Opinion: National Park Service’s U.S. Battlefields Protection Program grant helps protect the past, preserve the future

A 7.6-acre site along Lookout Creek at the foot of Lookout Mountain, where Union troops once clashed with Confederate pickets, will now be protected land.

The city of Chattanooga was one of three recipients last week of a battlefield land acquisition grant from the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program. The land, which the city will receive $353,522.19 to help protect (and which required matching money from other groups), is part of the Lookout Mountain Battlefield and adjoins the Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature. Center.

In late 2021, a grant to the city of nearly $2 million through the same organization and the American Battlefield Trust was awarded to preserve Reflection Riding’s 301.64 acres, although Reflection Riding retains the property.

Similar to Reflection Riding’s goal following its protection with the help of the American Battlefield Protection Program, the 7.6 acres will not only be preserved as a battlefield site, but also for its conservation value. general and specifically for water quality and the floodway along Lookout Creek, according to Jim Ogden, Chief Historian of Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park.

James Modick, senior grant management specialist for the US Battlefield Protection Program, said funding is awarded for land within a battlefield study area, as noted in a 1993 report. of the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission, but outside of any current National Park Service (NPS) holdings, and allows state and local government entities to join the NPS in protecting the land.

“We are delighted to [Chattanooga’s] efforts to protect the land around these historic areas,” he said.

We think the idea of ​​shared responsibility, rather than the federal government just picking up the land, is the right way to go. And the land is preserved in perpetuity, as are the NPS assets.

On November 24, 1863, Confederate forces held the summit of Lookout Mountain but had seen their position on Orchard Knob in the valley overrun the day before and worried them about their strength along Missionary Ridge.

Ogden said an assault by Union forces directly on the face of Lookout Mountain was impractical, but Union General Ulysses S. Grant gave General Joseph Hooker permission to move to the side west to the left flank and Confederate rear.

Under the command of General John W. Geary, Union troops crossed Lookout Creek at what Ogden said was now the southwest corner of the Reflection Riding property. From there, at about 8:30 a.m. and in heavy fog, they created a line starting at the creek and up the mountain, below the Confederate position.

They first encountered Confederate pickets, or skirmishers, on or around the property the city had just given protection, Ogden said. The line, he said, then swept up the western slope, around the point and down the eastern side to the still-existing Cravens House. By 2 p.m. the battle – often called the “battle above the clouds” – was over. That evening, the Confederates withdrew from the mountain and moved to reinforce Missionary Ridge.

Ogden said that in the case of the 7.6-acre property on Garden Road, the owners approached the non-profit American Battlefield Trust (formerly the Civil War Trust) about the largely undeveloped land. As it was part of the battleground, it turned out to be a “willing buyer, willing seller” deal, he said.

The nonprofit American Battlefield Trust helped save some 404 acres of battlefield terrain in Chattanooga, the organization said.

Less than three weeks ago, Rocky Face Ridge Park opened in Whitfield County, Georgia. Just as the American Battlefield Protection Program worked in Chattanooga on the Reflection Riding land and the recent adjoining 7.6 acres, it worked in Whitfield County to acquire portions of the 1,000-acre park site .

The park contains many Civil War fortifications and was the site of two battles during the war.

“The Atlanta campaign starts here,” Ogden said at the park’s grand opening, according to the Dalton Citizen News. “While there will be more and more important battles in the south, the campaign that will allow [Union Gen. William T.)] Sherman in early September [1864)] to communicate to Ulysses S. Grant and President Lincoln “Atlanta is ours and fairly won”, this campaign began here. This story is one that can now be told better.”

Also similar to the various matching funds that have been raised for the Chattanooga venues, a number of public and private entities have contributed money for the Georgia park. Among them were Dalton Utilities, the Lyndhurst Foundation in Chattanooga, the Community Foundation of Northwest Georgia, the Riverview Foundation in Chattanooga, and Save the Dalton Battlefields.

Preservation of the battlefield should therefore not be solely a federal project. Indeed, the more employees involved, the more ownership there is in the project. And more those who want to ensure that history is well preserved for future generations.

About Joyce Hill

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