- The Washington Times - Friday, January 7, 2005

Of the 10,000 battles and skirmishes fought in the Civil War, 384 of them, in 26 states, have been designated “priority battlefields” by the federal Civil War Sites Advisory Commission.

The National Park Service protects 59 of these, the most notable of which is perhaps Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania. Virginia, however, hosts the greatest number of (and some of most significant) Civil War battlefields, at 123. Tennessee follows with 38, trailed by Missouri with 27.

Thus, 325 notable sites — with nearly 239,000 acres of hallowed, variously conserved and deeded land — remain outside federal protection. And only 18,000 acres of this — across 87 sites in 19 states — have been saved by the largest nonprofit Civil War-site preservation group, the 50,000-member Civil War Preservation Trust.

Of the trust’s 25 most endangered sites — from development, decay, erosion and relic-hunting — the following are five of the list’s top 10 for 2004.

• Fort Donelson, Tenn. A decisive battle in the war’s western theater, the successful Feb. 11-16, 1862, siege of Fort Donelson by Gen. Ulysses S. Grant broke the back of the Confederacy’s western defenses. Status: Only 762 of 3,130 battlefield acres are preserved (552 by the NPS and 210 by the CWPT), while most battlefield land adjoining the park remains in private hands.

• Mansfield, La. A pyrrhic Confederate victory here on April 8, 1864, left the South in control of the Red River Valley until the war’s end. Status: Only 177 acres of 1,475 have been preserved. An uncooperative lignite-mining operation threatens unprotected acreage.

• Morris Island, S.C. The July 18, 1863, battle of Fort Wagner was memorialized in the 1989 film “Glory.” Status: No preservation set-asides on the 125-acre island. Twenty new luxury mansions, encompassing 62 acres of fort and battlefield, are under consideration.

• Glendale, Va. Here, on June 30, 1862, Gen. Robert E. Lee launched a daring, costly and almost successful attempt to decisively crush Union forces investing Richmond. Status: Only 1,760 of 7,800 acres of connected battlefield are preserved in the Richmond National Battlefield Park. Glendale is part of this. Residential development impends north and east of the park.

• South Mountain, Md. In this Sept. 14, 1862, prelude to the Battle of Antietam, greatly outnumbered Confederate forces blocked a Union attempt to cut off Lee’s army. Status: Timely action by the state has saved 6,000 acres of the South Mountain battlescape, but thousands more are being developed.

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