Preservation Groups Launch `Campaign 76′ to Save Revolutionary War Battlefields

PRINCETON Soldier BattlefieldNearly 240 years after the shot heard ‘round the world signaled the beginning of the journey toward American independence, the biggest battlefield preservation group in the country has announced a new initiative to preserve Revolutionary War Battlefields. The first venture of the new initiative will be a fundraising campaign to preserve 4.6 historic acres on the Princeton Battlefield.

Historians and preservationists gathered in Princeton today to launch the national project,  called “Campaign 1776,” and announce the Princeton Battlefield initiative.

The Civil War Trust, the nation’s most successful battlefield preservation advocate, is leading the campaign.

“For nearly three decades, the Civil War Trust has led the charge to protect endangered battlegrounds from this nation’s bloodiest conflict, securing millions of dollars in private sector donations to preserve these tangible links to our past. Through Campaign 1776, we are lending our expertise in heritage land preservation to a fuller spectrum of American history,” said Civil War Trust Chairman Michael Grainger.

“The patriots who fell during the struggle for American independence deserve to have their sacrifices remembered and honored just as much as those who took up arms ‘four score and seven years’ later during the Civil War,” said Civil War Trust President James Lighthizer. “All of these battlefields are hallowed ground, living memorials to this nation’s brave soldiers, past, present and future.”

The first preservation venture of the new national initiative will be a fundraising campaign to save 4.6 historic acres on the Princeton Battlefield. The January 3, 1777, engagement, General George Washington’s first victory over British Regulars in the field, and was a turning point in the war. The Trust is working in partnership with the State of New Jersey, local governments and the Princeton Battlefield Society to preserve the land. It will mark the first addition to Princeton Battlefield State Park since 1971.

In July, the Princeton Battlefield Society received a $47,100 grant from the National Park Service to complete an archaeological study of a 29-acre tract of the battlefield, focusing in on the 4.6-acre plot owned by the D’Ambrisi family on Stockton Street that is adjacent to the state park.

Although the primary focus will be on the preservation of the battlefields of the Revolutionary War (1775–1783), Campaign 1776 will also target battlegrounds associated with the War of 1812. In a 2007 report on the status of these battlefields, the National Park Service found that of the 243 significant engagements of those conflicts, only 100 retained historic integrity.

“Many of our Revolutionary War battlefields were lost long ago, buried beneath the concrete and asphalt of Brooklyn and Trenton and consumed by the sprawl of Boston, New York and Philadelphia. Those unspoiled landscapes that remain are precious reminders of the struggle to achieve independence and create a republic dedicated to the liberty of ordinary people,” said Jack Warren, executive director of the American Revolution Institute of the Society of the Cincinnati. “No organization is better equipped to lead us in this work than the Civil War Trust, the most effective historic land preservation organization in the United States.”

The existence of government matching programs, like New Jersey’s Green Acres program, and the active participation of historic communities like Princeton are critical components of battlefield preservation efforts.

“The emergence of a national battlefield preservation entity focused on the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 will serve to empower regional and local organizations,” said Princeton Battlefield Society president Jerry Hurwitz. “Not only will Campaign 1776 allow battlefields from those earlier eras to take advantage of the Civil War Trust’s specialized professional expertise, but it will demonstrate to the American people the urgent need to protect these tangible links to our past.”

The idea for Campaign 1776 was developed after representatives from the National Park Service approached the Civil War Trust about expanding into Revolutionary War and War of 1812 preservation in light of pending federal legislation that would create a unified pool of government matching grant funding for the protection of battlefields from all three conflicts.

The National Park Service and the Civil War Trust are partnering to undertake an unprecedented GPS mapping study of Revolutionary War battlefields. The American Battlefield Protection Program’s report on the status of Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Battlefields, modeled on the landmark study of the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission, provides a prioritized roadmap for preservation of these battlegrounds.

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