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Civil War Trust

Civil War Trust
For Immediate Release: 05/13/10

Civil War Preservation Trust Releases Annual Report on Nation's Most Endangered Battlefields

Best-Selling Author Jeff Shaara Joins Trust to Unveil “History Under Siege” Report

(Washington, D.C.) – The iconic Pennsylvania battlefield synonymous with American valor, now facing a second attempt to bring casino gambling to its doorstep; a Virginia crossroads where a single marching order set the Union army on the road to victory, now proposed for a monstrous commercial development; and a rocky Arizona spire where Confederate and Union forces fiercely faced off, now jeopardized by state budget cuts; are some of the nation’s most endangered Civil War battlefields.

At a news conference held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., 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 save them.

“All across the country, our nation’s irreplaceable battlefields – these tangible links to our shared history – are threatened by inappropriate development, misguided public policy, limited financial resources and, in some cases, simple apathy,” said CWPT President James Lighthizer at the report’s unveiling.  “Next year marks the Sesquicentennial of the bloodiest conflict in our nation’s history, and as we prepare for that seminal moment, it is an opportune time to shine a spotlight on the places that tell America’s story.”

Joining Lighthizer at the news conference was best-selling author Jeff Shaara, who also serves on the CWPT Board of Trustees.  The author of nine New York Times bestsellers, Shaara’s novels, including the Civil War-themed Gods and Generals and The Last Full Measure, have been praised by historians for their painstaking research.  His  only non-fiction work, Jeff Shaara’s Civil War Battlefields,  is a unique and personal tour across ten of America’s most hallowed battlegrounds.  In testament to his commitment to historic preservation, Shaara donated the entire advance from the project toward battlefield protection efforts.

“Nothing creates an emotional connection between present and past like walking in the footsteps of our Civil War soldiers,” said Shaara.  “I hope that by drawing attention to endangered Civil War battlefields, Americans will this see hallowed ground in a new way and understand that these sites must be preserved for future generations to experience.”

Also taking the podium at the news conference was Dr. Mark Snell, director of the George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War at Shepherd University.  A Civil War scholar and retired army officer, Snell was appointed to the West Virginia Sesquicentennial of the Civil War Commission last summer by Governor Joe Manchin, and was subsequently elected vice-chairman.

“Particularly on the eve of the Civil War’s 150th anniversary, there is no more fitting commemoration of American valor than respectfully protecting the land where our soldiers fought and bled,” said Snell.

For three days in the summer of 1863, 160,000 men in blue and gray fought the Civil War’s largest and bloodiest battle around the crossroads town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  In 2006, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board rejected a proposal to build a slots parlor near Gettysburg’s East Cavalry Field, citing widespread public opposition to the plan. However, earlier this year the same chief investor rolled the dice again and announced plans for another Gettysburg casino.  Although smaller than the previous proposal, this casino would be only one half-mile from Gettysburg National Military Park.

In May 1864, Union Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s bloody Overland Campaign began in a tangled mass of second-growth trees and scrub known as the Wilderness, Virginia.  When portions of Grant’s army attacked elements of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s army on May 5, 1864, it was the first time the two legendary commanders met in battle.  In August 2009, the Orange County, Va. Board of Supervisors approved a massive commercial center featuring a Walmart and four retailers at the gateway to the historic battlefield.  A lawsuit to block the project is pending.

While most of the battles of the Civil War took place on southern soil, Confederate and Union forces engaged in their westernmost struggle at Picacho Peak, Arizona, on April 15, 1862.  Confederate Capt. Sherod Hunter raised his flag in the small, frontier settlement of Tucson, hoping to take another step toward the Pacific and the creation of an ocean-to-ocean Confederacy.  The Confederate rangers were met by a detachment of Union cavalry under the leadership of Lt. James Barrett near Picacho Peak, a rocky spire 50 miles northwest of Tucson.  Although Picacho Peak State Park is a popular tourist destination, it will close to the public on June 3, 2010, due to drastic cuts in the state budget – less than one year before the sesquicentennial of the war,

The Civil War Preservation Trust is the nation’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving our nation’s endangered Civil War battlefields and to promoting appreciation of these hallowed grounds through education and heritage tourism.  History Under Siege is composed of two parts; one identifying the 10 most endangered battlefields in the nation, and a second section lists 15 additional “at risk” sites also confronted by serious threats.  Sites discussed in the report range from the famous to the nearly forgotten, but at least part of each site is in danger of being lost forever.  Battlefields were chosen based on geographic location, military significance, and the immediacy of current threats.

History Under Siege™ also includes:

Camp Allegheny, W.Va., December 13, 1861:  Early in the war, North and South both strove to gain control over the western counties of Virginia, meeting in a number of engagements among the peaks and valleys of the Appalachian Mountains.  Today, the scenic beauty of Camp Allegheny, West Virginia stands to be compromised by a field of 40-story-high wind turbines — 100 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty — to be built within view of the battlefield. 

Cedar Creek, Va., October 19, 1864:  In the fall of 1864, Union Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan marched up the fertile Shenandoah Valley, stripping the countryside bare to starve out Confederate forces.  After a daring Confederate surprise attack at Cedar Creek, Union forces launched a crushing counterattack, extinguishing the South’s last hope of recovering the Valley.  In 2008, the Frederick County Board of Supervisors approved a massive expansion of the mine operating adjacent to Cedar Creek, which would destroy nearly 400 acres of battlefield land crucial to telling the story of this decisive struggle.

Fort Stevens, Washington, D.C., July 11–12, 1864:  Fort Stevens was part of an extensive ring of fortifications surrounding Civil War Washington, but in July 1864 those defenses were vulnerable to a direct attack by Confederate forces under Lt. Gen. Jubal Early.  President Abraham Lincoln, watching the action from Fort Stevens, came under fire from sharpshooters.  Last year, a church adjacent to the fort applied for a zoning exemption to build an immense community center complex.  The new construction would tower over the fort, significantly degrading the visitor experience.

Pickett’s Mill, Ga., May 27, 1864:  The Battle of Pickett’s Mill was one of the most stinging Union defeats of the 1864 Atlanta Campaign and the first serious check on Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman’s momentous campaign against this Confederate transportation center.  Although Pickett’s Mill Battlefield State Historic Site is widely regarded as thoroughly preserved and interpreted, the park was forced to reduce its hours significantly due to budget cuts, and last autumn it was inundated by floodwaters that destroyed footbridges and a portion of the historic mill.

Richmond, Ky., August 29–30, 1862:  Confederate Maj. Gen. Kirby Smith’s newly-dubbed “Army of Kentucky”—a bearded, shoeless band of rebel soldiers — marched north in the soaring heat of August 1862 and encountered a hastily-formed Union force led by Maj. Gen. William Nelson.  The ensuing battle became one of the most decisive Confederate victories of the Civil War.  Although the battlefield has been well protected to date, future preservation efforts will be complicated by the addition of a new highway interchange, paving the way for significant commercial growth in an area that has previously experienced little development pressure.

South Mountain, Md., September 14, 1862:  In early September 1862, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee launched an audacious invasion of the North.  But when a copy of his orders was discovered by Union soldiers in a field, wrapped around cigars, federal commanders were able to move quickly against the vulnerable Confederates at the Battle of South Mountain.  In December 2008, Dominion Power purchased 135 acres of battlefield land for a proposed $55 million natural gas compression station, a plan that has been subsequently suspended with an option to re-file.

Thoroughfare Gap, Va. August 28, 1862:  Although a relatively small engagement, the Battle of Thoroughfare Gap was of immense strategic significance, setting the stage for the battles of Second Manassas and, ultimately, Antietam.  In February, consultants began seeking comments from the preservation community regarding a proposal to build a 150-foot-tall communications tower within the core battlefield area at Thoroughfare Gap.  Although construction of Interstate 66 in the 1960s saw portions of the mountain gap widened, the area retains much of its rural, scenic beauty.

With 55,000 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.  CWPT has preserved more than 29,000 acres of battlefield land across the nation. CWPT’s website is www.civilwar.org.

Contacts

  • Mary Koik, CWPT, (202) 367-1861 x7231
  • Beth Newburger, Epoch, (571) 436-0887

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