Valor. Bloodshed. Desperation. Three battles, fought in different landscapes, had some important things in common. Today, an opportunity to save hallowed ground at the Wilderness, Cold Harbor and Bentonville further unites these three battlefields.
At stake are 185 acres of irreplaceable Civil War history. Here’s a little more about why it’s so critical to preserve this land.
Ulysses S. Grant’s 1864 Overland Campaign led to the siege of Petersburg and ultimately to Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House. Thus, the Battle of the Wilderness marked the beginning of the end. This first battle of that critical campaign resulted in a stalemate that left Grant more determined than ever.
The 36 acres at stake today are immediately behind the Confederate lines. On the first day of the battle, Alabamans launched a counterattack from this ground to repel a Union assault that broke through the Confederate line. This parcel saw artillery rounds and troop movements, west of that part of the battlefield known as Saunders Field, where one wing of General George Meade’s Union forces tried to hammer their way through Lee’s entrenched Confederates for the better part of two days, May 5th and 6th, 1864.
Grant himself expressed regret for the Battle of Cold Harbor – specifically for the final assault, where in Grant’s own words, “[n]o advantage whatever was gained to compensate for the heavy loss we sustained.” Yet Cold Harbor was also a critical step in the Union’s journey that carried them south across the James River, and to the backdoor of the Confederate capital of Richmond, Petersburg.
The 5-acre tract at stake today connects to a much larger portion that Trust members like you saved a few years ago, adding another crucial piece of the puzzle that will eventually result in a well-preserved battlefield. On June 1, an XVIII Corps division advanced over this ground to attack a Confederate position. This parcel, on and immediately behind the main Union line, was continuously occupied by Federal troops from June 1 through June 12, 1864. With residential and commercial development relentlessly rolling outward from Richmond toward this hallowed ground, this tract is essential to our progress at Cold Harbor.
The massive three-day Battle of Bentonville is often overlooked, despite the fact that in 1993 Congress declared it one of the eleven most important pieces of hallowed ground in America for preservation.
Thirty years ago, there were only a few acres of protected land at this incredibly important site, the last full-scale action of the Civil War. In hundreds of letters, diaries and reports, men on both sides bore witness to the ferocity of this three-day battle, saying things like “all agree that it was one of the hottest places we were ever in.” Thanks to Trust partners and supporters like you, we’ve now preserved 1,864 acres, and this transaction, saving even more of the second day’s sector of the battlefield, will add another 144 preserved acres, putting us over 2,000 acres of saved hallowed ground.
Please consider making your most generous gift today to help raise the $161,375 we need to preserve this precious American history forever.