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Trust's goal: 20K acres
Civil War Trust hopes to preserve 20,000 battlefield acres and fund education work.

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Date published: 7/3/2011


Deep in his bones, Trace Adkins believes in America and its heritage.

So much so that the country-music phenomenon is dedicating much of the next 4 years to what he calls the "last, best chance" to save Civil War battlefields.

Adkins, a Louisiana native, revealed his intentions Thursday on the Gettysburg battlefield on the eve of that fight's 148th anniversary.

That spot and this weekend were a fitting place and time to launch the most ambitious private-sector Civil War preservation effort in U.S. history, advocates said.

The nonprofit Civil War Trust aims to raise $40 million during the war's sesquicentennial, which began this April and ends in 2015.

It intends to preserve 20,000 acres, using the campaign's private-sector money to leverage government grants and foundation and corporate support. That total would equal about 10 Vicksburgs, four Manassas battlefield parks or a thousand Slaughter Pens--the farm the trust recently preserved on the southern end of the Fredericksburg battlefield.

The effort is unprecedented, Civil War Trust Chairman Henry Simpson said. "Never before have we set our sights so high, either in terms of fundraising or land-protection goals," he said.

Adkins headlined the announcement of the trust's "Campaign 150: Our Time, Our Legacy" at Lutheran Theological Seminary near Gettysburg College.

"Let's remember the sacrifice, courage and bravery that is that generation's legacy," Adkins said of the 600,000-plus Union and Confederate soldiers who died during the five-year-long war.

"What will our legacy be? Will we allow it to be forgotten?" he asked.

Failing to act now will have terrible consequences, Adkins said. As one example, the platinum-album singer cited Franklin, Tenn., the whole of which was a battlefield where Confederate losses rivaled those in Pickett's Charge.

Every schoolchild knows of Gettysburg, he noted. Few have heard of Franklin, because its battlefield was consumed by development early in the 20th century.

"That site is a sad commentary on the preservation of battlefields," Adkins said. "The challenge is trying to preserve and maintain them, like Gettysburg."

In his debut as a new member of the trust's board of directors, Adkins said he will make Campaign 150 his top charitable priority through 2015. For starters, he'll plug it at each of his concerts, pairing a video now in production with a new text-for-preservation effort the trust is launching.

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In honor of the 148th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, the Civil War Trust has a gift for smartphone owners. Its Gettysburg "battle app," a GPS-enabled mobile battlefield tour, is free for downloading today. The app, usually $2.99, is available from Apple's iTunes Store. Optimized for use on iPhones and iPod Touches, it works on the iPad.

Covering the action at Devil's Den and Little Round Top, the app delivers audio, video and other interactive features to immerse users--on- or off-site--in the experience of battle.

"Our goal is to encourage visitors to engage with history in a new way," said Garry Adelman, the trust's director of history and education. With this app, you can visit the battlefield with a wealth of information at your fingertips."

Another app is available for the Battle of Fredericksburg, and the trust will release its Battle of Bull Run/First Manassas app in mid-July for the 150th anniversary of that engagement. Details can be found at civilwar.org/battleapp.

Twenty-first-century technology will be an ally in protecting 19th-century history, the Civil War Trust hopes. For the first time, people can now contribute directly to its work by text message, any time, anywhere. Texting "civilwar" to 50555 will make a one-time $10 charge appear on their wireless bill or be deducted from their prepaid balance.