(Washington, D.C.) – The first year of the American Civil War’s sesquicentennial commemoration was an exceptional one for the Civil War Trust, the nation’s largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization, which was able to save 2,042 acres of hallowed ground before ringing in 2012.
“Interest in the history of this pivotal period in American history is at its highest point in a generation or more,” said Trust president James Lighthizer. “The results are tangible, as institutions and individuals alike seek to leave a lasting legacy through preservation of Civil War battlefield land.”
In 2011, often working with regional partner groups and utilizing a variety of matching grant programs, the organization closed 39 separate transactions at 25 individual battlefields in 12 states. The battlefields where land was preserved in 2011 are: Hog Mountain, Ala.; Natural Bridge, Fla.; Resaca, Ga.; Perryville, Ky.; Fort DeRussy, La.; Wood Lake, Minn.; Bentonville, N.C.; Cabin Creek, Okla.; Gettysburg, Pa.; Fort Donelson, Fort Sanders/Knoxville, Franklin, Parker’s Cross Roads and Shiloh, Tenn.; Chancellorsville, Cold Harbor, Gaines’ Mill, Glendale, Manassas, Petersburg, Thoroughfare Gap, Tom’s Brook, Trevilian Station and the Wilderness, Va.; and Shepherdstown, W.Va. These successful ventures have helped the organization reach an all-time tally of more than 32,000 acres of hallowed ground saved forever.
“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.”
Early in the year, the Trust unveiled a new logo intended to better capture the dynamism and spirit of the sesquicentennial era, and in the spring published its second book, The Civil War 150: An Essential To-Do List for the 150th Anniversary, designed to promote a variety of means to experience history. During a June 30, news conference in Gettysburg, the organization announced an ambitious preservation initiative for the sesquicentennial period. Entitled Campaign 150, the effort will seek to raise $40 million during the course of the commemoration, enabling the Trust to save 20,000 acres. Also during the summer, the organization introduced a text-to-give option that allows for small donations to be made anywhere you have cell phone service — including the floor of a concert starring country music legend Trace Adkins, who joined the group’s board of trustees.
The year also saw major victories for the battlefield preservation movement, as two high-profile threats to major battlefields were resolved. On January 26, Walmart announced that it would cease to pursue construction of a supercenter on a portion of Virginia’s Wilderness battlefield, instead preserving the site because it was “the right thing to do.” The Civil War Trust and its partners in the Wilderness Battlefield Coalition had long advocated that a mutually agreeable site could be found, with local residents and the Friends of Wilderness Battlefield organization bringing the issue to court. Then, on April 14, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board denied an application to open a casino within a hotel on the fringes of Gettysburg National Military Park — the second time that such an attempt has failed, in no small part due to the efforts of the preservation community.
On the interpretation front, the Trust created a physical trail with historic markers at the Mine Run Battlefield in central Virginia, and greatly expanded its acclaimed digital interpretation offerings. Over the course of the year, three new Battle Apps — GPS-enabled mobile battlefield tours designed for use on smartphones — made their debut. To date more than 35,000 people have downloaded the Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg and Bull Run titles for iPhone or the Bull Run version for Android.
Trust Education initiatives also made great strides in 2011. In March, the organization released a new curriculum guide for teachers seeking innovative ways to bring history alive in the classroom, making it available free of charge to all educators through its website. In addition to hosting its 10th annual summer Teacher Institute in Nashville, the Trust also began expanding its on-site continuing education offerings with Regional Institutes held throughout the school year in Gettysburg and Boston.
While 2011 brought many successes, the Civil War Trust is eager for the milestones that 2012 will undoubtedly bring. In addition to the being the second year of the sesquicentennial — with major commemorative activities planned at Fort Donelson National Battlefield,Shiloh National Military Park, Richmond National Battlefield and Antietam National Battlefield, to name just a few — 2012 will also mark the organization’s 25th anniversary. The modern Civil War Trust traces its origins to the founding of the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites in 1987, in response to the rapid development experienced at many Northern Virginia battlefields, particularly Chantilly.
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 32,000 acres of battlefield land in 20 states. Learn more at www.civilwar.org, the home of the Civil War sesquicentennial.