Last year, when protests from a. surprisingly effective group of historians and environmentalists discouraged the Disney Company from building a historical theme park near a former Civil War battlefield in Virginia’s Prince William County, the news made America’s front pages. For an organization called the Civil War Trust, though, that fight was only a skirmish in the larger campaign it has waged since 1991. Its members hope to buy up thousands of battlesite acres nationwide to save them from the bulldozer. The trust, an alliance of historians and business people, has already reclaimed fiftysix acres at Harpers Ferry’s Schoolhouse Ridge, where a housing development threatened to tar over the scene of Stonewall Jackson’s 1862 siege. It has also saved land at Mills Spring, Kentucky, at Missouri’s Westport Battlefield, and at Antietam.
The hardest work lies ahead. At the Wilderness, the Trust’s newsletter warns, a subdivision could soon rise on the battlefield’s most fiercely contested ground. A new highway is heading toward the Stones River, Tennessee, battlefield, and at Gettysburg a shopping mall may rise nearby as well as a “camping facility” right on the hallowed ground itself. To find out about becoming a charter member of the trust, write to the Civil War Trust, 1225 Eye Street NW, Washington, DC 20005, or call 800-298-7878. Members receive the organization’s quarterly watchdog publication, Civil War Landscape .