The country’s largest Civil War battlefield protection group, the Civil War Trust, will announce Tuesday that it is enlarging its mission to also preserve the battlefields of the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.
For the country’s premier Civil War preservation organization to tie itself to two other wars may mystify some preservationists, but Jim Lighthizer, president of the trust, said a strong and logical connection can be made between the three wars.
“The Revolutionary War created this country, and the War of 1812 affirmed that creation,” he said. “The Civil War defined who we are.”
The announcement will be made on Veterans Day at the Princeton Battle Monument in New Jersey, which commemorates the fierce 1777 clash that gave Gen. George Washington his first victory over British troops on the field.
Lighthizer said the new initiative won’t interfere with Civil War preservation work because there are, in comparison with Civil War battlefields, many fewer Revolutionary War and War of 1812 sites to save.
“We were fishing in an ocean,” he said. “Now we are fishing in a lake. Another way to look at it is, the universe of Civil War battlefields is 200,000 to 250,000 acres. For the other two wars combined, there are only 10,000 to 15,000 acres. This is not a daunting challenge.”
Over 27 years, the trust has preserved more than 40,000 acres of Civil War land, including large parcels at Gettysburg, Pa., and many sites in Virginia. Funds come from the National Park Service, state governments, individual donors and members.
The trust works only with willing partners, either through easements or outright purchase of the land.
Among the speakers at the noon ceremony Tuesday will be Jack Warren, executive director of the Society of the Cincinnati, founded by Continental Army officers in 1783 to maintain their friendships and keep the memory of that war alive.
“This is absolutely wonderful,” Warren said by phone Monday. “The Civil War Trust is so successful in what they have been doing to motivate large numbers of people to embrace their cause. No one has been doing this work for the Revolutionary War, and the battlefields are gradually disappearing.”
Lighthizer, a former Anne Arundel county executive and Maryland secretary of transportation, said his organization acted at the urging of officials from the Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program.
“The National Park Service asked us to get involved because no one else could or would do it,” Lighthizer said. “And this is what we do and do well, battlefield protection.”
At Tuesday’s ceremony, Lighthizer will announce the first Revolutionary War battlefield preservation project, a four-acre parcel adjacent to the Princeton battlefield and owned by a family.
He called it a $1 million deal and said the trust will partner with state and federal agencies to finance it.
However, Lighthizer said, the process of identifying battlefield land for the two earlier wars is quite different from doing so for the Civil War, in which numerous battle reports were filed each day. Battlefields were identified in the earlier wars only by a landmark or town.
Lighthizer said the trust expects to be doing much more archaeological work to establish what is and is not part of a battlefield.
“This is exciting,” he said. “This is a huge deal. It takes preservation to another level, and it will make the trust the organization in the U.S. in terms of saving military battlefields.”