(May 18, Gettysburg) — Calling it a direct threat to the remaining hallowed ground of the Gettysburg battlefield, the Gettysburg Battlefield Preservation Association today launched a campaign against a proposed roadway extension designed to place big box stores and other commercial development on open land that was directly involved in the battle and its aftermath.
At a news conference at the Historic Daniel Lady Farm, GBPA President Barbara Mowery said ”we and many others are alarmed at the proposal in Straban Township to extend Camp Letterman Drive through what presently is open land, all for the purpose of enabling big box stores and other permanent buildings.”
Mowery said the road and planned development drawn up by an area developer would literally destroy a key battlefield area and wipe out a portion of where the famed Camp Letterman Field Hospital was situated. Previous commercial development in Straban Township has already obliterated other parts of the Camp Letterman site.
“This is, without question, the greatest threat to the battlefield and to hallowed ground that has arisen in Gettysburg for many years, if not decades,” asserted Mowery. “We call on all who honor the sacrifice of the soldiers who fought at Gettysburg, Union and Confederate, and its priceless value to American history, to rise up against this threat.”
Mowery outlined what the GBPA believes would be the greatest negative effects of the roadway and commercial development project.
“This proposed project will wipe out actual battlefield land; obliterate part of the remaining Camp Letterman site; violate the view-shed of the northern portion of the battlefield, including the Gettysburg National Military Park; and encroach on the fully-restored historic Daniel Lady Farm, which is an 1863 Civil War site,” said Mowery.
Destroy Battlefield Land
“This development scheme will obliterate battlefield land – which is hallowed ground – where the Confederate Army engaged the Union Army,” said Mowery. “It was where the Confederate Army set artillery and from this battle line launched thousands of soldiers to repeatedly attack the Union right flank on Culp’s Hill.”
On the third day of the battle, the Confederate regiments retreated through this ground.
“This is a key battlefield area,” asserted Mowery. “Once developed, it is gone forever!”
The largest field hospital of the Civil War, Camp Letterman, was the first to treat the wounded and dying of both the Union and Confederate armies with the best medical care available. It set the standard for the remainder of the war and for military hospitals for decades.
The property is also said to have later hosted temporary tent housing for soldiers at the end of World War I as the Spanish Flu epidemic killed hundreds of U.S. troops at nearby Camp Colt, commanded by future U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower.
The big box construction and other planned commercial development along the extended Camp Letterman Drive would ruin the view-shed from Culp’s Hill, Benner’s Ridge, Lee’s headquarters, Herr’s Ridge and other locations within the northern portion of the Gettysburg National Military Park, as well as for the Historic Daniel Lady Farm. It reminds us of the tall modern observation tower that was later removed because it was a blight on the view-shed of the entire park.
Historic Daniel Lady Farm
The extended Camp Letterman Drive would pass within 15 feet of the property line of the Historic
Daniel Lady Farm. The GBPA has spent 17 years restoring the farm, including an 1843 barn and an even older fieldstone farmhouse that were used as a Confederate field hospital and divisional headquarters for Confederate troops.
The Confederate Army battle line in the proposed commercial development site extended southeast to the Lady farmhouse.
Today, the Daniel Lady Farm hosts American living history and Civil War events, public tours and Boy Scout encampments while still providing agricultural use.
Mowery said the GBPA will seek the support of historic preservation groups nationwide in the effort to stop the roadway extension and big box store construction scheme and noted that the effort may require legal action.
“Gettysburg draws hundreds of thousands of Americans annually by its place in our history, not for having big box commercial development,” Mowery said.
Citizens are urged to express their opposition to the project by signing an on-line petition that can be reached through the GBPA website at www.gbpa.org. In addition, a “hard” petition can be downloaded from the site for circulation and return to the GBPA.
Individuals and groups can also express their direct opposition by writing directly to Tony M. Sanders, Chairman, Board of Supervisors, Straban Township, 1745 Granite Station Road, Gettysburg, PA 17325. Faxes can be sent to Sanders at 717-334-0061 and his office at the township can be reached by phone at 717-334-4833.
“We sincerely hope the project for this site is shelved, “added Mowery. “Development in this historic Gettysburg area should take place on non-historic sites and not on hallowed ground.
“We can have both historic preservation and private development through smart planning by all parties.”
Formed in 1959, the GBPA is the nation’s oldest Civil War battlefield preservation organization. President Dwight Eisenhower was an early member.
Over the decades, the GBPA secured hundreds of acres of privately-owned battlefield land that is now part of the Gettysburg National Military Park.
It currently owns and operates the Historic Daniel Lady Farm, including the fully-restored farmhouse and barn. The GBPA sponsors a Boy Scout Venture Crew that includes both boys and girls providing Civil War field music as the 1st Pennsylvania Reserve Volunteer Corps.
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