CWPT and total war

At a time when Civil War Preservation Trust and its allies should be in private negotiations to buy Morris Island, near Charleston, at a time when the island is for sale to any and all, CWPT is waging a very public campaign to humiliate the seller.

* In an article appearing Feb. 17, CWPT referred to an attempt to auction the island on eBay as "stupid." The seller, Harry Huffman gently replied that he would sell the island to preservationists at a discount to the asking price and that "We're just waiting for someone to come up with the money, and hopefully it will be the conservation people."

* Yesterday CWPT released an opinion poll conducted in Morris island's home county: "71 percent of those surveyed favored preservation of Morris Island so it can never be developed." In case Huffman did not get the message, local regulators were threatened as well:

Eight out of ten respondents stated that the county has a responsibility to protect Morris Island and other historic resources in the county. Seventy-seven percent of those polled revealed that they would be more likely to support public officials who advocate preservation of Morris Island.

* Also, yesterday, at the press conference announcing its annual list of 10 most endangered ACW sites, CWPT named Morris island the #2 most endangered site.

* At the same conference, CWPT sponsored a speaker who attacked Huffman's eBay ploy - "in addition to gently used Prada bags ... an irreplaceable landmark of black history is now up for grabs."

This is the Chancellorsville Battlefield playbook in use again, the one in which you blacken the seller's name and reputaion, enlist the government to move against him, and outrage popular sentiment on your behalf.

And in its war against the seller, CWPT is striking devil's bargains as usual. Its Morris Island poll results stated "Eighty percent of those polled said that they support preservation of the island for its importance as a habitat for endangered wildlife."

Folks, the goal is not to create a bird sanctuary but to put lots of us loudmouthed, foot stomping, arm-waving history buffs on the ground, is it not? And maybe some gun-firing re-enactors, too? Perhaps a construction crew might restore earthworks? Endangered wildlife use is the kiss of death for Civil War history use.

In its 2002 tax filings, CWPT showed $16 million in assets. It can buy Morris island in a moment with help from no one. This is a Punch and Judy show for donors, donors who equate pantomime with results.