Civil War Battlefield Conservation: Focus On Gettysburg
Gettysburg Battlefield National Military Park. Photo by Mary Harrsch/Flickr
At A Glance
- Not all of the land where the Battle of Gettysburg took place has been protected.
- Our most recent project saved land where the first day of fighting occurred, which had been a country club.
- The Fund has worked with the National Park Service for more than 20 years to expand the park by hundreds of acres.
Gettysburg National Military Park commemorates the Battle of Gettysburg, known as a turning point in the Civil War and, with 51,000 casualties, its bloodiest battle. More than 1.2 million people visit each year to learn about the three-day battle and President Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address.
The battle that decided the direction of our nation’s future took place on the first three days of July in 1863. On these three days, 75,000 men of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia fought 95,000 men of Meade’s Army of the Potomac across the rolling fields and hills of southern Pennsylvania. In the end, Lee’s attempt for a decisive victory in the North failed.
The federal government established Gettysburg National Military Park in 1895, but efforts to preserve the battlefield began just one year after the battle. The Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association formed in 1864 and eventually transferred its landholdings to the federal government. But even today, not all of the significant lands have been preserved. For more than two decades, the Fund has worked with the National Park Service to expand the park.
The Fund’s Recent Efforts
In 2011, the Fund helped the National Park Service acquire a 95-acre property, historically known as the Harman Farm, which was the site of significant fighting during the first day of the battle. The Union and Confederate regiments that fought here suffered the highest losses of the battle.
The protected land had been home to the Gettysburg Country Club, which had a nine-hole golf course, swimming pool and tennis courts. The National Park Service tried for nearly 20 years to acquire the property—the second-largest privately held parcel inside the boundaries of the park—for preservation purposes. Earlier this year, the Fund successfully purchased the land and subsequently conveyed it to the National Park Service. The park service intends to restore the landscape to its historic 1863 setting.
Staying Power: More Than Two Decades Saving Gettysburg
The Fund is known for its entrepreneurial spirit, and for finding the funds and resources to ensure land becomes—and stays—protected. In previous years, our partnership with the Friends of the National Parks at Gettysburg has made possible the preservation of a number of critical properties on the historic battlefield. We provided financing for these purchases from our Battlefield Revolving Fund, established by grants from the Gilder Foundation.
Our Revolving Fund made it possible for us to buy and donate to the military park the following land:
- 28 acres on East Cavalry Field in partnership with Adams County;
- 23 acres of the Blocher Farm at the base of Barlow’s Knoll, an area of the battlefield on July 1, 1863, as well as removal of modern intrusions;
- a historic private property adjacent to the park along the Baltimore Pike;
- the last privately held commercial land in Gettysburg National Military Park, located in the area of Pickett’s Charge. The land had a motel on it when the Fund purchased it. We held the property until federal funding made it possible for the park service to purchase and restore the land to its original state;
- a nine-acre inholding in the park that was the site of the action at Devil’s Den—a massive boulder outcrop about 500 yards in front of and between the two Round Tops where there were intense attacks and counterattacks on the second day of the battle. The Fund made a revolving loan of $220,000 to the Friends of the National Parks at Gettysburg in order for them to purchase and then donate the land to the National Park Service.
We also assisted the Richard King Mellon Foundation in its protection efforts at Gettysburg:
- The foundation donated 269 acres to the Gettysburg National Military Park on East Cavalry Field, which was the battleground for the U.S. Cavalry and Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart’s forces on July 3, 1863;
- A 44-acre historic farm adjoining East Cavalry Field was also donated. The farm had been sought for use as a trailer park by developers.
Although we receive generous funding from foundations to preserve many historic sites, support from our donors is an essential component of making our conservation projects successful. A donation from you will preserve the landscapes that define America’s history.