April 18, 2007
By Andrew Bell
Huzzah! The Gettysburg Foundation, a non-profit group dedicated to the preservation of America’s most-hallowed battlefield, is awash in cash. Two months ago, the organization announced that its “Campaign to Preserve Gettysburg” has raised more than $93 million dollars, prompting it to boost its overall fundraising goal to an eye-popping $125 million. The money will help pay for a new museum and state-of-the-art visitor center (opening in 2008) and restore portions of the battlefield to their original 1863 appearance. “From the start, we have worked to ensure that the Gettysburg experience reaches its full potential,” says Foundation President Robert C. Wilburn. “Our goal has been to showcase the battlefield and the town, and to offer an experience that not only excites and inspires visitors, but also helps them appreciate the significance of what happened here. As one of our nation’s most sacred places, Gettysburg deserves nothing less.”
Wilburn adds that his foundation’s fundraising goals are consistent with those of other museums, including Mount Vernon, the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, and the new American Revolution Center in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Gettysburg will rake in even more dough if the president’s 2008 National Park Service Budget—which includes $986,000 in additional operating funds for the park— is approved by Congress. Administrators hope to use the extra monies to hire more interpreters. Currently, only 80,000 of the 2 million people who visit Gettysburg each year enjoy the benefits of a guided tour.
The Battle of Gettysburg was one of the major turning points of the Civil War. The Army of Northern Virginia lost 28,000 men during the three-day struggle and retreated back into its home state, where it was eventually destroyed by Ulysses Grant. The Union lost 23,000 soldiers at Gettysburg.