In commemoration of the Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War, the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership launched a legacy project of national significance. The Living Legacy Project is a simple yet eloquent plan to plant one tree for each of the 620,000 soldiers who died, as a living memorial for their individual and combined sacrifices.
On November 19, the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership dedicated 248 trees to the Living Legacy Project, including 167 newly planted trees and 81 existing trees were incorporated into the project. In President Abraham Lincoln’s 272-word speech, one of the most enduring speeches ever given in America, he enjoined future generations to “take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.”
The ceremony included remarks by National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis, Gettysburg National Military Park Superintendent Bob Kirby, Acting Secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Ellen Ferretti, Ancestry.com Senior Director Brock Bierman, and Cate Magennis Wyatt, Founder and President of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership.
In addition, the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership (JTHG) announced a new collaboration with Ancestry.com that will allow for more individuals to become engaged with the effort. Ancestry.com & Fold3 will link the Living Legacy Tree Project to Fold 3 Memorial Pages and provide access to its websites so that participating JTHG classrooms can research soldiers’ stories. Fold3 offers one of the web’s premier collection of original military records, gathering the best U.S. military records, photos and stories to help customers discover and share the stories of those who served.
Students from Massachusetts to Virginia, who have been researching the stories of the fallen soldiers, were also on hand to dedicate trees. The trees were dedicated to those soldiers and some of the students had the opportunity to share those individual stories.
The 167 new trees were planted to restore the apple orchard that was located on the Bliss Farm at the time of the Battle of Gettysburg. The Bliss Farm, which is located just off the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Scenic Byway, was abandoned by the family immediately prior to the battle. Located between Seminary and Cemetery Ridge, it was in the middle of Lee’s and Meade’s armies. On July 2 -3, it was exchanged many times between Union and Confederate troops due to its strategic position and offerings. Around 11:15 a.m. on the morning of July 3, 1863, the house, bank barn and other outbuildings were burnt to the ground.
Funding for the trees that were planted came from witf and The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources TreeVitalize program, a broad-based public-private partnership to increase public awareness of the importance of community trees, and to reverse the loss of tree cover in the state’s communities. In addition, GIS software industry leader ESRI is collaborating with the Living Legacy Project to provide database software and technical assistance to bring the soldiers stories to life.
The Living Legacy Project will stretch along the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Scenic Byway, a 180-mile swath of land that runs from Gettysburg, PA to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, VA. It was upon the battlefields within this region that many of the soldiers who fought, died during the American Civil War, one of our country’s most defining moments.
Upon completion, the Living Legacy Project will be the first 180-mile landscaped allée in the world and the only allée dedicated to honoring the most defining moment in American history. The project will create a unified color palette that reminds visitors that they are, indeed, on hallowed ground. A signature palette of seasonal trees and plantings, including redbuds, red oaks, red maple, and red cedar have been selected to represent the courage and valor of the individuals being honored with this project. The native selection is appropriate to the diverse landscapes along this historic corridor, and remains sensitive to the local ecology, scenic views, and development patterns.
The Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership is actively engaged in raising the necessary funds to complete this $65 million initiative. Individuals, businesses, schools, and community groups from around the world can contribute to this project. The JTHG Partnership is seeking $100 contributions to support and plant each tree. Donors may select a soldier to honor, as the trees will be geo-tagged to allow Smart Phone users to learn the story of the soldier, providing a strong educational component to engage interest in the region’s historical heritage and literally bring the tree to life. Over 350 organizational partners of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership are already engaged with the Living Legacy Project. “Fifty years from now, during the bicentennial of the Civil War, the Living Legacy Project will be considered the finest example of homage in our country,” said JTHG President Cate Magennis Wyatt. “Now is the time to create and implement a living legacy for those who gave ‘the last full measure,’ many of whom have never been honored.” For more information on the Living Legacy Project, visit www.hallowedground.org.