwar.org received in excess of 2.4 million unique visitors and 9.5 million page views, with both categories experiencing a more than 70 percent increase over the previous year. Moreover, more than 137,000 people follow the Trust's activities and updates on Facebook. All of this is proof positive that, thanks to ongoing sesquicentennial commemorations, public interest in the Civil War era is on the rise.
Over the course of the year, the Trust debuted five all-new Battle Apps - GPS-enabled, multimedia smartphone tours intended to encourage tourism to Civil War sites. To date, more than 100,000 people have downloaded the Antietam, Bull Run (including a version optimized for iPad), Cedar Creek, Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg: Devil's Den & Little Round Top, Malvern Hill, Petersburg and Second Manassas apps for iPhone or Android devices. For the 150th anniversaries of Antietam, Md., in September, and Fredericksburg, Va., in December, the Trust also unveiled 360 degree panoramic tours of the battlefields with embedded video and other content designed to provide the next-best thing to a physical visit. Meanwhile, the Trust opened new interpretive walking tails at Spring Hill, Tenn., and at Petersburg, in conjunction with Pamplin Historical Park.
During 2012, the Trust received a variety of awards and recognitions for its work. In July, its membership magazine Hallowed Ground earned top honors for outstanding quality through the APEX Awards for Publication Excellence, receiving its fourth-consecutive Grand Award - one of only 100 bestowed out of nearly than 3,400 entries in the international contest. The organization also continued to earn accolades for its sound fiscal management and commitment to top-notch donor relations, receiving a prestigious 2012 Top-Rated Award by GreatNonprofits, the leading provider of user reviews about nonprofit organizations, and earning accreditation from the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance.
The modern Civil War Trust traces its origins to the founding of the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites in 1987 and, throughout its silver anniversary year, the organization honored many of the individuals responsible for the creation of that pioneering group. From its beginnings in response to the rapid development experienced at many Northern Virginia historic sites, particularly Chantilly in Fairfax County, the battlefield preservation movement has grown and matured significantly, without losing the vision of its creators. While the ensuing 25 years - and 2012 in particular - brought many successes, the Civil War Trust is eager for the milestones that 2013 will undoubtedly bring, including sesquicentennial commemorations of some of the war's most significant battles, like Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Vicksburg and Chickamauga.
The 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, the Trust has preserved more than 35,000 acres of battlefield land in 20 states. Learn more at www.civilwar.org, the home of the Civil War sesquicentennial.