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Civil War groups merge

November 23, 1999

From Staff and AP reports

SPRINGFIELD, Va. - A Hagerstown-based Civil War preservation group announced a merger Tuesday morning designed to help raise $16 million to save endangered battlefields, including South Mountain in Frederick County, Md.

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The Civil War Preservation Trust, created by the merger of the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites and the Civil War Trust, hopes to save more acreage by joining forces.

APCWS' office in Hagerstown's Public Square will remain open for the time being, but the new organization will evaluate whether to combine it with the Civil War Trust's Arlington, Va., office, said James Lighthizer, president of the new organization.

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APCWS has operated out of a practically rent-free headquarters in a Public Square building owned by the City of Hagerstown since 1996.

While it's an attractive location financially, the organization needs to work closely with legislators on Capitol Hill and the U.S. National Park Service in Washington, D.C.

"We need to be close to Capitol Hill," Lighthizer said.

There is no timetable for a decision on the location of the Civil War Preservation Trust, he said.

The group's first major goal is to raise $16 million that would allow it to obtain $8 million in federal funds dedicated by Congress for Civil War battlefield preservation. The federal money will be available for 18 months under the 2-for-1 matching program, said Carrington Williams, the group's chairman.

"We're paving over important parts of our history. We are obliterating our past," Lighthizer said. "With every passing day the price of these sites goes up and the chance of destruction increases."

Lighthizer, a former Maryland transportation secretary, persuaded then-Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer to use millions of dollars in federal transportation funds to buy and protect battlefield land in the early 1990s.

In addition to the South Mountain site, battlefields targeted for preservation include three in Virginia: Brandy Station, Third Winchester and Cedar Creek. Other battlefields include Averasboro in North Carolina; Perryville and Mill Springs in Kentucky; Port Gibson, Champion Hill and Corinth in Mississippi; Honey Springs in Oklahoma and Prairie Grove in Arkansas.

The group also hopes to preserve land in West Virginia, Louisiana, Tennessee and Georgia.

Civil War preservationists say battlefields face a greater threat than ever because the nation's economic boom has increased suburban sprawl and development.

Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt recently said that one acre of Civil War battlefield is lost to development every 10 minutes.

The groups, with a combined membership of 40,000, have set aside nearly 10,000 acres at more than 50 sites in 15 states.

The Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites was founded in 1987 following the loss of Chantilly battlefield in Fairfax County. The Civil War Trust, based in Arlington, was formed in 1991 following a federal effort to preserve historic land in Manassas, which cost the federal government $250,000 per acre.

The groups announced their merger at a morning news conference in Washington.

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