National Historic Preservation Group Forms American Battlefield Trust
(Washington, D.C.) – The Civil War Trust, a national nonprofit preservation group recognized for its success in saving battlefield land, has formed the American Battlefield Trust — a new umbrella entity dedicated to preserving America’s hallowed battlegrounds and educating the public about what happened there and why it matters today.
The new umbrella organization reflects how the Civil War Trust’s battlefield preservation achievements have grown and its mission expanded to include other conflicts from America’s formative first century. In 2014, at the request of the National Park Service, the Trust extended its mandate to include protection of Revolutionary War and War of 1812 battlefields. Its decision to do so coincided with the passage of federal legislation aimed at preserving battlefields of those two conflicts. Since then, the Trust has saved nearly 700 acres of battlefield land associated with the American Revolution and War of 1812 while continuing to save Civil War battle sites at a record pace.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced that the Trust had been selected to serve as the federal government’s nonprofit partner for the commemoration of the 250th anniversary of the founding of the United States. The organization’s commitment to protecting Civil War battlefields was recently underscored by the announcement that it would be saving 18 acres of core battlefield land on historic Seminary Ridge at Gettysburg.
“We see preserved battlefields as outdoor classrooms that both illuminate and inspire,” said American Battlefield Trust President James Lighthizer. “They allow young and old alike to walk in the footsteps of America’s first citizen soldiers. No Hollywood movie, documentary, or museum exhibit can compare to standing amid the now-quiet trenches of Yorktown or gazing across the field of Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg.”
The Civil War Trust will continue as the principal division under the American Battlefield Trust umbrella, focusing on battlefields and educational outreach related to that conflict. A second division known as the Revolutionary War Trust will serve a similar function, concentrating on battlefields associated with America’s War for Independence. According to Lighthizer, “this new organizational structure gives us the strength and flexibility needed to protect critically important battlefield land in an increasingly competitive real estate market.”
The formation of the American Battlefield Trust is the latest step in the evolution of the modern battlefield preservation movement, which began in the mid-1980s in response to the loss of important historic sites to spreading commercial and residential development. The new entity is a direct descendant, through a series of mergers and name changes, of the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites, founded by a group of professional historians and preservation advocates in 1987.
The organization is best known for its high-profile battlefield preservation efforts, including protection of the historic epicenter of the Antietam battlefield, the site of George Washington’s famous charge at Princeton, the Slaughter Pen Farm at Fredericksburg, and Robert E. Lee’s battlefield headquarters at Gettysburg. In addition, as the Civil War Trust, it engaged in grassroots campaigns to prevent development at Chancellorsville and the Wilderness in Virginia; Franklin, Tennessee; and Morris Island, South Carolina (site of the famous charge portrayed in the movie Glory).
“Over those years and under a variety of names, we have saved nearly 50,000 acres of battlefield land throughout the United States, while earning accolades for being one of the most efficient and effective nonprofits in the nation,” said Lighthizer. “Now, as the American Battlefield Trust, we will continue that tradition of preservation leadership.”
Although primarily known for its land preservation successes, the organization is also firmly committed to promoting the rich and diverse history of America’s first century conflicts. Using battlefield land as a unique and powerful teaching tool, the Trust’s educational efforts include popular videos, you-are-there Facebook Live broadcasts, GPS-enabled smartphone apps, online battle panoramas, animated maps, classroom field-trip sponsorships, a national Teacher Institute, hundreds of website articles and images, and “Generations” events that encourage family members of all ages to experience history in the places where it occurred.
The American Battlefield Trust is dedicated to preserving America’s hallowed battlegrounds and educating the public about what happened there and why it matters today. To date, the nonprofit, nonpartisan organization has protected nearly 50,000 acres of battlefield land associated with the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and Civil War. Learn more at www.battlefields.org.