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OT: Preserving CW history- Alabama

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  • lilsteve68@aol.com
    Preserving Alabama s CW History Many of state s Civil War sites lost By JEB PHILLIPS BIRMINGHAM POST-HERALD Some are just rises in the earth, like big ant
    Message 1 of 2 , May 7, 2001

      Preserving Alabama's CW  History
      Many of state's Civil War sites lost


      Some are just rises in the earth, like big ant hills, but people near
      Historic Blakely State Park in south Alabama have put their lives into saving
      them. That's because 136 years ago, men died behind those breastworks. They
      are Alabama's — and the nation's—history. "Preservation gives you gray
      hair," said JoAnn Flirt, interim director of the park, running her hand
      through the proof on her head. "But it's worth it." Fort Blakley, a part of
      the park, is among a handful of Civil War battle sites in Alabama that,
      except for some preservationists' efforts, are disappearing. Much is already
      lost. Five of the state's seven major battle sites don't exist in a
      recognizable way any more because of development, according to the National
      Parks Service. Countless sites of raids and skirmishes are gone. Those that
      have been preserved always need more money. Those sites still unprotected
      need to be bought and kept as they are, preservationists said. Flirt and
      others said the battlefields give people a chance to know history beyond the
      books. "It would be a shame to lose all of this," said Blanton Blankenship,
      site director of Fort Morgan State Park. Alabama's primary battle sites are:
      Day's Gap on Sand Mountain, where Union cavalry repulsed an attack by Gen.
      Nathan Bedford Forrest's Confederate cavalry on April 30, 1863.

      Athens, where Union troops repulsed a Confederate Cavalry attack on Jan. 26,

      Mobile Bay, where a Union fleet under Adm. David Farragut forced the
      surrender of Confederate naval forces, closing the last important Confederate
      port, from Aug. 2-23, 1864.

      Decatur, where Union forces prevented Confederate forces from crossing the
      Tennessee River, Oct. 26-29, 1864.

      Spanish Fort, where Union forces took a Confederate stronghold on the eastern
      shore of Mobile Bay, March 27-April 8, 1865.

      Selma, where Union cavalry defeated Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest's troops and
      captured the city, April 2, 1865.

      Fort Blakely, where Union troops captured a heavily fortified Confederate
      encampment near Mobile in the last major battle of the war, April 9, 1865.
      The Alabama Historical Commission is considering a plan to save and promote
      the fields. But preservationists said frequently citizens must act if they
      want to protect fields. "(Local preservation) seems to be the way to go,
      unless the state or federal governments start giving more money, which isn't
      likely," said George Rable, professor of Southern history at the University
      of Alabama. "The state hasn't done much with it. Part of the problem is that
      sites are hard to save, because you don't have physical things to look at."
      Two criteria attract preservation money: historical importance and site
      integrity, said Paul Bryant, an Alabama director of the national Civil War
      Preservation Trust, a non-profit organization that highlights protection
      efforts. Alabama usually misses on both counts, said Bryant, who is also a
      trustee for the University of Alabama system. Only seven of the Civil War's
      more than 400 major battles occurred in the state, according to the National
      Parks Service. Most of the federal funds aimed at battlefields have gone to
      Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee and some scattered places where most of those
      battles were fought. And Bryant said those spots are in more danger of
      development than Alabama's, because most of Alabama's are lost already.
      Whatever grease the preservation trust can provide — in grants or publicity
      — goes to those squeaky wheels outside of the state, he said. "We have not
      targeted Alabama," Bryant said. "We've had other priority situations where
      we're trying to beat the bulldozer." Bryant said his personal focus has been
      memorializing Alabama troops who died in the war. Most died outside of the
      state, he said. That allows some preservation of Alabama history, even if it
      doesn't fall inside state lines, he said. The Alabama Historical Commission,
      the state agency charged with protecting important sites, has played a
      limited role in preserving Civil War battlefields, said Mark Driscoll, the
      commission's director of historic sites. As is true with most preservation
      efforts in Alabama, most of that help comes only when towns or concerned
      citizens apply for it, he said. "Fort Morgan is the only battle site we
      actually own," Driscoll said, referring to the Confederate stronghold which
      fell during the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864. And Fort Morgan could do with
      some more funding, said Blankenship, the fort's director. With the fall of
      Morgan came the fall of Mobile Bay and the Confederacy's last real link to
      foreign supplies. The Union needed the bay and Fort Morgan to help crush the
      rebels, Blankenship said. The battle was also an important public relations
      victory and helped Abraham Lincoln to re-election in 1864. Morgan still
      stands as a fortress, but the cracks are showing. Water has seeped through
      the brick for decades forming small stalactites on the ceiling. Holes have
      been patched with whatever material is available. The historical commission
      is working on a master plan to renovate Fort Morgan, but that could take
      years, Blankenship said. Additionally, the state owns the Confederate
      Memorial Park in Marbury, the site of the only Confederate veterans home. The
      commission does have four types of grants that can go toward Civil War sites,
      but they are all in the $5,000 to $10,000 range, Driscoll said. All are
      designed to help in the planning phase of interpretation, but they do not go
      toward the purchase of land that is needed to save it, he said. That money
      has to be raised elsewhere, usually by interested locals. Even with local
      organization, a site may be destroyed without a little luck. Many state
      activists point to Blakely as the high point of Civil War preservation in
      Alabama — it's 3,800 acres of undisturbed breastworks, migratory bird stops
      and prehistoric camps. But the protection effort didn't begin until 1975. The
      state didn't fully come on board until 1981, officials said. Although Blakely
      is now a state park and gets most of its operating budget from the
      government, the Historic Blakely Foundation still owns about half of the
      land. The foundation formed when a local woman, Mary Grice, saw she would
      need to take the preservation effort in her own hands, said Flirt, the park's
      director. Grice, Flirt and others raised money to buy some of the land and
      persuaded others to donate the land they owned. Blakely was placed on the
      National Register of Historic Places in 1974, Flirt said. "There are many
      stories here," she said. "The story of nature, of the Civil War. It's also
      the story of preservation because we started way before the bulldozers came.
      The fact that it is remote is probably the reason it was preserved." On April
      9, 1865, Blakely hosted the last major battle of the Civil War — actually
      fought after Lee surrendered to Grant. The Union pushed the Confederacy from
      the ground it had fortified for 2 1/2 years in just a few hours. More than
      26,000 troops fought there. The foundation is still working to buy land
      adjacent to the current park. The money just hasn't come through for that 27
      acres, Flirt said. The historical commission has begun in the last year to
      discuss a master plan, a way to coordinate preservation of the remaining
      sites, Driscoll said. The plan could include a Civil War trail, along the
      lines of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, which would have sites work
      together to draw tourism and speak about the need for preservation. Still,
      the hard work of saving land would be done on the local level, he said. "It's
      very important for the local community to get this done," Driscoll said. "No
      state agency by itself can do this mission. There is just too much." State
      activists can point to only one ongoing local effort. The 1863 Union cavalry
      raid in northeast Cullman County and three other counties doesn't count as
      one of the defining moments of the war, but it is important because of the
      strategies used, said John Paul Myrick, a county librarian who is heading the
      preservation. So Myrick has received one federal grant toward preservation,
      but Cullman County doesn't yet have the money to match it, he said. Recent
      problems in the state's economy aren't helping, he said. "If I had a million
      dollars, we'd have the VisionLand of Civil War sites," Myrick said. "Whenever
      the state helps us, we'll begin work." The land where Nathan Bedford Forrest
      rode continues to be developed as Cullman County looks for funds, Myrick
      said. At the rate the money is coming available, it could be several years
      before the county can save the land, he said. "We're losing it quickly," he

    • carlw4514@yahoo.com
      This is incorrect, the last important Confederate port to be closed was Wilmington, NC, January 1865, when Fort Fisher surrendered. ... Preserving Alabama s
      Message 2 of 2 , May 8, 2001
        This is incorrect, the last important Confederate port to be closed
        was Wilmington, NC, January 1865, when Fort Fisher surrendered.
        --- In civilwarwest@y..., lilsteve68@a... wrote:
        " Preserving Alabama's CW History
        > Many of state's Civil War sites lost
        > By JEB PHILLIPS
        > BIRMINGHAM POST-HERALD... Mobile Bay, where a Union fleet under Adm.
        David Farragut forced the
        > surrender of Confederate naval forces, closing the last important
        > port, from Aug. 2-23, 1864."
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