For Immediate Release: 03/15/12
North Carolina Natural Heritage Trust Fund Awards Major Grant for Battlefield Preservation
Powerful combination of state and federal matching grants allows for permanent protection of an additional 120 acres within the Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site
(Bentonville, N.C.) – The North Carolina Natural Heritage Trust Fund on Feb. 27 approved a $355,000 grant to acquire 120 acres that will become part of Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site. The Civil War Trust, the nation’s largest battlefield preservation organization, will be matching the state grant dollar-for-dollar using funds from the federal American Battlefield Protection Program, effectively allowing the state to acquire the land for half its total cost. With the completion of this project, the Trust and the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources will have partnered in the preservation of a total of 1,435 acres at Bentonville.
“The remarkable work done to permanently protect the Bentonville Battlefield is among the great success stories of this organization,” said Trust President James Lighthizer. “We are honored to continue such a fruitful long-term partnership with the state of North Carolina and look forward to many more opportunities for mutual achievement in the months and years to come.”
Lighthizer emphasized that the availability of federal battlefield preservation matching grant funding made this project an outstanding investment for the state, essentially allowing the popular state historic site to grow significantly, while paying only half the fair-market value for that land.
“Our Bentonville Battlefield is a rare jewel because, unlike many Civil War battlefields, the landscape includes miles of original trenches in a largely undeveloped, agricultural area. We are grateful that the Civil War Trust recognizes and supports our efforts,” said North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources Secretary Linda Carlisle. “We are preserving history and open space, while simultaneously enhancing economic activity in the area with tens of thousands of visitors and an economic impact of nearly $7 million for Johnston County annually.”
Each of the nine properties covered by the grant is adjacent to previously preserved properties, allowing this project to augment and enhance the preservation legacy at Bentonville. With the assistance of the North Carolina Natural Heritage Trust Fund, in particular, the Civil War Trust has been able to acquire historically significant battlefield land associated with the First, Second and Third Days of the battle. Today, a total of 1,435 acres have been permanently protected at Bentonville, much of it through partnerships between the Civil War Trust, Bentonville Battleground Historical Association, the Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site and the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources.
With its proximity to Interstates 95 and 40, Bentonville has long been eyed by preservationists as a site potentially vulnerable to development. Today, Johnston and Wayne counties continue to experience long-term development pressure that is threatening the remaining rural landscape in the vicinity of Bentonville. This project will preserve open green space as well as the remnants of a battlefield that, in the words of the federal Civil War Sites Advisory Commission, had “a decisive influence on a campaign and a direct impact on the course of the war.” This combination of historic significance and pending threat, earned Bentonville a Priority I, Class A ranking in that congressionally-authorized report, the highest possible designation.
The Battle of Bentonville, fought in Johnson County in March 19–21, 1865, is often referred to as the Confederate army’s “last stand in the Carolinas.” This defeat, coupled with the surrender of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia a few weeks later, prompted Gen. Joseph E. Johnston to surrender his command on April 26. Fighting raged over more than 6,000 acres during the largest engagement to take place in the Tar Heel State and 4,500 men fell as casualties.
The Civil War Trust is the largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization in the United States. Its goal is to preserve our nation’s endangered Civil War sites and to promote appreciation of these hallowed grounds through education and heritage tourism. To date, the Trust has preserved more than 32,000 acres of battlefield land in 20 states, including 1,868 acres in North Carolina. Please visit the Trust’s website at www.civilwar.org, the home of the Civil War sesquicentennial.