DOZENS of Civil War battlefields are in danger of disappearing.
In an effort to save them, a new battle between North and South
has erupted a century and a quarter after Robert E. Lee surrendered
the tattered remnants of his Confederate forces at Appomattox
This time the struggle is over whether to preserve those domestic
killing fields from urban encroachment from developments outside the
The preservation issue goes beyond simply saving battlefields. It
is about preserving a swath of America's historic and cultural
resources. These aspects include native Americans, labor, women's
history, archaeological, says Rep. Bruce Vento (D) of California,
chairman of the House subcommittee on National Parks and Public
"The problem we're talking about is the same - historic, cultural
resource settings," Congressman Vento points out. "Our historic,
cultural experience is hardly one of only Civil War experience."
In the effort to save civil war sites, the conflict is dominantly
between the desire to preserve hallowed ground and time.
How much time? No more than five years, say some
preservationists, before the tide of rising population sweeps over
Particularly pressed by the prospect of development is the now
virtually untouched Brandy Station, 65 miles southwest of
Washington, D.C. In June 1863, 20,000 men fought the war's biggest
cavalry contest there one month before the pivotal Gettysburg
A major proposal in Congress, by Sen. Dale Bumpers (D) of
Arkansas, would establish a study commission to identify those
battle sites that should be preserved for all time. Senator
Bumpers's proposal, which has the backing of US Interior Secretary
Manuel Lujan Jr., grew out of a more modest plan to identify sites
in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, proposed by Sen. James Jeffords (R)
of Vermont. The Senate is likely to act on the measure in September.
If the commission idea makes it to the House, Representative
Vento would like to broaden it to include other histo`there has been
a recognition by the government ... of a tremendous outpouring of
concern for the environment, for the historic, that is especially
dramatized by the Civil War battlefields," says Tersh Boasberg, a
preservation lawyer. The result is "a very definitely strengthened
effort" to save the battle sites, he adds.
Much of the current preservation momentum stems from the perilous
manner in which Congress, at a cost exceeding $50 million, in 1988
purchased 600 acres for the Manassas National Park while a
commercial developer was even then building roads and a sewer system
on the property.
Congress and preservationists agreed then that in the future
America must obtain historically important land before development
closes in and prices rise.
Last month's $21 million gift to the US government from the
Richard King Mellon Foundation of several Civil War battle sites
demonstrates the renewed interest preservationists have in saving
important sites. …