Tennessee becomes first state to guarantee annual funding for Civil War site preservation
(Nashville, Tenn.) – At a recent news conference, the Civil War Trust thanked Tennessee officials for their roles in creating and continuing to enhance the state’s trailblazing Civil War or War Between the States Site Preservation Fund, a permanent funding source for the protection of some of Tennessee’s most important historic land.
The fund is the first in the nation to guarantee money for Civil War site preservation each year, and has already been used by the Civil War Trust – a national organization dedicated to the protection of battlefield land – to preserve 100 acres at Chattanooga and Shiloh. The Trust is actively pursuing additional preservation opportunities at those battlefields, as well as at Franklin, Stones River and other hallowed battlegrounds throughout the state. Just this week, the Trust announced a new campaign to preserve 45 acres at Fort Donelson, a battlefield essential to understanding the Western Theater of the Civil War and Ulysses S. Grant’s ascent to commanding general of the United States Army.
“We are thrilled about the new possibilities presented by the preservation fund, and grateful to our partners in Tennessee who are helping set the standard for states passionate about protecting their historic landscapes. To be able to count on funding for battlefield preservation year after year is an unprecedented boost to the preservation community in Tennessee and a gift to all of us who understand the importance of commemorating our nation’s defining moments,” said Civil War Trust President James Lighthizer. To date, the Trust has saved hallowed ground at 11 of Tennessee’s battlefields, for a total of nearly 3,500 acres.
The fund’s founding legislation was introduced in 2013 by state Rep. Steve McDaniel, Deputy Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives and a lifelong battlefield preservation advocate. Gov. Bill Haslam signed the bill into law later that year. Like the Virginia battlefield fund after which it is modeled, the program provides competitive matching grants which foster partnerships and private-sector investment in battlefield preservation.
The fund received $482,000 in its first year, for which the Trust successfully applied to assist in purchasing two key sets of battlefield parcels at Chattanooga. Totaling almost 50 acres, the land is on the sharply defined, historically significant western slope of Missionary Ridge. Without the matching money provided by the preservation fund, these sites could easily have been lost; both properties had already been slated for residential development.
In subsequent legislative sessions, Deputy Speaker McDaniel continued his work on behalf of the new program, ensuring two annually recurring funding sources for the preservation of Civil War sites. The first is a $250,000 allocation from the Tennessee State Lands Acquisition Fund. The second is a portion of the year-over-year revenue growth from the state’s Real Estate Transfer Tax. For fiscal year 2017-18, this will translate to more than $1.2 million in funding to safeguard the state’s hallowed ground, with any remaining money set aside for use in future years.
“The creation of this fund is one of my proudest accomplishments as a legislator and native Tennessean,” said Deputy Speaker McDaniel, who has served in the House for three decades. “The battlefields we protect will not only ensure a lasting legacy for all those who contributed to the establishment of the program, but will serve as invaluable outdoor classrooms for this and future generations of Americans.”
Rep. McDaniel’s bipartisan bill initiating the Civil War or War Between the States Site Preservation Fund was co-sponsored in thew House by Rep. Tilman Goins and former House Speaker Kent Williams. The bill was co-sponsored in the Senate by Sens. Todd Gardenhire, Bill Ketron and Jim Tracy, as well as retired Sen. Charlotte Burks.
“The battlefield land that this fund preserves is a testament to Tennessee’s veterans and active military personnel. The hallowed ground in the Volunteer State serves as a living monument to the soldiers who fought in the Civil War, and to all Americans who have worn our nation’s uniform,” said House Speaker Beth Harwell.
The Tennessee Wars Commission, under the purview of the Tennessee Historical Commission (THC), is charged with administering the fund.
“The efforts we are celebrating today have gone a long way toward protecting the state’s historic places,” said THC Executive Director Patrick McIntyre. “By preserving battlefield land, we gain the opportunity to restore, interpret and maintain some of Tennessee’s most significant cultural resources.”
In the Civil War years of 1861-65, the state of Tennessee was at the center of the storm. Commanding approaches into Virginia, the Carolinas and the Deep South, Tennessee saw more than 1,000 battles during the Civil War, second only to Virginia. More than 100,000 Confederate soldiers joined the war effort, and more than 50,000 men signed up to fight for the Union, more than any other Confederate state. Emblematic of its divided loyalties, Tennessee was the last state to leave and the first state to rejoin the Union. Tennesseans on both sides largely reconciled after the war.
The Civil War Trust is the premier 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 nearly 45,000 acres of battlefield land in 23 states, including 3,315 acres in Tennessee. Learn more at www.civilwar.org.
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