A dear friend of mine passed away in December. John had many interests, but chief among them was the Civil War. He was 80 years old but kept his mind young by reading every book he could find in his local library about the Civil War. He would get books on tape and treat them like a college class, listening to the lectures and taking notes. As a surveyor by trade, he delighted in making maps of the battles, with all the details.
Every time I talked to him on the phone, which was quite often, somehow the conversation would turn to the Civil War. He could segue from anything to General Lee, President Lincoln, or his beloved Gettysburg. He would often comment that other friends and family members were tired of listening to him talk about the Civil War, but he knew as a historian, I shared his love of history. We spent many hours discussing these things.
It was through John that I learned about the Civil War Preservation Trust. He supported many causes, but I believe one of the most significant to him was CWPT. For his 80th birthday party a year ago, his children requested that in lieu of gifts, each of us make a donation the CWPT in John’s honor.
Unbeknownst to me, our donation also gave us a membership, including a glossy magazine called “Hallowed Ground.” The first issue I received featured a spectacular contest with lots of gorgeous photos of Civil War sites and themes. I was hooked immediately.
CWPT works to protect Civil War battlefields as the outside world encroaches ever closer to these sacred spaces. I have written before about preserving our cultural landscapes. It is important to keep these places as close as possible to the way they were when significant events took place, to avoid the disjointed experience of standing on Little Round Top at Gettysburg overlooking a brand spanking new casino.
And that isn't just a "worst case scenario fantasy." CWPT actually helped to successfully thwart an effort to build a casino at Gettysburg. Through the support of people like my dear friend John, CWPT has been able to make a difference.
They work every day to protect our past from the persistent march of progress that has already destroyed so many of our landmarks. Almost 20% of our Civil War battlefields have already been lost.
If you are looking for a historic cause to support, why not join the Civil War Preservation Trust? Their work is important and they can’t do it without people like you. Like me. Like John.