Saving the Battlefields Where America Was Forged

A Project of the Civil War Trust |  civilwar.org

Why Preserve Battlefields of the Revolutionary War and War of 1812?

Few events loom larger in American history than the Revolution and the War of 1812 — the conflicts that established and reaffirmed our independence from Great Britain. Many eras can be said to have shaped the nation we inhabit today, but this tumultuous, uncertain time gave it birth. From Lexington and Concord with their shots heard around the world, to the Yorktown surrender field where the world was turned upside down, to the defiant Fort McHenry beneath its star-spangled banner, the battlefields of these wars are iconic and indelible chapters in the American story.

Despite the passage of more than two centuries, these battlefields remain. According to the National Park Service, 40 percent still possess significant landscape features that would be recognizable to the soldiers who fought there under commanders like George Washington and Andrew Jackson. 

These battlefields are monuments to American valor, sacrifice and determination. They are truly hallowed ground, home to patriot graves both memorialized and long forgotten. And they need our help.

Almost 70 percent of Revolutionary War and War of 1812 battlefields are in urban areas. Of the 243 Revolutionary War and War of 1812 battlefields identified by the National Park Service, 141 are either lost or so extremely fragmented that only commemorative, rather than land acquisition, opportunities remain. Of those that do still retain their historic integrity, 18 currently have no legal protection whatsoever.

Although some of these battlefields — places like Brooklyn, Long Island and Boston — have been forever altered, if not lost, by taking decisive action today, we can make a real and tangible difference at others.

Campaign 1776 is first-ever national initiative designed to preserve these tangible and irreplaceable links to this country’s founding. It is administered by the Civil War Trust, the nation’s leading battlefield preservation organization, and will utilize the same model of public-private partnership that has successfully protected more than 40,000 acres of 19th century battlefield land.

Those patriots who fell on the fields of Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey, deserve to have their sacrifices remembered and honored just as much as those who took up arms “four score and seven years” later in Virginia, Tennessee and Missouri. Become a charter member of Campaign 1776 today, and join us in saving the battlefields where American was forged. 

“Battlefields are looking glasses into the worlds of our ancestors.
Standing on their earth, under their skies, is to be at one with them
and to viscerally understand humanity's connections across time.
The generation that won American independence lives in the ideas we honor,
the architecture we preserve and the battlefields we yet can save.”

 – RON MAXWELL, writer-director of “Gettysburg,” “Gods and Generals,” and “Copperhead”

Revolutionary War and War of 1812 battlefield preservation helps tell the broader story of America, including the Civil War.

You cannot hope to have a full and meaningful conversation about American history without addressing these conflicts. The Revolutionary War and founding era established our independence from Great Britain. The Civil War sought to address questions that were left unresolved by the Revolution — what are freedom and liberty? how far do they extend? to whom, exactly, do they apply?

Some participants considered the Civil War to be a second American Revolution, with one side seeking to create a new nation. By the same token, the Revolution can be considered the first American civil war, a conflict where neighbors and families found themselves on opposing sides. At some battles in the Southern Campaigns, not a single British soldier, save perhaps an officer, was present. The soldiers in the ranks were all Americans.

The connection between these conflicts is undeniable. The most famous speech in American history — Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address — drew an explicit line from the founding fathers’ goals to the blood-soaked battlefield where those ideals received a new birth of freedom. The soldiers felt it too: throughout the war, General Joseph Johnston carried the sword his own father wore through his Revolutionary service. General Lewis Armistead, mortally wounded in Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg, had a father and four uncles fight in the War of 1812, including Maj. George Armistead, whose successful defense of Fort McHenry inspired our national anthem.

In the narrative of American history, these eras are inextricably linked. They are all worthy of protection; it is all hallowed ground. 

“In the modern era, the Civil War Trust has saved more acres
of historic battlefields than any other organization in America — by far —
and that includes the National Park.  For the CWT to broaden its mission
to encompass the hallowed ground of the American Revolution
and the War of 1812 is great news for our country and for all who cherish
our nation's core values and heritage.” 

— DAN JORDAN, President Emeritus, Thomas Jefferson Foundation (Monticello)
and former Chair, Advisory Board of the NPS.

Learn more about how the Civil War Trust came to the decision to get involved: 

News Release: Historians and Preservation Groups Announce Landmark National Campaign to Save Revolutionary War Battlefields

Video message from president Jim Lighhizer "Our New Project: Campaign 1776"

Letter from Jim Lighthizer: Join the First Campaign 1776 Effort to Save a Revolutionary War Battlefield at Princeton, N.J.

FAQs about Campaign 1776