24 February 2006 by Published in: General News 5 comments

In an earlier post, I noted that when Brian Pohanka’s estate announced that substantial gifts had been left to two battlefield preservation groups, the Civil War Preservation Trust was missing from that list, and I wondered aloud whether that absence was a sign that perhaps Brian was unhappy with the way things had gone with the CWPT. It turns out that there was much more to it than met the eye.

Yesterday, Jim Campi of the CWPT called to discuss a variety of things with me, most notably the incident a couple of weeks ago when someone from the Morris Island Coalition used the comments to this blog to launch personal attacks on Dimitri Rotov because the poster does not agree with Dimitri’s opinions about the CWPT. However, in the course of that conversation with Jim, he let me know that there was going to be a public announcement today regarding Brian’s gifts to the CWPT.

Here is that press release, which was provided to me by Jim yesterday:

“(Washington, D.C.) – In a statement released today, the Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT) announced a major gift from the estate of historian and ardent preservationist Brian C. Pohanka, who passed away in June 2005. In his will, Pohanka left CWPT – with whom he has been associated since its earliest days – a bequest totaling $1 million earmarked for land acquisition.

In acknowledging the gift, CWPT President James Lighthizer said that the donation is telling of the innumerable contributions Pohanka made to the cause of historic preservation over the years.

‘From the very beginnings of the Civil War battlefield preservation movement, Brian Pohanka led the charge. He not only gave of his time and talents, but frequently and generously reached into his wallet as well. We at Civil War Preservation Trust are proud to carry on the work he began nearly two decades ago.’

Pohanka’s generosity to battlefield preservation was unequalled. In addition to the $1 million bequest, he and his wife Cricket quietly donated an equal amount to CWPT in 2004. Over the years, Pohanka gave generously to both CWPT and countless other local battlefield preservation groups – in his will, he also set aside money for the Central Virginia Battlegrounds Trust ($500,000), the Richmond Battlefields Association ($500,000), and the Save Historic Antietam Foundation ($200,000).

In recognition for Pohanka’s outstanding contributions to battlefield preservation, in 2004 he was named CWPT’s Preservationist of the Year during ceremonies in Nashville, Tenn. At the ceremony, one of Brian’s last public appearances, he urged the preservation community to continue the struggle to save this nation’s irreplaceable hallowed battlegrounds.

Cricket Bauer Pohanka, who recently agreed to join CWPT’s Board of Trustees, said she is confident that the bequest would be used to create a legacy of which he would be proud. ‘Brian placed an immense value on the preservation of our Civil War battlefields,’ she said, ‘and to see the sites he so cared about perpetually protected will be a fitting tribute to his life and his work.’

According to Lighthizer, Brian was frequently quoted as saying the inspiration for his tireless efforts was the idea that a century from now a child might become as interested in the Civil War as Brian was in his own youth. That child, he said, must still have the opportunity to visit our battlefields, our hallowed grounds, and absorb their lessons. ‘With this gift, Brian has truly made that vision a reality, giving us the power to protect more of that ground for generations yet to come.’

Lighthizer concluded his remarks by stating: ‘Author, living historian, preservationist, consultant, friend; Brian touched us and our work in so many ways. He is truly missed, but we will make sure that his dedication and his contributions will not be forgotten.’

With 75,000 members, CWPT is the largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization in the United States. Its mission is to preserve our nation’s remaining Civil War battlefields. Since 1987, the organization has saved more than 22,000 acres of hallowed ground. CWPT’s website is located at www.civilwar.org.”

A few months before he died, Brian told me that once he was gone, we would learn of steps he had taken with respect to battlefield preservation, but didn’t elaborate. Knowing him as I did, I knew better than to ask; if he had wanted me to know, he would have told me. Given that Brian was one of the three founders of APCWS–the predecessor to the CWPT–I was genuinely surprised to hear that no gift had been announced for the CWPT after Brian’s passing.

Yesterday, Jim Campi told me about the two $1 million gifts, and we both had the same reaction–this was so typical of Brian–unfailingly generous, but unfailingly avoiding ANY hint of publicity about it, as Brian felt that doing so was unseemly. $2 million will buy a lot of land. While it’s difficult to define precisely what Brian’s legacy is, this is probably the most tangible and most important aspect of it.

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  1. Mike Peters
    Fri 24th Feb 2006 at 1:16 pm

    In recognition for Pohanka’s outstanding contributions to battlefield preservation, in 2004 he was named CWPT’s Preservationist of the Year during ceremonies in Nashville, Tenn.


    After this happened, I E-mailed Brian my congratulations & thanked him for his preservation work. The reply may have been the longest E-mail that I ever received from Brian. Pride & passion oozed from his words. He was very humble & suggested I direct my gratitude toward others. I expected nothing less. What a classy gentleman!


  2. Fri 24th Feb 2006 at 2:17 pm


    You’ve summed it up quite nicely.


  3. Lee White
    Fri 24th Feb 2006 at 4:02 pm

    It just drives home how great a loss we have suffered with Brian’s untimely passing. His shoes will never be filled.


  4. Fri 24th Feb 2006 at 4:55 pm


    Well said, and how true.


  5. Wed 13th Aug 2008 at 12:39 am

    I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you down the road!

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