Book Cover "The Origin & Evolution of the National Military Park Idea" by Ronald F. Lee 1973




General Observations

Monuments for
American Revolution Battlefields

The First Battlefield Parks - pgs
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Later Evolution of the National Military Park Idea





Military Maneuvers

One final action by the Congress rounded out the national military park idea and made it complete. This was a measure passed in 1896 which declared all the national military parks and their approaches to be "national fields for military maneuvers for the Regular Army of the United States and the National Guard of the States." This use of the battlefields turned out to be important not only at Chickamauga, with Fort Oglethorpe established on immediately adjoining land, and at Petersburg, with Camp Lee adjoining, but also at most of the other parks, where for many years the Regular Army and the National Guard held encampments, maneuvers, and various kinds of training exercises and where, even today, special groups of officers, including engineers, are not infrequently schooled in battlefield history by National Park Service historians.

In reporting this bill to the House on February 14, 1896, Representative John P. Tracy of Missouri made some observations that deserve recording. Regarding Chickamauga-Chattanooga he said:

as a theatre for military instruction, with its 10 square miles of battlefield and 40 miles of approaches, it can not be excelled. No other government owns such a theatre of notable engagements. A month's campaigning for practical study on such a field of maneuvers by the corps of West Point cadets, where the lines of battles and the movements in the engagement of nearly every organization of each side have been ascertained and...marked with historical tablets...would be worth an entire course in textbooks on the strategy of a campaign and battle tactics. [72]

He went on to point out that by maneuvering on different battlefields the Nation's military forces could become familiar with "the varied character of approaches to great and decisive battles." Furthermore the benefits would come not only to the Regular Army but would "embrace the National Guard of the several States in the practical instruction to be given and thus raise the military standing of the guard and make of it an efficient national body which in time of war may act in full accord with the War Department and the forces of the Regular Army." [73]

On behalf of the Committee on Military Affairs, Senator Joseph R. Hawley of Connecticut reported this same measure favorably to the Senate on March 19, 1896. Senator Hawley had a long-standing interest in historical and military matters. Before the war he had been active in the anti-slavery crusade and was a friend of Gideon Welles and of Charles Dudley Warner. In 1857 he became editor of the Hartford Evening Press and after the war served for a time as editor of the Hartford Courant. On April 18, 1861, immediately after the bombardment of Fort Sumter, he entered the Union Army as a captain, saw service in thirteen battles and actions and ended his army career as a brevet major general of volunteers. He was elected governor of Connecticut in 1865 and served three terms as a representative in Congress between 1868 and 1881 He was president of the United States Centennial Commission of 1876. In 1881 he entered the U.S. Senate and served for twenty-four years until his death in 1905. As chairman of the Senate Committee on Military Affairs, he took a keen interest in the national military parks. [74] It was consistent with this interest that his favorable report on the bill to utilize the parks as national fields for military maneuvers by the Regular Army and the National Guard met with prompt approval by the Senate and was signed by President Grover Cleveland on May 14, 1896.

Next Conclusion

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