Sen. Jim Webb, Virginia Democrat, outlined legislation Wednesday that would preserve 7,200 acres around the Petersburg National Battlefield in Virginia, which would make it the largest Civil War park in the country.
The Petersburg National Boundary Modification Act would give the National Park Service authority to acquire the land, 12 surrounding battlefields, which Mr. Webb says have been targeted for commercial and residential development.
“Petersburg saw nearly one quarter of the Civil War fought in its surrounding area, and the preservation of these battlefields is important for future generations to understand and appreciate the significance of our nation’s history,” Mr. Webb. “Next year marks the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, and this legislation serves as an appropriate and timely means to commemorate this significant historical event.”
Petersburg is the site of the longest battle in U.S. history.
In the summer of 1864, Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant surrounded Petersburg — a key railroad transportation hub for the Confederates — after failing months earlier to capture their capital of Richmond, about 25 miles to the north.
Roughly 150,000 soldiers from both sides fought for 10 months. Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee eventually retreated from Petersburg on April 2, 1865, and surrendered at the Appomattox Court House a week later.
The Park Service recommended the 7,200-acre acquisition in 2005.
The National Parks Conservation Association says the preservation plan includes a new visitors center and more information about the roles women and blacks played in the war.
Webb said the legislation will help Virginia’s tourism industry, which generates $9 million annually from people visiting the Petersburg National Battlefield.
Rob Nieweg, a director for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, lauded Mr. Webb’s authorization bill.
“People need to stand on that hallowed ground to see the historical significance of what happened,” he said.
Still, Mr. Nieweg called upon Congress and the National Park Service to “work just as hard to secure the land.”
He also acknowledged that finding the money will be difficult in the current economic condition but said the purchase would help small-business expansion in the Petersburg area.
Mr. Nieweg said the extended process shows good stewardship, not a failure to act.View Entire Story
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