Four Civil War Battlefields Gain Added Protection Via $500,000 In NPS Grants

This hand-drawn map shows the site of a March 17, 1863, cavalry skirmish Kelly's Ford on the Rappahannock River. Image from Virginia Historical Society via Creative Commons. You can view a larger version of this image here.

Four Civil War battlefields will gain additional protection from damage or destruction by urban and suburban development, thanks to more than $500,000 in grants to states from the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The grant projects, announced on August 26, 2014, by National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis, are for the Bentonville (North Carolina), Kelly’s Ford (Virginia), Rappahannock Station (Virginia) and Shepherdstown (West Virginia) battlefields.

“Setting aside important parts of these battlefields will ensure all Americans have an opportunity to journey back in history and better understand how the Civil War was fought and how it affected our nation’s history and culture,” Jarvis said.

“The grants also demonstrate the importance of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has made it possible for states and local communities not only to safeguard and preserve Civil War battlefields but also to undertake more than 40,000 outdoor recreation and conservation projects across the country," Javis continued.

Grants are awarded to units of state and local governments for the fee simple acquisition of land, or for the non-federal acquisition of permanent, protective interests in land (easements). Private non-profit groups may apply in partnership with state or local government sponsors.

The Bentonville Battlefield grant was awarded to the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources for the fee simple purchase of 1078.11 acres.

Grant funds will allow the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation to acquire an easement on 43.28 acres at the Kelly's Ford Battlefield, along with a 66.45 acre easement at the Rappahannock Station I Battlefield.

According to the Civil War Trust, Kelly’s Ford on the Rappahannock was "the most important river crossing of the Civil War." It was "fought-over and marched-over more-often than any other single river crossing during the entire Civil War."

In West Virginia, the Jefferson County Historical Landmarks Commission will use their funding for the fee simple purchase of 1.8 acres at the Shepherdstown Battlefield.

In making the announcement, Jarvis underscored "President Obama’s call for full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, through which a small portion of revenues from federal oil and gas leases on the Outer Continental Shelf is dedicated to helping states and local communities create ball fields, bike trails and other recreational facilities, expand hunting and fish access, preserve battlefields, and undertake conservation projects."

An NPS spokesperson notes the program, which only been fully funded at its $900 million authorized level once in its 50-year history, is set to expire this year without action from Congress.

“Next week we celebrate the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson signing into law the legislation to establish the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” Jarvis said. “There is no better time for Congress to guarantee all the oil and gas revenues that are supposed to be used for recreation, conservation and battlefield preservation are in fact be used for that purpose rather than siphoned off to other purposes.”

The battlefield grants are administered by the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program, one of more than a dozen programs administered by the NPS that provide states and local communities technical assistance, recognition, and funding to help preserve their own history and create close-to-home recreation opportunities.

Consideration for the Civil War battlefield land acquisition grants is given to battlefields listed in the National Park Service’s Civil War Sites Advisory Commission Report on the Nation’s Civil War Battlefields. If you're interested in details about guidelines for grant eligibility, you'll find them at this link.