After twenty years of leadership and tens of thousands of acres forever protected, Jim Lighthizer is retiring from his position as President and CEO of the American Battlefield Trust. In tribute to Jim’s service to our organization and the movement to save America’s hallowed ground, we’re proud to introduce The Lighthizer Legacy Fund.
This Fund will focus on three big goals: 1. The significant preservation of the Gaines’ Mill and Cold Harbor battlefields; 2. Blazing the Revolutionary War Liberty Trail in South Carolina; and 3. The significant preservation of the key battlefields of the 1862 Maryland Campaign – Antietam, South Mountain, Harpers Ferry and Shepherdstown. Given Jim’s passion for this cause, it wasn’t easy to select favorites among so many worthy preservation projects, but these three areas hold personal significance for Jim and exceptional significance to our nation’s history.
Today, we have the opportunity to inaugurate The Lighthizer Legacy Fund by preserving 338 acres of Civil War hallowed ground, including 278 critical acres at Shepherdstown. Here are the details about the land and history that comprise these 338 acres.
Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Through a special U.S. Department of Agriculture grant and working with the Jefferson County Farmland Protection Board, we have a chance to save 278 acres at Shepherdstown, more of this battlefield than has ever been saved before.
The Battle of Shepherdstown was fought on September 19 and 20, 1862, just days after the Battle of Antietam, as a detachment of the Union Fifth Corps pushed across the Potomac River at Boteler’s Ford, attacking the Confederate rearguard and capturing four guns. Early on the 20th, two more Union divisions crossed to establish a bridgehead, but a Confederate division counterattacked while many of the Federals were crossing, nearly annihilating the famed 118th Pennsylvania regiment.
This action discouraged any additional Federal pursuit of Lee’s Army, and, on November 7 (seven weeks after Antietam), an exasperated President Lincoln relieved General George B. McClellan of command of the Army of the Potomac.
White Oak Road, Virginia. On March 31, 1865, as part of a coordinated Union assault at several points along the Confederate defenses of Petersburg, Fifth Corps troops moved against southerners entrenched along White Oak Road, but were temporarily stopped by a crushing counterattack. However, this was 1865, not 1862, and the Federals were able not only to stabilize their forces but also stage a counter assault, driving the Confederates from the field and setting up the Battle of Five Forks the next day.
After pursuing an important 48-acre property for many years, the Trust is finally able to buy it, adding to its significant battlefield holdings that will eventually become part of the Petersburg National Battlefield.
Brown’s Ferry, Tennessee. The third tract we have a chance to save today is 9 acres associated with the Battles of Brown’s Ferry and Wauhatchie , part of the 1863 Chickamauga Campaign. While there may not have been actual combat on this ground, it is integral to the story of the Battle of Chattanooga – specifically the opening of the Federal “Cracker Line” from the nearby Brown’s Ferry landing area. Most recently, this tract has been under dire threat of becoming a residential subdivision.
The historic log cabin on the property called “Brown’s Tavern,” likely used as a shelter and meeting point during the Union’s 1863-1864 winter encampment, is still standing. The tavern is also significant for its association with the removal of Cherokee Native Americans during the Trail of Tears.
Local and state organizations, including our preservation partner, National Park Partners, have wanted to see this property preserved for a long time. With expected federal and state matching grants, we can save this landmark site, with a nearly $500,000 total cost, for less than $20,000!
Bentonville, North Carolina. The fourth tract is a small but very important 3-acre piece of the Bentonville Battlefield. This land witnessed action, assaults and maneuvers on every day of the massive three-day battle, March 19 – 21, 1865. Acre by acre, day by day, we continue a decades-long effort to preserve the site of the largest and most significant battle fought in North Carolina during the Civil War.
Just 30 years ago, there was virtually nothing preserved at Bentonville Battlefield. Today, we’ve managed to save 1,864 acres and counting!
When it comes to historic land preservation, no other effort, nor any other preservation organization, even comes close to the scale of what we have accomplished under the leadership of Jim Lighthizer. We hope you’ll join us in honoring Jim’s decades of dedication by continuing to build on his extraordinary legacy.
Please consider making your most generous gift now to help raise the $64,976 we need to forever preserve these four Civil War battlefields in tribute to Jim Lighthizer.