Group aims to save Civil War’s balloon site

Famous photo of the Intrepid being inflated at the Gaines farm. Two of Lowe's gas generators can be seen in the left of this photo. Later captured during the Confederate advance at Gaines' Mill, generator Number 11 would be put on display in Richmond as a war trophy. Credit: Library of Congress

“We Met Such a Perfect Storm of Lead”

That was the vivid description offered by an Alabamian who took part in the assault on the Federal left at the Battle of Gaines’ Mill. Hit in the flank by heavy artillery fire coming from across the Chickahominy, then facing swampy Boatswain’s Creek, and two tiers of well prepared Union defenders, Longstreet’s Confederate brigades left thousands of dead and wounded on the battlefield.

Now there is an opportunity to save 285 acres of the Gaines’ Mill battlefield – the very ground that Longstreet’s men charged through on June 27, 1862.

A nonprofit group called The Civil War Trust is currently working to preserve the tract that borders the famous Gaines farm/Lowe ballooning site featured in the picture above. Saving this ground will be one of the Civil War Trust’s biggest accomplishments to date and this tract will expand the preserved section of the battlefield by more than 400%.

In a message from Jim Lighthizer, CWPT President, he shares the following:

“There’s no doubt that this is one of the greatest battlefield preservation opportunities you and I will ever have, even as I fully realize that – in this still-stagnant economy – it presents one of the greatest challenges we have ever faced.

After years of interest in this particular piece of hallowed ground property, and after many months of intense negotiations, the Civil War Trust now has a signed contract from a landowner who agrees to sell us 285 acres, or the entire western flank of the Gaines’ Mill battlefield – and he wants to close by July 15, 2012!

There are several reasons why this is one of the most important preservation efforts we have ever attempted:

1. Gaines’ Mill is one of the most important battlefields in America, where only a fraction of the hallowed ground has been saved up til now. Back in the late 1920s, a group of dedicated Richmond residents got together and bought 60 acres south of Boatswain’s Creek, where the Union lines were, and where there was considerable fighting. This land is now owned and managed by the National Park Service.  More recently, the Richmond Battlefields Association saved another 5 acres and, earlier this year, you and your fellow Trust members saved another 2 acres. This new acquisition of 285 pristine acres more than quadruples the preserved area of this battlefield!

2. Gaines’ Mill is a crucial battle of the Seven Days’ Campaign, as it was Robert E. Lee’s first major victory at the head of the Army of Northern Virginia. In the 1993 Congressional report on America’s disappearing battlefields, Gaines’ Mill was listed as one of the Top 11 most highly threatened battlefields in the entire country, with less that 20% of the main battlefield preserved!

3. At the climax of the battle, Lee launched an assault all along his lines. This would turn out to be Lee’s largest assault of the War, more than two times larger than Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg!

…One quick glance at the battle map (above) should tell you as much as I could say in ten letters. This is supremely important, blood-soaked, must-have hallowed ground and this is exactly the reason why we have mounted a capital campaign – to raise the big money needed to save the most important hallowed ground in America.

To learn more about the project and how to support it, visit


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