In an effort to bring to light a few of the preservation efforts being done at the grassroots level for Western Theater battlefield sites, we will bring to you an occasional Q&A with one of those organizations who has had success along the preservation front.
We asked our own Darryl Smith, part of Civil War Augusta, to provide some insight to the ongoing preservation efforts in and around Nashville, as well as let us a take a peek inside his organization's processes.
What preservation goal(s) is/are is the group trying to accomplish?
As the fighting that took place in Augusta was mostly within town limits, we do not have the traditional outlook of trying to preserve land. In our case our preservation efforts are more towards education and interpretation. To preserve the story is probably the most impactful preservation effort we can accomplish. However, if a piece of property were to become available, particularly where Basil Duke deployed the two "bullpups," it would behoove our organization to look seriously at trying to obtain a parcel to create a location for a battlefield park.
Where is your audience, meaning those you “advertise” to, as well as supporters, located?
Realistically worldwide. I cannot strive the importance of having an active online presence, using both a website and Facebook along with other social media outlets, to create a global reach. If someone in Mongolia wants to send us a donation, we would embrace that. Many smaller preservation organizations become too focused on their own backyard, which of course having local support is paramount to having a successful group, but this limited focus keeps them from obtaining support from anywhere and everywhere. Shutting out those who may not be local is a terrible practice, and causes many local groups to wither on the vine as they run out of fresh ideas or financial support. Having said that, we have had great support locally and regionally. We encourage reenactment groups as well as heritage organizations that are within our region to become involved. A local Sons of Confederate Veterans camp has been very supportive as well (Charles H. Lee Camp #2305 based in Falmouth).
What does success look like for the organization?
Increased membership and monetary support of course, but more ideally ensuring that the next and following generations understand the story correctly and are able to place Augusta within the context of the larger Civil War. Success would also be to install 10-15 interpretive panels that tell the story for those visiting the area who had no idea that a Civil War battle took place along this quiet Ohio River town.
What sort of events does the organization sponsor?
We held three events in 2019 that seemed to be successful. First we had a single Civil War Day in which we had a tour, vendors, a few folks dressed in period clothing, and music. That led us to create a weekend anniversary event in September which also added living historians, vintage base ball, speakers, and more music. We had hoped to build on that event in 2020, but the current conditions of the country forced us to cancel. We also held an American Battlefield Trust Park Day that saw 25 attendees come out to clean up a local historic cemetery where both local Union Home Guard and Confederates, killed in the battle, are buried. We hold a quarterly speaker series as well, with varying topics, as part of our efforts to educate those in attendance about the Civil War.
How does historic preservation translate to prosperity in Augusta and the surrounding area?
Having a Civil War site normally translates into increased tourism dollars, We know that during our events mentioned above that we are bringing more visitors into town, and those visitors need a place to stay, a place to dine, an a place to gas their vehicle. The town does not have a hotel, but does now offer several AirBnB locations, and there are several choices for dining as well. Maysville, a small city, is only twenty minutes away, and offers many lodging options. Bringing in those who have an interest in our events mean bringing in a new visitor to town, which of course translates to more dollars being spent locally.
We have always believed in sharing best practices among organizations - what are some ideas that your group have used in the past to increase support for the organization?
One thing we are doing that I am very proud of is an Adopt-A-Soldier program. For a $25.00 donation, we will clean a local (Bracken County) soldier's gravestone, and add a flag and a grave marker to his burial site. We have had donations for this program from Tennessee, Missouri, and other states, as well as locally. It is a nice way to honor a soldier, while raising a little money for the group.
Any other thoughts about Civil War Augusta that you would like to share?
We are not currently a non-profit, so we rely on the goodness of folks to support us as they see fit. We are working towards becoming a non-profit so as to benefit from that status. We are would like for those reading to visit our website, check out our Facebook page, and perhaps Adopt-A-Soldier as well.