Most Endangered Battlefields 2010
Although this report is meant to highlight the variety of threats facing Civil War battlefields, not all news for America’s historic sites is dire. By working in partnership with other national and local preservation groups, CWPT has tirelessly pursued preservation strategies to save historic properties across the country. Below are a few of the success stories achieved by CWPT and its partners in the last year. Each site had appeared in a previous edition of History Under Siege. These battlefields and others like them are proof that endangered does not mean lost, and that hope remains for all of our threatened Civil War battlefields.
For several years, intense development pressures in Spotsylvania County placed the battle known as the Confederacy’s greatest victory at the forefront of any discussion on endangered Civil War sites. More recently, however, local leaders have embraced the economic, environmental and tourism benefits that preserved historic landscapes can bring and have become stalwart advocates for battlefield preservation, enabling tremendous progress to be made in protecting the region’s numerous Civil War resources. In December 2009, CWPT partnered with the Commonwealth of Virginia to protect an 85-acre farm along the historic Plank Road that played a pivotal part in Confederate Lt. Gen. Stonewall Jackson’s famed Flank Attack on May 3, 1863. In April 2010, preservation advocates gathered at the Wagner Farm for a preservation ceremony featuring Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell as keynote speaker.
Once seen as the national poster child for how communities should not treat historic resources – paving them over to make way for fast food chains – this Middle Tennessee battlefield has experienced an unprecedented renaissance in recent years. Tremendous reclamation efforts, removing existing development tocreate battlefield parkland, have had a transformative effect on the landscape. In 2007, CWPT worked with local preservation groups Franklin’s Charge and the Carter House Association to protect a crucial property known as the Carter House Garden, scene of some of the battle’s bloodiest combat. In April 2010, preservationists gathered for ceremonies to formally open the site to the public as battlefield parkland. As part of long-term efforts to reclaim more key elements of the battlefield, CWPT and Franklin’s Charge are currently raising funds to purchase and rehabilitate the site of the Carter House cotton gin.
Only a few years ago the situation at the penultimate fight of the Seven Days Battles was dire. The National Park Service had only protected one acre of the battlefield. Ground had been broken at three housing developments surrounding the area of most intense fighting, with three more in the planning stages. Since then, in the words of one historian, the transformation “defies comparison.” Today, CWPT has purchased and permanently protected 566 acres at Glendale – 251 of which have already been sold or transferred to the National Park Service – and we are in the midst of fundraising to save seven more. In June, CWPT will be joined by members of the 69th Pennsylvania reenactment unit to dedicate a monument to their namesake regiment, the very first such marker on the battlefield. The success is even more significant when taken together with our efforts at the neighboring Malvern Hill Battlefield, where fighting occurred the next day in the summer of 1862. All told, CWPT has protected 1,336 acres at the two sites, creating a contiguous preserve of 1,468 acres of Seven Days battlefields.