Harper's Ferry National Historical Park and Gettysburg National Military Park have been named two of the ten most endangered Civil War battlefields by the Civil War Preservation Trust, a 70,000-member strong battlefield preservation group.
The ten battlefields cited by the group face a range of threats, from development pressures and neglect to mining and damage from hurricanes.
"The Civil War was the most tragic conflict in American history," says James Lighthizer, president of the trust. "For four long years, North and South clashed in hundreds of battles and skirmishes that sounded the death knell of slavery."
Despite that toll and moment in U.S. history, "nearly 20 percent of America's Civil War battlefields have already been destroyed -- denied forever to future generations," he adds.
Joining Harper's Ferry and Gettysburg on the list are battlefields at Spring Hill, Tennessee; Cedar Creek, Virginia; Fort Morgan, Alabama; Iuka, Mississippi; Marietta, Georgia; New Orleans Forts, Louisiana; Northern Piedmont, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia, and; Petersburg, Virginia.
The Harper's Ferry battlefield is threatened by a variety of issues, the most serious of which is a development that encroaches on the battlefield. Last August a developer bulldozed two 1,900-foot-long trenches across the park's landscape to extend utility lines to a proposed subdivision.
"Now, thanks to this illegal construction, the same developers are proposing a massive development along the ridge line," the Civil War Trust says.
At the National Parks Conservation Association, Senior Regional Director Joy Oakes says too much history is at stake for the development to be allowed to infringe on the park.
"For decades, leaders from West Virginia and across the country have worked together to protect America's Civil War, civil rights, and industrial history at Harper's Ferry," she says. "As a result, nearly 3,745 acres of land is protected in a landscape of remarkable beauty. But, Harper's Ferry NHP is threatened today by an ill-advised proposal to develop approximately 640 acres of private land virtually surrounded by the park.
"A proposed annexation and rezoning under review by Charles Town, West Virginia, would allow incompatible, intensive development on high-value historic lands, undermining the millions of dollars in federal, state, and private investments made to preserve the park for this and future generations," adds Oakes.
At Gettysburg, while a proposed 5,000-slot gambling establishment proposed to be built just a mile from the battlefield was halted, subdivisions are slowly closing in on the battlefield. According to the Gettysburg Times, an estimated 1,100 homes are either already under construction near the battlefield or soon will be, and there's the prospect of another 20,000 homes to be built in the not-too-distant future.
For a rundown on threats facing the other battlefields, here's a link to the Civil War Trust's report.