Saving Brice's Cross Roads

From Threatened Battlefield to Decisive Preservation Victory
Brices Cross Roads National Battlefield, Lee County, Miss.

Brices Cross Roads National Battlefield, Lee County, Miss.

Mike Talplacido

The battle to preserve endangered battlefield land is sometimes a long one. In 1993, when Brice’s Cross Roads was identified as a Priority I, Class B site in the report of the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission, meaning it was among the nation’s 50 most threatened Civil War battlefields, only one acre of hallowed ground was permanently protected.

Today, the site of one of the Confederacy’s most decisive tactical victories is also the location of one of the American Battlefield Trust’s most resounding strategic successes. With nearly all the core battlefield now saved, Brice’s Cross Roads’ completeness ranks it as an incredible victory in the story of historic preservation.

Looking back on our past achievements only encourages us forward to preserve more land. No matter the odds, we will fight at Brice’s Cross Roads and countless battlefields across the country to save our history.

In the Beginning...

In 1929, the War Department designated one acre of Brice’s Cross Roads as a national battlefield. This land was transferred to the National Park Service in 1933, where it has been administered by the Natchez Trace Parkway since 1938. It has been included on the National Register of Historic Places, since that list’s inception in 1966.

It wasn't until the 1990s, however, that preservation efforts at Brice’s Cross Roads kicked into action. At a dinner discussing preservation efforts at Corinth, Gary Carnathan and John Haynes conceived of a similar effort at Brice’s Cross Roads to save history, attract visitors and create family-friendly park spaces. In 1994, the Brice’s Crossroads National Battlefield Commission (BCNBC) was established to acquire and steward battlefield land. Haynes became a Civil War Trust board member and received our national Preservation Legacy Award in 2013.

Confederate Veterans at Brice’s Cross Roads in 1921
Confederate Veterans at Brice’s Cross Roads in 1921 Mississippi Department of Archives and History

Economic geography played a major role. Cattle farms occupied much of the former battlefield, and by this time the dairy industry in northern Mississippi had largely run its course. These large tracts of land with willing sellers enabled rapid traction in preservation purchases.

The first two acquisitions came in 1996: more than 797 acres purchased with nearly $600,000 provided by Lee and Prentiss counties, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) and two predecessor organizations of today’s American Battlefield Trust. In 1998, $700,000 from the City of Baldwyn helped establish what's now known as Mississippi Final Stands Interpretive Center, covering the battles of Brice’s Cross Road and Tupelo.

Through efforts spearheaded by the BCNBC, the Trust has helped preserve more than 1,588 acres in three decades of preservation at Brice’s Cross Roads. Financial support has come from several sources, including the federal American Battlefield Protection Program and the Mississippi Historic Site Preservation Fund administered by the MDAH.

Established in 2021, the Mississippi Historic Site Preservation Fund has allocated $375,000 to preservation at Brice’s Cross Roads and $2.7 million to battlefields across the state. Recently, the fund expanded to protect Native American archeological sites from the same dangers that threaten historic battlefields and locations of Civil Rights history that previously lacked state grant programs which would fund property acquisitions.

Complimenting the preservation efforts of the BCNBC, the Brice’s Crossroads Foundation (BCF) has endeavored to transform protected land into interpreted areas of history accessible to the public. Organized in 2022, the BCF quickly expanded from speaker events and online content to offering free monthly programming on the battlefield, enabling community and educational outreach on the ground where history happened.

New Acquisition

In September 2023, the Trust closed on an 89-acre property that witnessed fighting on the morning of June 10, 1864. Here, Confederate Maj. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Kentucky mounted infantry and Alabama cavalry drove back two regiments of Illinois cavalry at the advance of the Union line. After this clash, additional Alabama horsemen attacked Indiana and Missouri cavalry on the northern end of this tract.

With more than $360,000 in federal funding and a $355,000 grant from the MDAH, the Trust was able to purchase this important property in 2023. The MDAH considered this tract’s adjacency to previously preserved properties, coverage of remaining core area, attractiveness to developers due to its unzoned status and a history of responsible stewardship by the BCNBC as conducive qualities toward its award considerations.

In accordance with state grant requirements, the MDAH will soon receive a conservation easement on the property. Afterward, these 89 acres will be transferred to the BCNBC. Once the land donation has been completed, the BCF hopes to construct an artillery position marker or interpretative site, in addition to developing the property’s accessibility to support an Alabama Brigade program on the ground where they fought at Brice’s Cross Roads.

Preserved land at Brice’s Cross Roads Battlefield today
Preserved land at Brice’s Cross Roads Battlefield today American Battlefield Trust

Across the battlefield, both the BCNBC and BCF are continually working to transform one of the Civil War’s greatest preservation victories into a substantial interpretative success. Through generous donors in Illinois, the BCF facilitated the creation of three monuments dedicated to the 113th, 114th and 120th Illinois regiments at the site of their valiant stand during the battle, with more monuments devoted to the 81st, 95th and 108th regiments planned over the next 18 months. Contingent on funding, both groups are seeking to develop a connective arc trail and interpretative signage for visitors to access these monuments.

These preservation accomplishments at Brice’s Cross Roads depended on tremendous federal, state and local funding, the passion and support of partner organizations and the generosity and enthusiasm of our donors and members.

Related Battles

Prentiss, Union and Lee Counties, MS | June 10, 1864
Result: Confederate Victory
Estimated Casualties