(Gettysburg, Pa.) – To mark the sesquicentennial anniversary of the American Civil War and create a lasting legacy of that commemoration, the Civil War Trust today announced an ambitious national campaign that will permanently protect 20,000 acres of battlefield land over the next five years.  The Trust, which has already protected more than 30,000 acres in 20 states, recognizes that the war’s 150th anniversary offers an unprecedented opportunity to encourage public support for a large-scale preservation initiative.

Campaign 150: Our Time, Our Legacy kicked off today with an event held at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, a key landmark of the Civil War’s bloodiest battle, which occurred 148 years ago this weekend.  The project was announced by Civil War Trust chairman Henry Simpson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Battle Cry of Freedom James McPherson and the organization’s newest Trustee, country music superstar Trace Adkins.

Newly elected to the organization’s Board of Trustees, Adkins suggested that the sesquicentennial is the ideal time to redouble battlefield preservation efforts.  “No other outcome of this anniversary period could be more appropriate than setting aside the blood-soaked battlegrounds of that conflict as permanent memorials to the courage and sacrifice of our ancestors,” he said. “This is the type of lasting legacy each of us can take pride in, and I am proud to be a part of such a noble and patriotic effort.”

“With an average of 30 acres of battlefield land lost each day, now is the time for a major preservation initiative,” said McPherson.  “If successful, Campaign 150 will have allowed us to set aside those landscapes that future generations will require in order to gain a full understanding of the Civil War.  This project will enable us to substantively complete protection of many of the conflict’s storied fields.”

In order to successfully protect such a tremendous amount of land in four short years, the Trust believes it must raise $40 million from the private sector.  These funds will then be leveraged with government grants and foundation and corporate support to purchase battlefield land at fair market value or place it under permanent conservation easements.

“This is an unprecedented undertaking in every sense,” said Simpson.  “Never before have we set our sights so high, either in terms of fundraising or land protection goals.  Ambitious though this project may be, the Civil War Trust believes that our dedicated members, energetic staff and dynamic board will rise to the challenge, cementing a legacy that will be remembered for generations to come.”

Among the more than 100 battlefields where the Trust has protected land to date are some of the most iconic engagements of the war, including Gettysburg, where it has assisted in the preservation of 812 acres.  Other success stories include: 240 acres at Antietam, Md.; 316 acres at Chancellorsville, Va.; 710 acres at Corinth, Miss.; 307 acres at Fort Donelson, Tenn.; 325 acres at Harpers Ferry, W.Va.; 427 acres at Petersburg, Va.; 336 acres at Prairie Grove, Ark.; and 212 acres at Wilson’s Creek, Mo.

Aiding the Trust in its efforts to protect this priceless 19th century history is some decidedly 21st century technology — cellular phones.  For the first time, individuals can contribute directly to the Trust’s mission by text message, making a donation anytime and anywhere.  By texting “civilwar” to 50555, a one-time $10.00 charge will appear on your wireless bill or be deducted from your prepaid account balance.

In addition to its lofty land protection goal, Campaign 150 will also place emphasis on educational programs designed to benefit students of all ages, both inside the classroom and out on the battlefield.  Among the new and expanded offerings done in conjunction with the effort are regional educator workshops to be held in cities across the nation, beginning this autumn in Boston, and the growing series of Civil War Trust Battle Apps, GPS-enabled mobile battlefield tours available for iPhone and iPod Touch.

“There is no substitute for walking the ground of a Civil War battlefield or other historic site,” said Simpson, “and the technology of our Battle Apps allows visitors to explore as never before, using audio and video content and other interactive features to become immersed in the experience.”

To demonstrate this revolution in battlefield touring and in commemoration of the 148th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, the Gettysburg Battle App covering the action on Devil’s Den and Little Round Top will be available for free download on July 1–3, 2011, said Simpson.

With Campaign 150, the Trust will build on its reputation for success and efficiency.  During the last decade, it has raised $180 million from public and private sources.  This commitment to conscientious stewardship and fiscal responsibility has led to the organization regularly receiving a coveted Four Star ranking from the nonprofit watchdog group Charity Navigator, as well as a Best in America rating by the Independent Charities of America.

The Civil War Trust is the largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization in the United States.  Its goal is to preserve our nation’s endangered Civil War sites and to promote appreciation of these hallowed grounds through education and heritage tourism.  To date, the Trust has preserved more than 30,000 acres of battlefield land in 20 states.  Please visit the Trust’s website at www.civilwar.org, the home of the Civil War sesquicentennial.