(Washington, D.C.) – With a vote in the United States Senate today, Congress passed legislation to expand the boundary of Petersburg National Battlefield by 7,238 acres. The bill gives the site potential to become one of the largest historical parks in the nation. Although no properties will be immediately added to the existing park, the legislation authorizes the National Park Service to incorporate historic battlefield lands previously located outside the park boundary. Petersburg National Battlefield commemorates 18 separate battlegrounds associated with the 10-month siege of Petersburg, one of the most extensive and complex struggles of the Civil War.
The Civil War Trust, an organization devoted to the preservation of American battlefield land, has helped protect more than 2,500 acres of hallowed ground associated with the siege of Petersburg, nearly 2,000 of which could not be transferred to the National Park Service until today. With the boundary expansion, the lands preserved by the Trust – along with properties protected by other conservation organizations – can be seamlessly integrated into the park, to enhance the visitor and learning experience. Petersburg National Battlefield is an economic engine to the local community, bringing in more than $10 million a year.
“We are grateful to the lawmakers and partner organizations who recognized the critical importance of preserving this historic Virginia landscape,” said Trust President James Lighthizer. “These battlefields are living monuments – not just to the 70,000 men in blue and gray whose blood hallowed this ground – but to all of America’s veterans.”
The legislation was included in the National Defense Authorization Act, H. Report 114-840, S. Rept. 114-255, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives on December 2. The bill was sponsored by Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, and U.S. Reps. Bobby Scott and Randy Forbes, all members of the Virginia congressional delegation.
“The Petersburg National Battlefield bore witness to the longest sustained siege in our nation’s military history and draws visitors from all across the country, injecting millions of dollars into the local economy every year,” Sen. Warner said in a statement. “Expanding the park will encourage tourism to the region while preserving this important piece of American history for future generations.”
“The NDAA ensures that the Petersburg National Battlefield will become the nation's largest protected battlefield,” Sen. Kaine added. “This hallowed ground bears witness to one of the longest, hardest and most decisive contests of the Civil War. The stories of all the combatants – including more than 16,000 African-American troops – will now be more accessible to the current generation.”
Among the battlefields that will benefit from the bill are some of the most pivotal of the Civil War, including Five Forks, Peebles’ Farm, Reams Station, the Crater (where the Federals exploded a mine in an unsuccessful attempt to blow a gap in Confederate defenses), and the Petersburg Breakthrough (where a decisive Union breakthrough led to the fall of the Confederate capital at Richmond). These battlefields were recognized as nationally significant historic resources in a landmark 1993 study on the status of the nation’s Civil War battlefields commissioned by Congress. The study was updated by the National Park Service in 2010.
The Trust was pleased to work with the National Park Service, as well as the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the National Parks Conservation Association, The Conservation Fund, and the Petersburg Battlefields Foundation, to get the boundary expansion language enacted.
Petersburg National Battlefield currently comprises approximately 2,700 acres, and includes sites such as Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s headquarters at City Point in Hopewell, as well as other land in Dinwiddie County and the City of Petersburg, such as Poplar Grove National Cemetery.
The Civil War Trust is America’s premier nonprofit battlefield preservation organization. Although primarily focused on the protection of Civil War battlefields, through its Campaign 1776 initiative, the Trust also seeks to save the battlefields connected to the Revolutionary War and War of 1812. To date, the Trust has preserved more than 44,000 acres of battlefield land in 23 states, including more than 23,000 acres in Virginia. Learn more at Civilwar.org.
The Civil War Preservation Trust became the Civil War Trust in January 2011; the Civil War Trust became a division of the American Battlefield Trust in May 2018. Campaign 1776 was created in 2014 as an initiative of the Civil War Trust; in May 2018 it became the Revolutionary War Trust, a division of the American Battlefield Trust.