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






We may now attempt to summarize the significance of the first four national military parks for the development of national historic preservation policies.

For the first time, Congress approved the acquisition of nationally significant historic property from private owners, using Federal funds and if necessary, the power of eminent domain. The doubts about national historic preservation policy sometimes inferred from the refusal of Congress forty years earlier to appropriate $200,000 (an amount it considered exorbitant) to purchase Mount Vernon, were now superseded by four unequivocal measures to acquire battlefields important to the Nation for permanent preservation. Furthermore, the power of Congress to enact such historic preservation laws was unequivocally upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

A policy was established of preserving the battlefields as nearly as possible in their condition at the time of the battle. This policy was implemented in part by continuing the historic farmhouses and fields in use for agricultural purposes, thus adding life to the scene, and the same time reducing the costs of maintenance. The far-sighted practice of purchase and lease-back with preservation conditions was adopted as a tool of land management.

Congress recognized that specialized knowledge was required to ascertain, mark, and preserve the main lines of battle and the cultural features of the terrain. The solution adopted was to establish a three-man park commission for each area under the supervision of the Secretary of War, consisting of actual participants in the battle; of course, they were not professional historians. To help insure impartiality and to promote reunion of the sections, two members were appointed from among Union Army participants and one from the Confederate Army. The War Department provided historical assistance from the professional ranks of the military. No attempt was made, however, to establish a central historic preservation agency for the Federal Government, even for national military parks.

Lastly, States were expected to share the costs of preservation, marking and monumentation. The Federal Government undertook to acquire the land, ascertain the lines of battle, provide access roads, place markers on positions occupied by the Regular Army, and preserve the battlefield. The States were to mark and monument the positions of their troops, usually at a cost which represented a major part of the investment in park development. Both the Regular Army and the National Guard from the various States were allowed to use the complete national military park as a training and maneuvering ground.

The groundwork had now been fully laid for a phase of the historic preservation movement that was to go on for over seventy years, and still continues.

The First Battlefield Parks - pgs
1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10

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