The U.S. Department of the Interior will provide $7.2 million in matching grants to preserve nearly 1,200 acres of Civil War, Revolutionary War and War of 1812 battlefields, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced Wednesday.
Zinke broke the news at Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg, Md., gathering with preservationists and National Park Service officials, and touring the 1862 battlefield that witnessed the bloodiest day in American military history.
The grants, which will be leveraged against money from states and the Civil War Trust, will save 19 parcels in Virginia, Maryland, Arkansas, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Tennessee.
In the Fredericksburg region, the land includes sites at Kelly’s Ford in Culpeper County, 10 acres at Trevilian Station in Louisa County, near Prospect Hill on the Fredericksburg battlefield in Spotsylvania County, and near New York Avenue on the Second Manassas battlefield.
The 136-acre Gregg Tracts in Culpeper figured in three battles—Kelly’s Ford on March 17, 1863, Brandy Station on June 9, 1863, and Rappahannock Station II on Nov. 7, 1863.
In Spotsylvania, the small Stevens parcel off Benchmark Road is an integral part of the Fredericksburg battlefield, National Park Service historian Frank O’Reilly said. It is likely where Confederate Col. Robert Hoke’s brigade captured a stone fence and other units drove back the retreating 9th Pennsylvania Reserves on Dec. 13, 1862, in the battle’s most decisive action.
Zinke said President Donald Trump’s donation to the Park Service of his first-quarter salary will fund restoration and maintenance work at Antietam.
Matched by nonprofit groups, Trump’s $78,333—first announced in April—will help preserve the historic Newcomer House near the battlefield’s Middle Bridge site and replace 5,000 linear feet of deteriorated rail fencing along the Hagerstown Turnpike, where some of the battle’s most intense fighting took place.
The president’s gift will be matched by a $185,000 donation from the Civil War Trust, the National Park Foundation and the Save Historic Antietam Foundation, a local nonprofit that’s been working at Antietam for more than three decades. That brings the total gift to $263,545.
The groups’ leaders presented a ceremonial check to Zinke and Antietam Superintendent Susan Trail during Wednesday’s news conference near the park’s visitor center.
The gifts, which included one anonymous donor, will help save the Newcomer House so “current and future generations can experience firsthand this incredible piece of history,” said Will Shafroth, president of the National Park Foundation, the nonprofit partner to the National Park Service.
“As a place where wounded soldiers found much-needed care after the battle, the historic Newcomer House is vital to the story of Antietam,” Shafroth said.
Zinke, a military veteran, said he was humbled to deliver Trump’s donation to the battlefield.
“Visiting the hallowed ground the day after Independence Day is incredibly moving and it underscores the importance of why we must preserve these historic grounds,” he said.
“I can find no better investment in our country than our battlefields,” Zinke added, his voice catching. “Our children’s children will walk through these grounds, and realize what a great country we bestowed on them all.”
Beyond the Fredericksburg-area sites, battlefields benefiting from the $7.2 million in land acquisition grants are Prairie Grove, Ark.; South Mountain and Williamsport, Md.; Brices Cross Roads, Miss.; Fort Ann and Sackets Harbor, N.Y.; Brandywine, Pa.; Eutaw Springs, S.C.; Fort Donelson, Tenn.; Appomattox Courthouse, Gaines’ Mill, Malvern Hill (440 acres), New Market and Third Winchester in Virginia; and Shepherdstown, W.Va.
The eight grants for Virginia sites total $4.2 million, the lion’s share of the money announced by Zinke. His department’s American Battlefields Protection Program received $10 million in the fiscal 2017 federal budget.
Zinke said his announcement is part of the Interior Department’s renewed commitment to preserve important historic sites and address national parks’ backlog of maintenance work. National Park Service sites need $12 million in deferred maintenance, including $229 million at the 25 battlefield parks.
Civil War Trust President James Lighthizer noted that visits to Antietam sparked his interest in battlefield preservation years ago, and said his national nonprofit group is proud of its decades-long partnership with Interior.
“We look forward to working with President Trump and Secretary Zinke to preserve these irreplaceable national treasures,” Lighthizer said.
The trust has preserved 46,000 battlefield acres in 24 states, including 1,300 acres associated with the 1862 Antietam Campaign.