It included Antietam National Battlefield.
Washington DC (KM). The National Trust for Historic Preservation began its list of the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in the US 30 years ago this month. One of the first on that list was Antietam National Battlefield in Washington County. “In 1988, there was proposal to build a shopping center on battlefield land. And that was viewed a grave threat to Antietam Battlefield,” says Robert Niewige, Senior Field Director of the National Trust for the Mid-Atlantic Region.
He says Antietam was on the list for four years which got citizens and “wonderful public agencies in Maryland” to get together to protect the battlefield. “Today, 3200 acres of Battlefield land is protected in perpetuity by the National Park Service,” says Niewige.
Currently, Antietam is one of the best-preserved Civil War battlefields in the country. But, Niewige says, it faces challenges. “450 acres of that battlefield land still are vulnerable, and should be a focus of collaborative preservation effort,” he says.
Niewige says a lot of land in the Antietam National Battlefield is in easements. That means the federal, state and/or local governments purchased the development rights from property owners. They still own the land, but they cannot develop it. The question would be what does a landowner get out of an easement. “There’s the satisfaction of protecting American heritage. But there are also some financial benefits that come with preservation easements,” says Niewige.
“The leading battlefield preservation organization in the country is the Civil War Trust. And right now, the National Park Service and the Civil War Trust are looking for ways to permanently conserve all of that 1862 battlefield,” he says.
But citizens can help preserve these historic sites as well. “But really, the most important thing that Americans can do is go visit these battlefields, and use their feet to express their support for preserving American heritage,” says Niewage.
The Battle of Antietam, which occurred on September 17th, 1862, was the bloodiest one-day conflict of the Civil War, where 23,000 men were killed or wounded. But it stopped a Confederate invasion of the North, and led President Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed the slaves in the rebellious states.
By Kevin McManus