The Civil War Trust announces Campaign 1776

It has been 240 years since the first shot was fired in what would later be named the Revolutionary War.  This war represented a turning point in the overall struggle for American freedom.  It is with great pride and patriotism that the Civil War Trust has chosen Veteran’s Day to announce to a group of preservationists and historians a new initiative to preserve the battlefields of this important war in America’s history.

James Lighthizer, president of the Trust, explained that Campaign 1776, the name chosen for this initiative, will help the nation to remember and honor the sacrifices made during this battle that took place many years before the more nationally recognized Civil War.

The Civil War Trust has worked for nearly 30 years to ensure protection of the battlegrounds from the Civil War through using grants and donations.  Chairman, Michael Grainger, explained that Campaign 1776 will enable a better understanding of a more expanded view of the history of America.

In addition to preservation of Revolutionary War battlefields, the Campaign 1776 initiative will include those endangered battlefields from the War of 1812, during which time American gained independence from Great Britain.

According to a 2007 report from the National Park service, only 100 out of 243 battlefields from these wars have been historically preserved over the last 200 years.  Without intervention, these remaining sites may lose their integrity as a result of future land developments, such as housing.

American Revolution Institute of the Society of the Cincinnati director, Jack Warner, explained that many of these lost battlefields have been compromised by the expanding cities of Philadelphia, Boston and New York.  He believes that the Civil War Trust is the best choice for preserving the battlefields that still remain.

The first project of Campaign 1776, explained Lighthizer, is to raise money to preserve 4.6 acres that make up the Princeton Battlefield.  On January 3, 1777, George Washington, a general during the Revolutionary War, defeated the British Regulars on this battlefield.  The Princeton Battlefield Society, the State of New Jersey, and local governments will work with the Civil War Trust to accomplish this.  This project will result in the first upgrade made to Princeton Battlefield State Park since 1971.

The president of the Princeton Battlefield Society, Jerry Hurwitz, noted that the expertise offered by the Trust to preserve this battlefield will not only keep historic grounds maintained, but will also show the people of America the importance of doing so.

Liz Lempert, mayor of Princeton, and Richard Boornazian, with the state’s Natural and Historic Resources department, represent government involvement in the Princeton project, along with the Green Acres program run by the state.  They are excited about the opportunities that will be provided by preserving the battlefield.

The Campaign 1776 initiative began when the Civil War Trust was approached by the National Park Service (NPS) to inquire about expanding the origins of battlefields being preserved to include those from the War of 1812 and the Revolutionary War.

After taking into consideration any negative impact this expansion would have on the current preservation work the Trust was working on, as well as the benefits of protecting these additional battlefields from becoming compromised, the Trust board held a vote.  All members agreed that these additional battlefields should be included in the preservation work of the Trust.

Once this was decided, the Trust partnered with NPS to establish a map of the Revolutionary War using GPS technology.  There was also grant money made available for land preservation at a federal level.  A preservation plan was put in place to model the newly included battlefields on the present Civil War battlefields preservation effort with the help of a report from the American Battlefield Protection Program.

For members of the Civil War Trust, involvement with Campaign 1776 is voluntary.  As well, those who sign up to work on Campaign 1776 do not have to already be an active member of the Trust.

Benefits of Campaign 1776 include offering education opportunities to the public regarding the battlefields of these wars, much like the Trust currently offers about those from the Civil War.

The Civil War Trust offers donors the opportunity to contribute to specific projects it supports, and it is often the recipient of state or federal grants.  The Trust purchases land in order to preserve its historical significance as a battlefield from willing sellers.  It also collaborates with developers to ensure that communities continue to grow while keeping historic land preserved, the Emerging Civil War reports.

The Civil War Trust, a non profit organization, has kept over 40,000 acres of historical battlefields preserved, and is the largest organization of this type in America, having preserved land in nearly half of the country’s states.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE