For Immediate Release: 04/14/11
Country Music Star Trace Adkins Testifies to Congress on Importance of Protecting Civil War Battlefield
Hearing before House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies highlights the need for preservation emphasis during Civil War’s 150th anniversary commemoration
(Washington, D.C.) – Growing up in Sarepta, La., country music superstar Trace Adkins heard stories of his great-great grandfather Henry T. Morgan’s military service during the Civil War. This personal connection to the past spurred his life-long passion for history, a love that today brought him to Capitol Hill to testify before Congress regarding the importance of protecting Civil War battlefields. Adkins declared the Civil War sesquicentennial anniversary commemoration, which began earlier this week, as “the opportune time to redouble efforts to forever protect these hallowed grounds.”
Adkins — known for a string of hits including “I Got My Game On” and You’re Gonna Miss This,” as well as his outstanding performance on NBC’s “The Celebrity Apprentice” — related a personal experience connecting to his own legacy during a visit to Mississippi’s Vicksburg National Military Park. Adkins’s great-great grandfather fought with the 31st Louisiana Infantry until he was captured at Vicksburg in 1863.
Reflecting on the moment when preservation and interpretation of the site allowed Adkins to stand in the same spot as his ancestor, looking out over the same battlefield, he said, “Words cannot describe what a spiritual moment that was for me. That moment would not have been possible had it not been for the preservation of that hallowed ground.”
Both Adkins and Civil War Trust president James Lighthizer had been invited before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies to testify to the importance of federal involvement in battlefield preservation initiatives through the Civil War Battlefield Preservation Program, a highly successful public-private partnership and matching grants program responsible for the permanent protection of more than 16,500 acres of hallowed ground.
Now residing near Nashville, Tenn., a region rich in Civil War history, Adkins related his experience stuck in traffic on Interstate 65 on a winter day several years ago. Taking his bearings, he noticed he was stopped in the shadow of Overton Hill, a key landmark of the Battle of Nashville now dotted with small businesses and a high school. Then he realized that the date was December 15 — the anniversary of horrific fighting on the ground beneath the wheels of his truck — and wondered how many of his fellow commuters were aware of the connection.
“Sadly, I was forced to admit to myself that there likely was not a car within a half-mile with an occupant who could recite the story of what happened on that hill” said Adkins. “Blood was literally flowing down that hill on the morning of December 15, 1864.”
In that moment, Adkins said he had an epiphany. “It was this moment that I realized the importance of preserving Civil War battlegrounds — now, before they are paved over and forgotten. The difference between a battle that is written about and taught to our children and one that is largely forgotten can be summed up in one word: preservation,” he said. “Preserved battlefields are cultural and historic landscapes that serve as a constant reminder of the sacrifices our ancestors made to make this country what it is today.”
During the same hearing, Civil War Trust president James Lighthizer spoke about the myriad preservation success stories made possible through the federal Civil War Battlefield Preservation Program. Since it was first created in 1999, grants from the program have been used to protect 16,500 acres of hallowed ground in 14 states. Among the many hallowed battlegrounds that have benefited are: Antietam, Md.; Averasboro, N.C.; Chancellorsville, Va.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Corinth, Miss.; Harpers Ferry, W.Va.; and Perryville, Ky.
“These battlefields are an irreplaceable part of our shared national heritage, consecrated with the blood of brave Americans who fought and died to create the country we are today,” said Lighthizer. “Every day, private sector organizations like ours are competing with developers to acquire this land. We estimate that 30 acres of battlefield lands are destroyed every day, paved over and lost to us forever.”
Both Lighthizer and Adkins encouraged members of Congress to allocate funds for battlefield preservation now and in the coming years, in recognition of the four-year 150th anniversary commemoration of the Civil War.
“As a descendant of a Civil War soldier, I can think of no better tribute during the 150th anniversary of the Civil War than to make a firm commitment to the preservation of these hallowed grounds that saw such desperate combat,” said Adkins. “If adequate funding is provided, there are opportunities during the sesquicentennial to complete the preservation of a number of battlefields. What a fitting legacy to leave our children, grandchildren and all future generations of Americans — tangible links to our nation’s past.”
The Civil War Trust 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. To date, the Trust has preserved more than 30,000 acres of battlefield land in 20 states. Please visit the Trust’s website at www.civilwar.org, the home of the Civil War sesquicentennial.