For Immediate Release: 02/24/05
Civil War Preservation Trust Unveils Most Endangered Battlefields List
Country Music Star Darryl Worley joins the CWPT to unveil annual report
(Washington, D.C.) - A pastoral Tennessee battlefield that witnessed 9,000 casualties in just five hours, the remains of a South Carolina fort where a legendary African-American regiment found glory, and a sacred Civil War battle site just 30 miles from the nation's capital are among America's most endangered battlefields, it was announced today.
At a news conference this morning, the Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT) unveiled its annual report on the status of the nation's historic battlegrounds. The report, entitled History Under Siege: A Guide to America's Most Endangered Civil War Battlefields, identifies the most threatened Civil War sites in the United States and what can be done to rescue them.
"America's Civil War history is under siege," warned CWPT President James Lighthizer during the news conference. "Nearly 20 percent of America's Civil War battlefields have already been destroyed — denied forever to future generations. Across the country, hallowed ground, where more than 600,000 Americans gave their lives, is being paved over for shopping malls and housing tracts. Without swift and decisive action, many of the sites listed in this year's report will soon be little more than a memory."
Joining Lighthizer at the news conference was DreamWorks recording artist and historic preservationist Darryl Worley, nominated top new male vocalist in 2002 by the Academy of Country Music. The debut single from Worley's self-titled album, "Awful, Beautiful Life" recently held the #1 spot for two weeks on Billboard's Hot Country Singles and Tracks chart. In his remarks, Worley echoed Lighthizer's concerns.
"As a young child growing up near Shiloh [Tennessee], I was always fascinated to learn more about the history that took place virtually in my own backyard," said Worley. "Our country's Civil War history is so rich and so vital, and we owe it to our children to do everything in our power to safeguard that legacy."
Fought on November 30, 1864, the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee, was one of the most agonizing defeats suffered by the South during the Civil War. After years of neglect, the city of Franklin has pledged a $2.5 million challenge grant toward preservation of a critical section of the battlefield. The preservation community is working hard to meet that challenge by raising an additional $2.5 million.
Located just outside Charleston Harbor, Morris Island, South Carolina, was the scene of brutal fighting during the bitter siege of Charleston. It was here that the 54th Massachusetts, the famed African-American regiment, fought nobly, a story immortalized in the 1990 film Glory. Last year, a developer applied for a permit to build 20 homes on Morris Island — ten times the density allowed under current zoning.
Virginia's Manassas Battlefield, less than one hour outside the nation's capital, was the site of two crucial Civil War battles fought during the summers of 1861 and 1862. Today, the battlefield is surrounded by sprawl. Commuter traffic through the battlefield threatens to turn the national park into a vast parking lot.
Also participating in the news conference was Libby O'Connell, Ph.D., chief historian of The History Channel. O'Connell, who developed and oversees Save Our History, The History Channel's campaign for historic preservation and history education, is also a trustee of CWPT, a member of the Mt. Vernon Scholars Committee and one of the Board of Advisors of the National Council for History Education.
History Under Siege is comprised of two parts: the first section cites the 10 most endangered battlefields in the nation, with a brief description of their history and preservation status; the second section lists 15 additional "at risk" sites that round out the top 25 endangered battlefields in the country.
The sites mentioned in the report range from the famous to the nearly forgotten. However, all have a critical feature in common ? each one or part of one is in danger of being lost forever. The battlefields were chosen based on geographic location, military significance, and the immediacy of current threats.
In addition to Franklin, Morris Island and Manassas, History Under Siege includes:
-- Bermuda Hundred, Virginia. This peninsula jutting into the James River was expected to be the starting point for a victorious Union attack on Richmond. Unfortunately for the Union cause, the campaign was reduced to a series of bloody and inconclusive battles. Today, only a small percentage of the Bermuda Hundred battlefields are preserved.
-- Kennesaw Mountain, Georgia. Union General William T. Sherman suffered one of his few defeats at Kennesaw Mountain in June 1864. Today, picturesque Kennesaw Mountain is surrounded by sprawl. The park service estimates than an astounding 160,000 vehicles travel through the battlefield each day.
-- Knoxville, Tennessee. Fought during November and early December 1864, the battles for Knoxville were among the most brutal of the Civil War. Little remains of the fortifications that once surrounded the city. Local preservationists are trying to save Fort Higley, one of the two remaining forts, from being bulldozed to make way for a 250-condominium project.
-- Mansfield, Louisiana. The battle of Mansfield was one of the bloodiest battles fought west of the Mississippi River. Today, only 237 acres of the battlefield are protected from development. A lignite mining operation has already destroyed part of the battlefield and threatens to devour even more.
-- Raymond, Mississippi. Raymond was a major turning point in Union General Ulysses S. Grant's brilliant Vicksburg Campaign. Today, only 65 acres of the 1,000-acre battlefield are protected. Development pressure along State Highway 18 remains the principal threat.
-- Spotsylvania County, Virginia. Situated midway between the opposing capitals of Washington and Richmond, Spotsylvania County was the site of four of the bloodiest battles of the war. Today, as one of the fastest-developing counties in the nation, Spotsylvania is ground zero in the fight to save America's remaining Civil War battlefields.
-- Wilson's Creek, Missouri. The rolling hills of Wilson's Creek provided the backdrop for the first major battle of the Civil War fought west of the Mississippi River. Today, a proposed 1,500-house development threatens to destroy key parcels west of the battlefield and become a magnet for irreversible sprawl.
"These endangered Civil War battlefields are the last tangible reminders of the valor of those who donned the blue and gray," Lighthizer stated. "They must be preserved."
With 70,000 members, CWPT is the largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization in the United States. Its mission is to preserve our nation's endangered Civil War battlefields and to promote appreciation of these hallowed grounds.