- The Washington Times - Monday, December 9, 2002

A California Republican persuaded Congress to pass legislation to save Civil War battlefields after he visited Memphis nearly three years ago and found only a marker and condominiums at the site of the 1862 Battle of Memphis.
Rep. Gary G. Miller of Diamond Bar, in Southern California, was the unlikely chief sponsor of a bill awaiting President Bush's signature that will provide $10 million a year during the next five years to preserve unprotected Civil War battlefields.
Mr. Miller is a "Civil War buff," who "constantly reads" about the War between the States, said Steve Howell, his legislative director.
"The congressman was very disappointed when he went to check out the site of the Battle of Memphis and found that the battlefield no longer existed," Mr. Howell said.
The aide said Mr. Miller did not believe that a single marker was a fitting tribute to a conflict that was the largest naval engagement of the Civil War. It was clearly a Union victory. There were about 90 Confederate casualties, compared with just one death among Union troops. Seven Confederate naval vessels were destroyed in the battle, which took place June 6, 1862. Eighty-two years later, June 6 was the date of the D-Day invasion of World War II.
Jim Campi, spokesman for the Civil War Preservation Trust, a private, nonprofit group whose primary goal is preserving Civil War battlefields, said the Battle of Memphis was a "joint operation between the Army and Navy that helped determine control of the Mississippi River."
"When Rep. Miller got back to Washington from Memphis, he said, 'Let's find out what's being done about preserving Civil War battlefields,'" Mr. Howell said.
What they found was not encouraging. Nearly 20 percent of the war's major battlefields have been lost, their landscapes taken over by parking lots, roads and buildings, according to the Civil War Preservation Trust.
What's more, less than 20 percent of the battlefields have been protected, according to the trust, a private, nonprofit group.
Money from the bill, known as the American Battlefield Protection Program Act, will be provided as matching funds to state and local governments, and private organizations interested in preserving battlefields not on federal land.
Passage comes nine years after a congressional advisory panel, known as the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission, released a report on the poor state of such historic legacies and recommended that Congress commit $10 million a year for seven years to save unprotected battlefields
Mr. Campi said the commission identified what it considered to be 384 of the "most significant" battlefields from the more than 10,000 battlefields in the war that raged from 1861 to 1865. According to the report, in addition to the 20 percent lost, 54 percent faced threats from developers.
He said the preservation trust is hopeful that money from the bill Mr. Bush is about to sign, which will take effect in fiscal 2004, will help it save the Mullins Farm at the Chancellorsville Battlefield near Fredericksburg, Va., from commercial and residential development.
"Congress has identified Chancellorsville as a core Civil War battle," Mr. Campi said. "It's where Gen. Robert E. Lee had his greatest victory and where Stonewall Jackson was mortally wounded."

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