The lovingly preserved Civil War battlefields in and near Chattanooga are undisputed treasures, but they are reminders, as well, that not all sites connected to that pivotal event in U.S. history are similarly protected. More than 30 acres of Civil War battlefield land are lost to development every day.
Those losses do not occur without a fight. The efforts to protect the landscape so Americans today and in the future can visit and study there often are lively and hard-fought. That they are not always successful does not diminish the importance of the battle. Every success is a victory that adds additional acreage to the nation’s holdings of historic land.
The Civil War Preservation Trust, which willingly and effectively partners with local and state groups, is the country’s foremost advocate of protecting land associated with Civil War battles. Its efforts are wide-ranging. Last year, it was successful in campaigns to permanently protect 2,777 acres at 20 battlefields in five states. Included in that total were 643 acres at Davis Bridge in Hardeman County and 5 acres at Parkers Crossroads in Henderson County in Tennessee. Additional acreage in Florida, Minnesota, Mississippi and Virginia was saved for posterity as well.
Over the years, the CWPT has protected more than 29,000 acres of battlefields at 109 sites in 20 states. Included in that total, according to a CWPT spokesman, is 36 acres in the Chattanooga area. That’s an admirable record.
The effort to preserve Civil War battlefields is an old one, initially begun by veterans of the conflict and then taken up by others. The Chickamauga Battlefield south of Chattanooga was among the first to be preserved. Its dedication was attended by thousands of men who were once bitter enemies but who willingly joined the campaign to preserve the place where they fought and many of their compatriots died.
Preserving the nation’s historic landscapes is hard and necessary work that has not always enjoyed widespread support. That, fortunately, is changing. Many states and the federal government now appropriate money for the preservation of historic battlefields and other sites. It is a wise use of public funds.