Thursday, March 13, 2008

Antietam is on this year’s list of the 10 most-endangered Civil War battlefields prepared by the Civil War Preservation Trust, a District-based group that says land development is increasingly threatening the “hallowed ground” of these sites.

The group’s annual report released yesterday, “History Under Siege: A Guide to America’s Most Endangered Civil War Battlefields,” gives a bleak picture of the future of Civil War battlefields. It identifies 25 at risk because of development within or near the sites.

The list also includes Monacacy in Maryland, Cold Harbor and Cedar Creek in Virginia, and sites in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Florida, Arkansas, Georgia and Tennessee.

The group touted Antietam — in Washington County, Md., and the site of one of the bloodies battles — as one of the most well preserved Civil War battlefields. But it said the battlefield is threatened by a cellular-phone tower that may be built in the area.

The trust says the site is virtually devoid of visual intrusions, giving visitors a sense of the battlefield as it was in 1862. The tower would rise 30 feet over the tree line and be visible from nearly all areas of the battlefield, according to the report. James Lighthizer, the trust’s president, said such a tower would be “a pollution of the visual environment.”

The group has preserved more than 25,000 acres of Civil War battlefield land since 1987.

Despite the progress, Mr. Lighthizer said the group will need to double its fundraising and garner more local and national awareness about battlefield preservation to continue its success.

“Our mission is to save as much of the important Civil War battlefield land as we can,” he said. “It’s going to be lost if we don’t do something quickly.”

Every day, 30 acres of battlefield land is lost due to land development, said Cricket Bauer Pohanka, a group trustee.

“If we were to stop now, nothing would be left in 10 years,” she said.

She said Cedar Creek in Virginia is being threatened by a proposed limestone mining expansion.

Last year, two energy companies were proposing the construction of a 500-kilovolt power line that would run through several Civil War battlefields, including Antietam and Cedar Creek.

Country singer Trace Adkins yesterday promoted the preservation group at a press conference and talked about his own interest in preserving Civil War battlegrounds.

Mr. Adkins’ great-great-grandfather served in the 31st Louisiana Infantry. He said his grandfather used to tell him stories about his ancestor’s exploits, including being wounded and taken prisoner by Union forces in Vicksburg, Miss., then re-enlisting in the Confederate army after being released.

“That’s what piqued my interest,” he said.

Another major concern for the trust is Cedar Creek, where Confederate Lt. Gen. Jubal Early attacked Union forces in the fall of 1864. Union troops, however, were able to rally and defeat the Confederates. The trust says the site is facing a triple threat: expansion of a limestone mining operation, proposed widening of Interstate 81 and the proposed expansion of power line construction.

Intense development pressure in the Richmond area is the reason the Cold Harbor battlefield is on the list. The 1864 battle saw heavily entrenched Confederate forces repel repeated attacks from a Union army nearly twice its numbers.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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