26 January 2015 by Published in: Battlefield preservation 1 comment

trevilian-station-june-11-12I’ve known about this for months, but I was sworn to secrecy. I was involved in identifying these parcels and in determining their historic significance. I’m finally able to discuss some great news with you.

The Battle of Trevilian Station lasted two long, hot, bloody days. The two days’ battlefields were separate and distinct. A substantial portion of the first day’s battlefield has been saved. Pieces of the second day’s battlefield have been saved. Ad then an opportunity to purchase 52 extremely critical acres at Trevilian Station has emerged. Specifically, the 52 acres–four contiguous parcels of land–make up almost the entirety of the Union line of battle for the second day of the battle. Lt. Robert Williston fought his battery of horse artillery on this ground and earned a well-deserved Medal of Honor for his valor that day. Danne’s Store, occupied by Union sharpshooters, was set ablaze by a Confederate artillery shell. It sat on one of these critical parcels of land. These parcels also connect with the first day’s battlefield and mean that a very substantial portion of the core battlefield land at Trevilian Station has been preserved.

A large grant from the Commonwealth of Virginia makes this acquisition possible. It funds about 80% of the purchase price. The Trust is now looking to raise that remaining 20%. The parcels involved appear in yellow on the excellent Steve Stanley map that appears at the beginning of this article. Please click it to see a larger version of the map.

This is the release by the Civil War Preservation Trust:

Save 70 Acres at Trevilian Station!

As bloody combat raged for the second day at Trevilian Station, Lt. Edward Williston brought up Battery D of the 2nd U.S. Artillery to bolster a faltering line. Despite intense enemy musketry fire, Williston advanced, unlimbered his guns, and personally moved one 12-pounder into the line of fire. Round after round of canister plowed through the advancing Confederates. Enemy troops advanced right up to the muzzle of the gun, but Williston stood firm and ensured that the Union line held for as long as possible. For this act of “distinguished gallantry” in the largest and bloodiest all-cavalry battle of the war, he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

The Civil War Trust now has the opportunity to save the very land where Williston bravely manned his guns on the second day of this crucial battle. With your help, we have already saved over 1,700 acres at Trevilian Station. Now, we can bridge the gap between two of those already-saved parcels of land with a further 70 acres of hallowed ground. Thanks to a $5.34-to-$1 match, we only need to raise $102,625 to ensure that the legacy of all who fought and died at Trevilian Station is preserved forever.

Here’s Trust President Jim Lighthizer’s letter regarding this acquisition opportunity. I very much appreciate the very kind words that Jim says about my role in all of this and about my work:

Save 70 Acres at the Trevilian Station Battlefield
A MESSAGE FROM JIM LIGHTHIZER, CIVIL WAR TRUST PRESIDENT

Dear Friend and Valued Member,

I am sure you are aware of the phrase, “Getting the biggest bang for your buck.”

And I hope that, over the years, you have come to see the Civil War Trust as unique among other non-profit organizations in being able to make your donation dollar go farther than anyone else.

Well today, I need to brief you quickly on a situation that doesn’t just give you a big “bang” for your buck…

… no, it gives you a “ribcage-rattling-horse-artillery-boom” for your buck.

Today, to build on our tremendous past success at the Trevilian Station battlefield, will you help me turn every $1 donated today into $5.34 of crucial hallowed ground?

SAVE TREVILIAN STATION
Every $1 donated
multiplies into $5.34

Or, more specifically, will you help me raise just $102,625 in the next 45 days so that I can turn it into $587,000 and save 70 additional key acres of endangered hallowed ground at the Trevilian Station battlefield in Virginia…

…bringing to more than 2,000 acres the total amount of land preserved forever for future generations at this crucial Civil War battleground?

Before you answer, please look at the battle map I have for you, and let me walk you through a brief retelling of the history of this site:

June 11 and 12, 1864: The Battle of Trevilian Station was the largest all-cavalry battle of the Civil War.

The casualty rate for two days of fighting in scorching heat was 60 percent higher than at Brandy Station (which included some infantry troops), fought a year earlier and only 32 miles to the northeast.

Union Brigadier General George Armstrong Custer and his command of Michigan troopers, at one point finding themselves completely surrounded, saved themselves only through good luck and hard fighting, surviving what historian Eric Wittenberg has called “Custer’s First Last Stand.”

And the victory won there by Confederate Major General Wade Hampton (former cavalry commander J.E.B. Stuart was just barely cold in his grave) prevented Union General Phil Sheridan from making a strategic link with forces in the Shenandoah Valley, which could have forced Lee out of his Petersburg / Richmond defenses, possibly ending the war much earlier.

Ed Bearss, the preeminent Civil War historian of our time, says that “this battle was as important in the ’64 campaign as Brandy Station was in the ’63 campaign.”

Eric Wittenberg is the leading historian on this battle – and on most aspects of the cavalry in the Civil War – today. When I recently asked him to comment on the tremendous significance of this transaction to this battlefield, he jumped at the chance, saying:

“Although the Battle of Trevilian Station was fought over two days on two separate battlefields, the opportunity to acquire a 70-acre critical piece of pristine ground – the land immediately around Danne’s Store – is a major accomplishment by the Civil War Trust. This ground saw heavy fighting during the second day of the battle, but more importantly, it is a ‘bridge’ providing a crucial, unbroken link between previously separated wings of the second-day action, thus ensuring that no interloper can place a development between in this space and obliterate its significance. Acquisition of this land also means that the entire main Union position during the second day’s battle will be preserved.

“That makes this parcel of land as critical as any other parcel that has been acquired at Trevilian Station. That the Trust has already lined up more than $484,000 in matching funds (a $5.34-to-$1 match) only makes it easier for me to encourage anyone who can do so to make a contribution so as to facilitate the preservation of this critical and pristine piece of battlefield land for future generations.”

Trevilian Station Land Tract
70-acre tract of land the Civil War Trust has the opportunity to preserve at Trevilian Station. (Douglas Ullman)
Here are the details so that you can make an educated decision:

The Trust has successfully negotiated the purchase of a 70-acre tract of land that joins together key previously preserved parts of this battlefield – as Eric said – areas of heavy action on the second day of fighting… consider it a “land bridge.”

As I mentioned before, the fair-market purchase price for this hallowed ground is $587,000, or about $8,400 per acre – a good price for that part of Virginia, but still expensive. (Trevilian Station is located almost exactly between Richmond and the Shenandoah Valley, on the Virginia Central Railroad, so it was of key strategic importance to both armies in 1864.)

Development is already encroaching upon this battlefield… self-storage operations, a lumber yard, auto repair and body shops, etc.

And as much as it pains me to tell you this, it is the truth; if the Trust had to pay the full $587,000, even as important as this land is, I think my counsel to the Board of Trustees would be for us to walk away. Now that would be a knife through my heart, but I hold it as my duty to spend your money like it was my own, and there are a lot of places where $587,000 would save even more hallowed ground. But fortunately, we don’t have to pay full price. Not even close.

In this case, utilizing federal and state matching grants, we have $484,375 of the total amount already in process – that’s fully 82.5% of the transaction already fully funded, just waiting for us to raise the final 17.5% of the money.

My friend, in the world of battlefield preservation, it just doesn’t get much better – or easier – than this. If, in your personal business, retirement plan or private investing, you could turn $1 into $5.34, earning a 534% return on your dollar, wouldn’t you jump at that chance?

To restate the obvious, to get these 70 acres at Trevilian Station for an investment of just $102,625…I think you have to agree that we’re getting some serious bang, boom, crash and pow for our buck!

And we are protecting our previous investment by preventing future development that would mar forever the land we have already saved.

Over the years, we have been doggedly building upon our previous successes there, clawing land away from developers one acre at a time.

As you can clearly see from your map, we are making enormous progress. But this next 70-acre acquisition is crucial; it joins the two separated sections of the second-day’s battlefield, preventing forever development in the heart of this hallowed ground.

I cannot stress to you enough how important this is. Two hundred years from now, when people come to learn about this battle, it is imperative that the battlefield not be split in half by gas stations or warehouses, or otherwise paved over by rapacious developers who care nothing for our past and its heroes.

Would you come away from Shiloh with the same appreciation for that battle if there was a housing development between the Hornet’s Nest and Pittsburg Landing? How about if there was a complex of self-storage units between the Wheatfield and Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg?

Again, don’t just take my word for it… here are a few closing words of wisdom from historian Eric Wittenberg on the incredible importance of this land:

“In short, these 70 acres are a linchpin to the entire battlefield at Trevilian Station. Seldom do such important parcels come on the market at a reasonable price, and this acquisition, combined with the Trust’s prior success, means that the entire Union line will be owned and preserved.”

SAVE TREVILIAN STATION
Every $1 donated
multiplies into $5.34

New scholarship on Trevilian Station now evaluates this battle as a pivotal moment in General Ulysses S. Grant’s 1864 strategy. A clear Union victory here would have undoubtedly hastened the end of the war. But after two days of brutal fighting and nearly 2,000 casualties, the Confederates held on, and hard war would grind on for another 10 brutal months.

I know this letter is getting long, but you should also know that Union Lt. Edward Williston unlimbered four guns of his horse battery directly on this property and fought from this position for the rest of the day. Years later – quite appropriately – Williston was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his conduct, fighting his guns at point-blank range all day.

That makes this unique site even more important to preserve, so that the next generations coming up behind you and me will have a place where they can learn about the courage, valor and gallantry of an American soldier.

You can make that happen, and I can multiply every $1 you send today by $5.34. I really need to raise our $102,625 portion of this terrific match as soon as possible, hopefully in the next 45 days.

Please, be as generous as you can today, and accept my deepest appreciation, in advance, for all that you are doing to help preserve our nation’s rich history and heritage.

Most sincerely yours,

Jim Lighthizer
President

P.S. Let me close with a short but meaningful excerpt from Eric Wittenberg’s Trevilian Station book, Glory Enough for All: Sheridan’s Second Raid and the Battle of Trevilian Station:

“…nothing is more moving or more poignant than standing among those quiet rows of small stones marked “unknown”… The silent graves of the Confederate and Union dead… provide the most striking and most important reminder of the ferocity of those two days in June 1864. The final resting places of soldiers who fought and died at Trevilian Station bear mute witness to the sacrifices made by the hot, parched horse soldiers of both sides who clashed in the largest all-cavalry battle of the American Civil War.”

Isn’t that exactly why we must save this land? Please let me hear from you today.

P.P.S. Please allow me a moment to make a shameless plug: Visit the Civil War Trust’s website to learn more about the Trevilian Station battlefield, and your role in saving it! Don’t miss a moment of the Civil War Trust’s battle to save hallowed ground all across America! Go to www.civilwar.org/trevilianstation15 to see maps, photos, articles and more!

Make an informed giving decision – read the rich history associated with this battlefield, the men, the maps, the flags, the photographs – and decide for yourself if you want to be part of the team that is working to save this site forever. Then, click on the “Donate Now” button to make your gift quickly and securely, helping the Civil War Trust ensure that we can utilize the state and federal matching funds. You will receive an e-mail confirmation of your gift in seconds. Thank you!

Please help us save this important battlefield land. If you would like to donate, please use this link. Thank you for your support.

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. Clark B. Hall
    Mon 26th Jan 2015 at 9:22 pm

    Eric: Many congratulations to the Civil War Trust, yourself (!), and Trevilian’s local champions for leading the way on this vital acquisition. CWT is to be highly commended for crafting the unique, visionary financial package that has breathed life into such a splendid preservation opportunity, and of course CWT has depended on your adept scholarship to help all of us comprehend and appreciate the priceless historical significance of this vital 52-acre tract wherein such heavy fighting took place. I will be sending in my donation and now urge others who care about our nation’s cavalry battlefields to do the same thing. Brandy Station has now been largely saved by the Civil War Trust, as you well know, and now Trevilian Station is now on its way to preservation salvation! Great work, Eric!

Add comment

*

Copyright © Eric Wittenberg 2011, All Rights Reserved
Powered by WordPress

Warning: substr() expects parameter 3 to be long, string given in /home/netscrib/public_html/civilwarcavalry/wp-content/themes/wittenberg/footer.php on line 54