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Trust's goal: 20K acres

July 3, 2011 12:15 am

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Civil War Trust Chairman Henry Simpson (left), singer Trace Adkins, Gettysburg Park Superintendent Robert Kirby and historian James McPherson announce Campaign 150. 070311SlaughterPen.jpg

Battlefield properties in Virginia that the Civil War Trust has preserved (clockwise from top left): Malvern Hill near Richmond; Cedar Mountain in Culpeper County; Slaughter Pen farm in Spotsylvania County; the Crater at Petersburg.

By CLINT SCHEMMER

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.

People can also give through the trust's website, civilwar.org, a trove of photos, animated maps, historian videos, period accounts and iPhone apps for battlefields, including Fredericksburg and Gettysburg.

Campaign 150's goal, trust spokeswoman Mary Koik said, is to fill in the critical gaps that would prevent visitors from getting a "transformative," you-are-there feeling for what historians think are the conflict's most important places.

One of those historians, Pulitzer Prize winner James McPherson, spoke at the Gettysburg kickoff, saying the sesquicentennial is the moment for such a bold initiative.

"If successful, Campaign 150 will have allowed us to set aside those landscapes that future generations will require in order to gain a full understanding of the Civil War," he said. "This project will enable us to substantively complete protection of many of the conflict's storied fields."

Over the past decade, one parcel at a time, the 55,000-member trust has preserved 30,000 acres in 30 states and raised $180 million from private and public sources.

Virginia is certain to figure significantly in the campaign, as it did in the war, Koik said. More battles were fought in the commonwealth than in any other state.

The trust has preserved more than 16,000 acres in Virginia, more than anywhere else. Some of its most significant sites in the state are at Petersburg; the Glendale, Malvern Hill and First Deep Bottom battlefields around Richmond; the Third Winchester battlefield in the Shenandoah Valley; and a 1,500-acre portion of the Brandy Station cavalry battlefield in Culpeper County.

Locally, its most recent high-profile acquisitions include the Middlebrook Tract on Saunders Field at the Wilderness and the Payne's Farm battlefield, both in Orange County; the Wagner Tract, where Confederate Lt. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's troops overwhelmed the Union defenses at Chancellorsville; the First Day at Chancellorsville battlefield along State Route 3; and the Slaughter Pen along Routes 2 and 17 in Spotsylvania County.

But "there is still plenty of work to be done in Virginia," Koik said of the trust's plans in the state.

Here and nationally, in many places where some battlefield land has been saved, she said, holes remain that--left to an uncertain fate--could fragment those landscapes and render them undesirable to visitors and tourists.

"What we want are the sites that historians agree will be necessary, in another century, to tell the story in its entirety--not just the Eastern theater or Virginia," Koik said. "We want to really cover all the bases."

Already, the campaign is 20 percent of the way there, with $8 million in pledges from members and several of the trust's board members, Koik said.

Campaign 150 will also emphasize educational programs to benefit students of all ages, inside classrooms and on battlefields, the trust said. Among the new offerings, regional workshops for educators will be held in cities across the nation, beginning this fall in Boston.

Of the drive's $40 million target, $5 million will be budgeted for education and technology programs.

The trust began in Fredericksburg as the Association for the Preservation for Civil War Sites, created in 1987.

One of the association's founders, Fredericksburg author and historian Robert K. Krick, hailed the trust's unprecedented fund drive.

"The time is drawing nigh when even folks indifferent to historic sites will have cause to relish the open countryside of preserved battlefields, as asphalt and nail salons inundate the entire mid-Atlantic littoral," Krick said.

"The CWT's newly announced goal seems almost beyond reason, but everything they have achieved heretofore has been in the same category. They probably will meet it, and generations to come will bless them for it."

Clint Schemmer: 540/368-5029
Email: cschemmer@freelancestar.com




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.




Copyright 2014 The Free Lance-Star Publishing Company.