Huzzah! 50+ Acres Transferred to the National Park Service
With an eye toward exploration, the American Battlefield Trust is frequently thinking about ways to encourage individuals to step foot upon battlefield land. But this is only possible if preserved lands are publicly accessible. Thus, the Trust remains dedicated to transferring secured properties to responsible stewards, such as the National Park Service (NPS). This goal recently resulted in the successful transfer of more than 50 acres of hallowed ground to the NPS across Antietam National Battlefield (Md.), Richmond National Battlefield Park (Va.) and Shiloh National Military Park (Tenn.).
There are many times that the Trust has been able to move quickly to preserve endangered battlefield land within NPS boundaries, with the support of NPS partners. The intent is almost always to transfer these properties (called inholdings) to NPS. But how so? Through NPS inholding funds – money appropriated by Congress for “Battlefield Projects,” funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund via the Great American Outdoors Act. With this source, NPS can purchase inholding properties from the Trust and other like-minded groups.
At Antietam — the site of the bloodiest day in American history — a 7.6-acre tract was saved by the Trust in 2016. But, no ordinary tract, it is situated directly across from the Antietam National Battlefield visitor center, is next to the Dunker Church and encompasses the southern tip of the famous West Woods. Fierce fighting unfolded here on the morning of September 17, 1862, involving Confederates under Brig. Gen. Joseph B. Kershaw, Marylanders and Pennsylvanians from the Union XII Corps, as well as North Carolina and Arkansas troops. Long desired by NPS, the parcel was transferred from the Trust to the Antietam National Battlefield in mid-August.
This land is even featured in one of Alexander Gardner’s famous images taken in the battle’s immediate aftermath. Such a resource will be useful when the property is brought back to its wartime appearance. The first thing to be addressed will be the removal of non-historic structures, which is made possible through a grant from the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority and the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area.
Totaling approximately 14 acres, two tracts at the Glendale Battlefield were transferred to Richmond National Battlefield Park in late August. One of the two Glendale tracts, a “hole in the donut” surrounded by already-preserved land, traces its roots to the Gravel Hill community and encompasses the eastern end of the Richard Sykes Farm. As a place where formerly enslaved individuals settled and created a safe haven for their expanding families and culture, Gravel Hill was ravaged by warfare during the 1862 Seven Days’ Battles.
In Tennessee, Shiloh National Military Park grew by nearly 30 acres with the transfer of two properties to the NPS in June 2022. The first property saw a portion of Confederate Brig. Gen. Adley H. Gladden’s line form during the initial phase of the 1862 Battle of Shiloh; later, this line filed north — actually crossing through the other transferred parcel — and attacked the left flank of Union Brig. Gen. Benjamin M. Prentiss’ division at 8 a.m. that Sunday morning.
Public access to these, and all, battlefield lands bestow innumerable benefits onto communities and visitors. But at the root, it exemplifies the power of place —the impact of standing directly on the soil where heart wrenching history unfolded and reverberated throughout space and time. These transfers, now in the hands of the National Park Service, will amplify storytelling and understanding for generations to come.