Posts tagged ‘National Park Service’

Oklahoma’s largest Civil War battlefield may become National Park

by Sean McLachlan 

1st Kansas Infantry was a black regiment with distinguished service at Honey Springs (Photo by farmalldanzil via Flickr)

The Honey Springs Battlefield Park in Oklahoma may become a new addition to the National Park Service, the Tulsa World reports.

The U.S. Department of the Interior said in a report that there’s “potential action” for “support designation of Honey Springs as a National Battlefield Park.” Now Oklahoma history buffs are scratching their heads over just what that means. The Tulsa World couldn’t get an answer.Hopefully that government-speak translates into real action. The Battle of Honey Springs was the largest Civil War battle in Oklahoma, which was the Indian Territory back then. The battle was notable in that white soldiers were a minority on both sides.

On July 17, 1863, a Confederate army was gathering at Honey Springs in order to attack the Union position at Fort Gibson. About four or five thousand rebels had assembled, mostly Cherokee, Choctaw and Chickasaw. More reinforcements were coming, so the Union troops at Fort Gibson, which only numbered 2,800, decided to attack before it was too late. The Union side was mostly black and Indian troops, some from the same tribes as the rebels.

After a night march, the Union army attacked the Confederate position in a pouring rain. The rain ruined much of the rebel gunpowder, and this helped decide the battle. Nonetheless there was enough powder left for the rebels to put up a hard resistance. After a few hours they were forced to retreat, having to burn part of their wagon train to keep it out of Union hands.

The Confederates lost 150 men killed, 400 wounded, and 77 taken prisoner. The Union lost only 17 killed and 60 wounded. The rebels lost control of the Indian Territory north of the Arkansas River. This helped open up Arkansas for invasion and led to a Union army capturing Little Rock that September.

Prominent in the fight on the Union side was the First Kansas Colored Volunteers, a black unit of mostly escaped slaves that was the first American black regiment to see combat when they defeated a larger force of rebel guerrillas at the Battle of Island Mound in Missouri on October 29, 1862. The victory made headlines across the country and helped dispel a widespread belief that black soldiers wouldn’t fight.

The First Kansas Colored Volunteers fought in several engagements in Missouri, Kansas, and Arkansas yet they aren’t very well known. The justly famous 54th Massachusetts has inspired books, a monument, a movie, even a rap video, but the First Kansas remains largely forgotten. I’ve been sending a book proposal on the regiment around to publishers for a few years now, and despite being an established Civil War author I keep getting told there’s an “insufficient market” for the subject. Apparently the American public can only deal with one group of black heroes at a time.

Here’s hoping the Honey Springs battlefield will become a National Park and the First Kansas will get some of the recognition they deserve. Thanks to Jane Johansson over at the The Trans-Mississippian blog for bringing this to my attention. Jane blogs about all aspects of the Civil War west of the Mississippi and is worth reading.

 

National organization recognizes battlefield preservation champions from Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee


(Chattanooga, Tenn.)
 – During a ceremony this evening Fairyland Club on Lookout Mountain, the Civil War Trust, a national battlefield preservation organization, will recognize three outstanding historic preservation advocates with its Chairman’s Awards for Achievement.  The awards, presented by the Trust’s chairman, Henry E. Simpson, will honor Alabama historian Daniel Fulenwider, Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park historian James Ogden and Tennessee Civil War Preservation Association executive director Mary Ann Peckham.

“The long term commitment to historic preservation and education demonstrated by each member of this trio is inspirational,” said Simpson.  “Their enthusiasm for American history knows no bounds and their work will continue to benefit the public for generations to come.”

For more than two decades, Daniel Fulenwider of Cullman County, Ala., has worked to promote appreciation and understanding of “Streight’s Raid” — Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest’s pursuit of Col. Abel D. Streight across north Alabama in the spring of 1863.  He has led tours of the campaign for military personnel from 27 countries and has traversed the entire route, from Mississippi to Georgia, on foot.  He was instrumental in orchestrating the Trust’s efforts to purchase of land at Hog Mountain, scene of fighting during the Battle of Day’s Gap, and continues to be involved in efforts to promote and interpret the site.

Mary Ann Peckham is the Executive Director of the Tennessee Civil War Preservation Association a statewide organization dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of Tennessee Civil War Battlefields.   She retired from the National Park Service in December 2000, after serving in six National Park areas.  Her final assignment was as Superintendent of Stones River National Battlefield in Murfreesboro, Tenn.  In addition to her work with TCWPA, she is active with a number of area conservation organizations, including serving on the advisory board of the Southeast Region of the Land Trust for Tennessee.

Since 1988, James Ogden has been the historian for Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park.  Earlier in his career, he done interpretive and research work for the Maryland Park Service at Point Lookout State Park, site of the largest Civil War prison, and for the National Park Service at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, Russell Cave National Monument and Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.  Ogden speaks regularly on aspects of the Civil War to historical organizations and leads tours of battlefields throughout Georgia and Tennessee.  He has taught Civil War history courses for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, published a variety of articles and appeared on both A&E’s “Civil War Journal” and the History Channel’s “Civil War Combat.”

Beyond his involvement with the Civil War Trust, Simpson is a member of the law firm Adams and Reese/Lange Simpson, LLP in Birmingham, Ala.  He has previously served as a lecturer at the University of Alabama, the state chairman of the U.S. Supreme Court Historical Society and the state chairman of the American College of Trial Lawyers.

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 nearly 30,000 acres of battlefield in 20 states.  Learn more at www.civilwar.org, the home of the Civil War sesquicentennial.

Eight Civil War battlefields get government grants

By Linda Wheeler, Washington Post Blogs 

More than $1.2 million in grants from the National Park Service’sAmerican Battlefield Protection Program were awarded this week to a variety of national battlefield projects including eight Civil War sites in six states: Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, South Carolina and Virginia.

Virginia was the only state to get more than one. A $30,000 grant went to the Bull Run Preserve, Inc. for a series of workshops to teach the public how to respond to the threat of road widens, railroad expansions and cell towers in battlefield areas.

A second grant for $55,000 was acquired by Citizens for Fauquier County for the creation of digital maps and associated GIS data at nine battlefields. The third grant was given to Radford University for $67,000 to develop digital technologies to interpret the battlefields at Saltsville.

 

National Park Service Director Jarvis Addresses The Value and Importance Of Maintaining Civil War Sites

Submitted by Jon Jarvis on July 25, 2011 – National Parks Traveler

Editor’s note: As the National Park Service last week commemorated the start of the Civil War 150 years ago, Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis addressed an audience at the Manassas National Battlefield and told those in attendance about the value and importance of maintaining Civil War sites in the National Park System.

It is an honor to stand with you on one of our most sacred American landscapes. Here, 150 years ago today, the nation got its first real look at civil war. This is where American democracy began its baptism by fire. Where the grueling four-year journey that shaped a nation, began in earnest.

The battle of Manassas dispelled the myth that the war would be a quick affair. The Confederate secretary of war, LeRoy Pope Walker, suggested prior to the battle that when all was said and done, he would be able to wipe up the blood that would be spilled with his pocket handkerchief.

Historian Shelby Foote liked to point out that it would have made a good doctoral dissertation, calculating how many handkerchiefs it would have taken to clean up the blood that was actually shed.

Over 620,000 lives. That was the price exacted by the Civil War. But those were only the military deaths. The war’s impact extended much farther than the battlefield.

The Civil War’s social, political, and economic effects were equally profound as the nation divorced itself—with great violence—from an institution that reduced human beings to property.

The war transformed our conceptions of race and freedom. It changed ideas about death and religion. It remains to this day our greatest national upheaval.

The places where the war was fought are among our nation’s most sacred sites: Gettysburg, Shiloh, Antietam, Manassas. The names themselves evoke not only the great struggle, but the personalities and events of that incredible time.

Over 75 of these battlefields and related sites are now national parks. For the National Park Service, serving as the steward of these places, which occupy such a defining role in American memory, is not just a great honor, but a solemn responsibility.

Over time, individual battles have taken on a kind of historical shorthand. Chancellorsville has come to represent the intelligence and audacity of Robert E. Lee; Gettysburg: the high-water mark of the Confederacy; Vicksburg: the plodding determination of Ulysses S. Grant.

The first battle of Manassas was the first great Southern victory, a shock to the federal army, and the place where the name “Stonewall” entered the American lexicon. But deeper than that, Manassas was where the awful realization set in that this was going to be a protracted struggle, whose cost neither side had really bargained for.

Quaker Guns near Manassas, VA. During the initial stages of the Civil War, before First Manassas (Bull Run), the Confederate forces knew that the Federal troops were watching them from balloons in Alexandria. In order to fool the Federal troops that they were heavier fortified than they really were, they used "Quaker Guns" which were chopped down tree trunks, and painted them black and pretended they were cannon. (Library of Congress photo)

By nightfall on July 21, combatants and spectators alike were probably asking themselves, “What have we done?”

One of the most important questions visitors to Civil War battlefields can ask today is: “How did we get to the point of war?”

Helping them find the answer is one of the National Park Service’s most important roles as keeper and interpreter of these iconic American places. Because our mission encompasses not only preservation, but education. It is our responsibility to help visitors understand not only the war itself—its methods and mechanics, its heroes and generals—but also the circumstances that brought it on, the passions that set us against each other, and how the war set our future course as a nation.

In 1861, some four million African Americans were living in slavery. Protected under the Constitution, slavery was legal in 15 states and the District of Columbia. It was a well-established part of life in America, a powerful economic, political, and social force.

Just a few years before the outbreak of hostilities, the Supreme Court had ruled in the Dred Scott case that black Americans—whether slave or free—could not be citizens under the Constitution. By the eve of the war, slavery had become a festering issue, one that could no longer be put off. Mixed in with the debate over slavery was the nature of the states’ relationship to a central authority.

The South fiercely believed it was fighting for the survival of its way of life. Its leaders referred to the struggle as the second American Revolution.

The idea of secession is foreign to us today, but for the people of the South, where they felt the radical passion of the Founding Fathers very strongly, secession was entirely within their rights as independent states.

As a nation, we found ourselves in the peculiar position of debating whether we were, in fact, a nation. The Civil War decided, once and for all, the questions of slavery, of union or disunion.

The debate over states’ rights would continue long after Appomattox, but there would be no more argument over whether we were one nation. Before the war, people spoke of the country in the plural, saying “The United States are.” After the war, it was singular: “The United States is.”

Today our national story – of our one nation – is told in 394 national parks across America. The National Park Service has the privilege of being entrusted with this story, with its truth. We are the keeper of the American legacy in all its sweep and drama.

At every turn of this narrative, there are prescient lessons for today. These places, these national parks, have been set aside for posterity, not because they are old, but because they are timeless.

We stand on this battlefield today because we understand that in addition to celebrating our greatest achievements, we must commemorate our most somber moments. In our most trying time as a nation, both sides looked within, and found no alternative but to pay the terrible price. The result was our greatest social revolution, and our greatest evolution as a people.

Unburied Dead at the Wilderness

In the darkest days of the war, Abraham Lincoln said, “If we could first know where we are, and wither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do, and how to do it.”

That is the relevance of history.

There, also, lies the power of our Civil War sites.

These places command our reverence not only because of what happened there, but because they help us understand the monumental trial and sacrifice that shaped our nation, our government, and our society.

We can recognize the passions aroused in our own political dialogue concerning the issues of today: Freedom, race, justice, citizenship, the economy, the role of the federal government, national security.

They are not quite the same as the issues that brought millions of men to arms in 1861, but we continue to cherish—and debate—the principles that brought bloodshed.

The Civil War holds vital lessons for all of us: That civil discourse and mutual understanding are essential to a democracy. That we are defined not by what divides us, but by what joins us together. That a nation that lays claims to greatness, must look within itself and be willing to pay the price of standing by its high ideals.

Here at Manassas, and at hundreds of other places like this, the nation got a sobering lesson in how costly that can be. The National Park Service is proud to be the steward of that legacy.

I can promise you that we will be here every day of every year watching over this place, to keep it and protect it; to pass its story on to future generations of Americans. For it is not simply a battlefield that we preserve here. It is our birthright as a nation, purchased at an unimaginable cost, and one that we will care for with all the reverence it demands.

150th Anniversary Reenactment of the First Battle of Manassas/Bull Run Will Occur as Scheduled July 23-24, 2011

PRINCE WILLIAM AND MANASSAS, Va., July 22, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The commemorative reenactment of The First Battle of Manassas/Bull Run will proceed as scheduled on Saturday, July 23 and Sunday, July 24, 2011 at Pageland Farm in Gainesville, VA.   Roughly 17,000 spectators are expected to watch this definitive reenactment of the first major land battle of the American Civil War and reflect upon the 150th Anniversary. More than 8,700 reenactors from across the United States,Canada, and Europe will participate. Organizers are prepared to welcome all participants with 35,000 bottles of free water, cooling stations and misting tents, air conditioned shuttle buses and other accommodations for the heat. It is suggested that participants drink plenty of water prior to arrival and while at the event, wear a hat, sunscreen, sneakers or shoes (not sandals) and bring insect repellent for their comfort.

“Public safety and emergency management officials are prepared to keep everyone at the event as safe and comfortable as possible, we couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome the world to Prince William & Manassas,” said Ann Marie Maher, Executive Director of the area’s tourism marketing organization.  “Visitors and reenactors will experience a once-in-a-lifetime event this weekend.”

Online ticket sales (via www.manassasbullrun.com) end at 10 p.m. tonight, Friday, July 22. Day of ticket sales will be available at the event parking area at Jiffy Lube Live, 7800 Cellar Door Drive, Bristow, VA 20136 where free shuttles will run continuously from 6:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. The battle reenactment begins at 9:30 a.m. and are expected to continue until 12 noon with living history programs, and confederate and union camps open to the public after the reenactment.   Modern and period day vendors will also be on-site.

For FAQs and the latest information, participants can visit www.manassasbullrun.com or follow the tourism bureau’s updates on Facebook (www.facebook.com/pwcmanassas) or Twitter (www.twitter.com/visitPWC).

Discover Prince William and Manassas is the area’s tourism marketing organization promoting Prince William County andManassas, Virginia.

SOURCE Discover Prince William & Manassas

RELATED LINKS

http://www.manassasbullrun.com

Wool-clad Civil War re-enactors brace for heat

MATTHEW BARAKAT, Associated Press

National Park service employee Stanley McGee runs safety checks on muskets as Civil War re-enactors prepare to participate in the First Battle of Manassas 150th Anniversary Commemorative ceremony at the Manassas National Battlefield Park in Manassas, Va., Thursday, July 21, 2011. Thursday marks the 150th anniversary of the first major battle of the Civil War. Photo: Steve Helber / AP

MANASSAS, Va. (AP) — For all the attention to authenticity, organizers for a major re-enactment marking the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Bull Run can’t replicate one important detail: the weather.

Forecasts this weekend in Manassas call for temperatures to reach triple digits, with the heat index perhaps exceeding 115 degrees. Back in 1861, when the North and South clashed in the Civil War’s first major land battle, recorded temperatures were in the 80s.

But authentic wool uniforms are a point of pride and are not to be sacrificed in the name of staying cool. So what’s a re-enactor to do?

“Suck it up,” called out a member of the 4th Virginia Infantry, Company A, when fellow re-enactor Corey James, 20, of North Canton, Ohio, was asked about the weather.

The re-enactors differ on whether the wool uniforms worn by soldiers of the era are as oppressively hot as they appear. One re-enactor shows off his muslin undergarments, which he said are typical for the era and breathe and help stay cool. George Alcox, 58, of Berea, Ohio, pretended to agree.

“They’re not as hot as they look. They’re hotter,” he said.

At Manassas, uniforms are especially important. More than 200 uniforms were worn in the battle, which relied heavily on militia units from the various states, each of which had its own distinctive uniform. The patchwork of colors contributed to confusion on the battlefield, as soldiers struggled to determine who was friend and who was foe.

At the time, flamboyant uniforms modeled on the French Zouave units that served in North Africa were in style, with baggy trousers and fez hats.

John Gerndt, 51, of Centreville, portrays soldiers in several different units depending on which battle is re-enacted. But the First Battle of Manassas allows him to break out his uniform for the 11th New York Infantry, 1st Fire Zouave regiment, which only saw action in Manassas. Drawn from New York firefighters, the red and blue wool uniform is one of the more distinctive on the battlefield.

“We’ll see how I hold up,” Gerndt said Thursday of the looming re-enactments, dripping beads of sweat already at 9 a.m. as he attended ceremonies hosted by the National Park Service.

He carries a 19th-century canteen and tries to drink plenty of water before the re-enactments begin.

“There’s really nothing you can do except slow down a little bit” on the battlefield, he said. “My sacrifice, on my level is well worth me doing a little bit of sweating” to honor the soldiers who died in battle.

Don Warlick, who helped create the battle scenes in the Civil War film “Gods and Generals,” is directing the re-enactments at Camp Manassas. He said the heat can pose a problem, especially for a re-enactor population that is largely middle aged even though soldiers themselves were typically young men.

“Our society has gotten more accustomed to air conditioning, not doing things the old way,” Warlick said.

So he urges people to slow down and stay hydrated.

“You’ve got to slow down to give the animals and the men time to catch their breath,” he said.

Keeping people hydrated is a daunting task considering that 8,700 people are participating in the re-enactment, many of whom set up camp for the weekend. Ann Marie Maher, executive director of Prince William County’s tourism bureau, which is the battle re-enactment’s main sponsor, said an elaborate pumping system has been set up to get water to the campgrounds. There, free-flowing spigots are one of the rare concessions to modern life that are allowed.

Event planners are also considering the general public’s health in the excessive heat. The National Park Service, which does not sponsor battle re-enactments but is hosting a series of events, canceled some afternoon programs Friday because of the heat. Among the canceled events were walking tours on the preserved battlefield, which offers little respite from the sun.

Maher said the re-enactments Saturday and Sunday will begin at 9:30 a.m., a long-planned concession to the heat. Cooling and misting tents will be available, and shade tents have been added as the forecasts called for 100-degree days, Maher said. Prince William Hospital donated 30,000 bottles of water that will be given to spectators.

Debbie Haight, executive director of Historic Manassas, Inc., which is sponsoring Camp Manassas and a series of programs throughout the city of Manassas, said shuttle buses that will carry crowds are air conditioned. And cooling tents manned by the Red Cross will be available to spectators at the various locales.

“We kind of knew as we were planning that it’s July and it’s Virginia, and it’s going to be hot,” she said.

Manassas Battlefield gains ground on eve of 150th

STEVE SZKOTAK, Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Manassas Battlefield is expanding on the eve of the 150th anniversary of the first great land battle in the Civil War.

The Civil War Trust, the National Park Service and state and local officials are announcing the successful preservation effort Wednesday in northern Virginia, one day before formal ceremonies marking the anniversary of the Battle of First Manassas, or Bull Run, on July 21, 1861.

The Civil War Trust, the nation’s largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization, said the preservation involves two parcels:

— The Stonewall Memory Garden, which involves 44 acres. Thirty-four of those acres will be conveyed by the owner, Service Corporation International, to the trust, while the remaining 10 acres will be conveyed to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources for preservation.

The total value of the land is $1.125 million, according to the trust, which intends to donate the 34 acres to the National Park Services upon expansion of the park’s authorized boundary. SCI agreed to sell the land for $100,000, provided the property become part of the park, the trust said.

Preservationists said they feared the land, known historically as the Dogan Farm, would ultimately be developed commercially.

— Smith and Gray Tracts, which were acquired by the trust last year for $570,000, including a $104,800 matching grant from the Virginia Civil War Sites Preservation Fund. Both tracts are destined to be transferred to the park service.

“When you bring all those forces together, there’s a recognition these grounds should be saved for the future and not just turned into commercial development,” National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis said Tuesday.

The properties are “directly related to the battlefield” and are welcome additions to the 5,000-acre Manassas National Battlefield Park, he said.

“There’s always pressure for development on these lands that were really, really important,” Jarvis said in an interview with The Associated Press. “One of our best partners has been the Civil War Trust and their ability to help identify these properties, acquire them for us and hold them for us.”

Federal battlefield preservation totals approximately $5 million annually. “It doesn’t go far,” Jarvis said.

The trust’s president, James Lighthizer, said the preservation “encapsulates the mission of the Civil War Trust.”

“Setting aside these hallowed grounds for the education and enjoyment of future generations will be a lasting legacy of the sesquicentennial,” he said in remarks prepared for delivery Wednesday.

The official commemoration of the First Battle of Manassas is scheduled Thursday and continues into the weekend with Civil War re-enactments.

While the Civil War began at Fort Sumter in South Carolina, Jarvis said the first blood was shed at Manassas. Some 5,000 were killed or injured in the battle, a Confederate victory that sent federal forces reeling in panicked retreat back to Washington after hours of fierce fighting.

“The signal that Manassas sent was, this is going to be a long, ugly war and that no one is backing down,” Jarvis said. “So Manassas signaled that we’re in this for the long haul.”

The park service is preparing for a major turnout of re-enactors amid a forecast of temperatures near triple digits.

“I’m sure there’ll be a lot of plastic water bottles at this event, which are not all that historically accurate,” he said. “We’ll make sure everybody is well-prepared for what could be a very hot weekend.

“Hey,” he added, “I’m showing up in my wool park service uniform.”

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