(Washington, DC.) - The Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT), the nation's largest nonprofit battlefield preservation group, announced this week its land preservation accomplishments for 2007. The organization permanently protected 1,616 acres of hallowed ground at 12 different Civil War battlefields in five states. This string of successes enabled CWPT to reach an historic milestone of 25,000 acres saved during two decades of preservation work. Overall, CWPT has protected 25,289 acres of battlefield land at 99 sites in 18 states.
“Our business is buying dirt, and in 2007, business was good,” quipped CWPT President James Lighthizer. “Not only were we able to protect land at battlefields in Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia, but this organization also passed an important milestone – in the past 20 years our members helped save more than 25,000 acres of irreplaceable American history from becoming strip malls and housing developments.”
CWPT traces its origins to 1987 when a group of historians, concerned with the destruction of Northern Virginia battlefields, formed the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites. In November 1999, that group merged with the similarly aimed Civil War Trust to form the current organization. In the eight year since the merger, CWPT has helped save approximately 18,000 acres of battlefield land.
The year’s most significant land acquisitions came at the Glendale battlefield in Henrico County, Va., where historians now estimate that CWPT has successfully preserved 75 percent of the core fighting area. With a $4.1 million price tag, the 319 acres were also CWPT’s most expensive purchase of the year. Yet, as of the first of this year, CWPT has already received in excess of half of this fundraising goal in received gifts and solid commitments.
“At Glendale we have done something truly unique,” said Lighthizer. “We have preserved nearly the entire battlefield from scratch, not merely filled in gaps left by previous preservation efforts. This is ground that, according to eminent historians, saw some of the fiercest hand-to-hand fighting of the war.”
Meanwhile, at the Champion Hill battlefield in Hinds County, Miss., CWPT was able to employ creative preservation strategies to ensure that some of the most critical battlefield of Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s Vicksburg Campaign is protected for posterity. In late May, CWPT placed conservation easements on 144 acres owned by members of the Champion family, for whom the area and the battle were named. By purchasing its development rights, CWPT has ensured that the land can never developed, while simultaneously keeping this ancestral property in the hands of the Champion family, which has been a careful steward of the battlefield for generations.
This autumn, CWPT also completed its most ambitious historic interpretation project, installing nearly five miles of walking and biking trails on the battlefield at Third Winchester in Frederick County, Va. Prior to the completion of these trails and accompanying signs, the battlefield was challenging to navigate and the story difficult to follow for anyone without a knowledgeable guide. Now, however, the site has been transformed into a premier outdoor classroom for students of all ages and a valuable open space in the midst of a fast-growing community.
In addition to their own merits, many of last year's accomplishments also played into larger patterns of success. When considered with previous preservation efforts at neighboring Malvern Hill, CWPT’s 2007 work at Glendale has created a three-mile long corridor of protected battlefield. The 422 acres CWPT helped to preserve last year at McDowell, Va., means that nearly the entire battlefield has been protected from development. Elsewhere, CWPT has now helped protect a total of 886 acres at White Oak Road, Va., 639 acres at Champion Hill, Miss., and 385 acres at Perryville, Ky.
“Although it is incredibly satisfying for me to reminisce on the successes of the past year – 20 years and 25,000 acres of priceless history protected forever – the sad truth is that time is running out to save our remaining Civil War battlefields,” Lighthizer said. “If we do not act soon, in some cases in the next few months, these hallowed grounds will be lost to us forever. The development pressures facing many communities with Civil War battlefields are immense, but we will continue our efforts to protect these unique resources for future generations.”
CWPT also continues to be one of the most effective and efficient non-profits in the nation. For the second year in a row, CWPT has received a coveted 4-Star rating for financial accountability from Charity Navigator, and independent evaluator of more than 5,000 charities nationwide. According to Charity Navigator, only 15 percent of organizations receive the 4-Star rating two years in a row
The full roster of sites protected by CWPT in 2007 includes: 96 acres at Perryville and 300 acres at Richmond in Kentucky; 144 acres at Champion Hill and 3 acres at Brice’s Crossroads in Mississippi; 0.5 acres at Franklin, 88 acres at Parker’s Cross Roads and 6 acres at Shiloh in Tennessee; 319 acres at Glendale, 422 acres at McDowell, 10 acres at Petersburg and 9 acres at White Oak Road in Virginia; and 219 acres at Summit Point in West Virginia.
With 65,000 members, CWPT is the largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization in the United States. Its mission is to preserve our nation’s remaining Civil War battlefields. Since 1987, the organization has saved more than 25,000 acres of hallowed ground. CWPT’s website is located at www.civilwar.org.