(Johnston County, N.C.) - At a news conference this past Saturday, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory joined the Civil War Trust to celebrate the unique public-private partnership that has saved 1,770 acres of hallowed ground associated with the Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site. The news conference is part of a larger commemoration being held this weekend in recognition of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Bentonville, fought March 19 - 21, 1865.
"I am proud that the State of North Carolina has partnered so effectively with the Civil War Trust to protect an important part of our state's unrivaled heritage," remarked McCrory. "This collaborative effort has transformed a small historic enclave into a vibrant heritage tourist destination that attracts visitors from around the globe. The partnership also serves as a model for the dramatic results that can be achieved when the public sector works with private nonprofits to conserve cultural and natural resources."
McCrory was joined at the news conference by Secretary of Cultural Resources Susan Kluttz and Civil War Trust President James Lighthizer, as well as other state conservation and park leaders. As Secretary of Cultural Resources in the McCrory Administration, Kluttz oversees North Carolina's seven history museums and 27 historic sites, including the Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site.
"As we observe the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Bentonville, we recognize that the Civil War Trust has been a great friend to this state historic site," said Kluttz. "The partnership between North Carolina and the Civil War Trust has been instrumental to the preservation of this irreplaceable historic treasure. Together, we have created a living memorial to those whose lives were lost or forever altered in this sacred place."
In his remarks, Lighthizer thanked both Governor McCrory and Secretary Kluttz for their commitment to Bentonville and other battlefields in the Tar Heel State. According to Lighthizer, "Preservation of the Bentonville battlefield is one of the Civil War Trust's greatest success stories. Since 1990, we have come back to Bentonville time and time again, year after year, to protect this hallowed battleground. We're delighted that the State of North Carolina has been such a close partner in this effort."
Since 1990, when the Civil War Trust first purchased 7.24 acres in the heart of the Bentonville battlefield, the Trust has partnered with the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources to add more than 1,770 acres of historic farmland to the state historic site. The National Park Service also provided matching grants through its American Battlefield Protection Program land acquisition grant initiative. Fully 88 percent of the land that composes Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site is the result of this spectacular partnership.
Lighthizer emphasized the state's $2.8 million investment in land acquisition at Bentonville made preservation of those 1,770 acres possible: "Without North Carolina's farsighted contribution to enlarging and maintaining this battlefield, we would not be here today." He also noted the McCrory administration's most recent contribution to preservation at Bentonville - a $183,000 grant from the Department of Cultural Resources and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources' Clean Water Management Trust Fund to add a further 72.7 acres of battlefield land to the state historic site.
"Our work will not end with the 150th anniversary," Lighthizer said. "Many hundreds of acres remain to be saved at Bentonville. We look forward to working with Governor McCrory, Secretary Kluttz, and Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site Manager Donny Taylor to further enhance this park."
The Battle of Bentonville, one of the final clashes of the American Civil War, was the largest battle ever fought on North Carolina soil. North Carolina officials estimate that visitation to the Bentonville Battlefield generates nearly $7 million annually for the regional economy.
In addition to the news conference, Bentonville 150th anniversary weekend events include several battle reenactments, lectures by top historians, displays and demonstrations, sutlers' tents and living history demonstrations. More than 3,500 re-enactors and 30,000 spectators are expected to participate before the commemoration concludes Sunday, March 22.
About the Battle of Bentonville
Spring was just around the corner on those fateful March days in 1865, and with it would come peace, but not before thousands more on both sides would fall as Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston fought desperately to stem the Union tide and keep his ragtag Army of Tennessee alive. With Gen. Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia under siege in Petersburg, and with Richmond about to fall, the Confederacy teetered on collapse.
The Union army, commanded by Gen. William T. Sherman, marched north into North Carolina in early March, bent on joining forces with Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and the Army of the Potomac to crush the Confederate Army once and for all. Outnumbered by more than three to one, Johnston made his stand at Bentonville, and March 19, his soldiers made five separate attacks, marking the final time a major Confederate army launched an offensive against its Union foe.
The fighting at Bentonville lasted three days and raged across more than 6,000 acres before the Confederates were defeated and retreated north. After Lee surrendered his army at Appomattox Court House April 9, Johnston surrendered his Army of Tennessee at Bennett Place near Durham, April 26, effectively ending the Civil War.
About the Civil War Trust
The Civil War Trust is the largest and most effective nonprofit organization devoted to the preservation of America's hallowed battlegrounds. 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 40,000 acres of battlefield land in 20 states, including 2,300 in North Carolina. Learn more at www.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.