This morning, April 5, as part of the Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission’s annual signature event commemorating 150th anniversary the Battle of Shiloh, the Civil War Trust joined with the National Park Service and State of Tennessee to make announcements regarding the permanent preservation of 925 acres on the Shiloh Battlefield. The achievements discussed were threefold: the transfer of 167 acres from the Trust to the park; the launch of a $1.25 million campaign to preserve an additional 491 acres inside the park; and the successful completion of efforts to purchase 267 acres at Fallen Timbers.
“We believe that every acre we save is an investment in our country’s future. There can be no more lasting and fitting tribute than protecting the sites where the war’s outcome was decided — the battlefields themselves,” said Trust President James Lighthizer. “As a permanent and meaningful legacy of the sesquicentennial, we give our children and grandchildren the opportunity to walk these same fields unblemished and undisturbed.”
The day’s events began with a welcome from Susan Whitaker, Tennessee commissioner of Tourist Development and a co-chair of the state Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission and remarks from Gov. Bill Haslam. Following an introduction from Dr. Carroll Van West, director of the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area and the sesquicentennial commission’s other co-chair, Lighthizer and Trust chairman emeritus John Nau joined federal and state officials for the preservation announcements.
Shiloh National Military Park (NMP) superintendent Woody Harrell said that the transfer of three properties totaling 167 acres, initially acquired by the trust in 2007 and 2008 with the intention that they would eventually become part of the park, is symbolic of the longstanding partnership between the two organizations. The Trust has previously transferred 192 acres to the park and continues to maintain ownership of two small parcels totaling less than three acres.
“Alongside our dedicated partners at the Civil War Trust, we have been able to enhance the experience of visitors to Shiloh in ways that neither of us would have individually,” said Harrell. “This is the type of outstanding partnership that enables our National Parks to thrive.”
“The significance of Shiloh battlefield is unquestioned; the need to preserve as much as possible is paramount.” said Dr. Carroll Van West, director, Center for Historic Preservation, Middle Tennessee State University and co-chair of the Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission. “We applaud this gift of the Civil War Trust to our state, our nation, and the future.”
Nau, who is also the immediate past chairman of the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and serves as vice-chair of the National Parks Foundation, noted that the transfer is part of a larger effort by the Department of the Interior to acquire historic properties at battlefield parks as part of the sesquicentennial commemoration. During the past year, the federal government has set aside more than $5 million to transfer battlefield lands into the National Park Service. When all is said and done, more than 536 acres of battlefield land will have been added to battlefield parks at Manassas, Richmond, Fort Donelson and Shiloh as a tangible legacy of the anniversary period.
“There can be no higher recognition of a site’s historic significance than its inclusion within one of America’s ‘crown jewels’ — its National Parks,” Nau remarked. “We are thankful that thoughtful officials in the federal government share this vision and have made the acquisition and integration of high priority battlefield land into existing parks a key part of the Civil War sesquicentennial commemoration.”
In addition to the culmination of one preservation effort, the Trust also announced the beginning of an ambitious new project — one that, if successful, would be the largest single acquisition of land at Shiloh since the establishment of the national military park in 1894. For decades, this 491-acre parcel, which completes the battlefield’s southeastern corner, has topped the park’s acquisition wish list, as it represents the final unprotected portion of the eastern edge of Shiloh Hill.
During the opening hours of the battle, Confederates from Mississippi and Tennessee, attempting to flank the end of the Union left, slammed into troops of the 54th Ohio and 55th Illinois. These Union soldiers held the high ground above a steep ravine until, out of ammunition and exhausted, they were forced to retreat. As they withdrew, they came under fire from the triumphant Confederates, one of whom later recalled: “It was like shooting into a flock of sheep. I never saw such cruel work during the war.”
With is large size and tremendous history, the price for this land is $1.25 million. But, the Trust expects to be able to apply a $1 million government matching grant toward the acquisition, leaving just $250,000 to be raised from private donations. Moreover, because the property lies within NPS boundaries, the land will quickly become part of Shiloh National Military Park.
The final portion of the announcement concerned a campaign to protect 267 acres associated with the fighting at Fallen Timbers on April 8, 1862 — often considered the “final chapter” of the Battle of Shiloh — that was first announced in December 2011. Thanks to the generosity of its members, the Trust has now completed its fundraising effort and closed on the property, protecting a full 75 percent of the battlefield in a single transaction. While the full purchase price for the acquisition was $935,000, the Trust was aided by a $400,000 matching grant from the federal Civil War Battlefield Protection Program.
The Battle of Shiloh, fought April 6–7, 1862, at Pittsburg Landing, Tenn., was the bloodiest battle in American history up to that point, with more than 23,000 men falling as casualties. Although the Confederate attackers met with initial success, the arrival of Union reinforcements left the Southerners outnumbered and unable to carry the field and sent them retreating to the vital rail hub at Corinth, Miss. This Union victory, following on the heels of the surrender of Confederate Forts Henry and Donelson, led to Northern domination of Tennessee which and played a role in the ultimate surrender of Vicksburg, dividing the Confederacy in two along the Mississippi River.
In addition to the Shiloh property, the Trust is currently engaged in active fundraising efforts to save significant battlefield properties at Bentonville, N.C., Cedar Creek., Cross Keys, Va., Fredericksburg, Va., Gaines’ Mill, Va., Mill Springs, Ky., Perryville, Ky., and Tom’s Brook, Va.