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

Later Evolution of the National Military Park Idea - pgs
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Once started, the idea of preserving historic battlefields and other sites as national military parks or memorials spread rapidly. Between 1901 and 1904 thirty-four bills were introduced in Congress to authorize twenty-three additional historical reservations in nine different States and the District of Columbia. The House Committee on Military Affairs, to which all these bills were referred, soon found itself facing difficult questions of national historic preservation policy. Representative Richard Wayne Parker of New Jersey, a Princeton graduate and lawyer who had entered Congress in 1895 and with the exception of one term served continuously until 1911, was chairman of the committee. [75] At a hearing on April 14, 1902, he summarized the legislative situation as follows:

We have before us bills for establishment of parks at Bull Run battlefields and at Plattsburg; for the purchase and preservation of Jamestown Island, Virginia, and making appropriations therefor; providing for the purchase of Temple Farm at Yorktown, Va., and for other purposes; to establish a national military park at the battlefield of Fort Stevens, D.C.; to establish a national military park and erect a peace monument at Appomattox, Virginia; for the purchase and preservation of the battlefields and fortifications of Forts Frederick, Crownpoint, and Ticonderoga, in Essex County, New York; to establish a national military park at Fort Frederick, Maryland; establishing the Franklin Military National Park; establishing the Wilson Creek National Military Park; establishing a national military park at Brandywine, Pennsylvania; to establish a national military park at Stone River; to establish a national military park at Perryville, Kentucky; and to establish a national military park at Valleyforge, Pennsylvania; and for the erection of a memorial building or monument at Fort Recovery, Ohio; for the acquisition of Valleyforge, Pennsylvania; and there may be others. [76]

This large number of projects gave the committee much concern, first of all because of their potential cost. On February 20, 1902, Chairman Parker asked Secretary of War Elihu Root for a statement concerning the costs of the four national military parks thus far established. On March 3, 1902, Secretary Root provided a detailed answer revealing that the aggregate amounts expended to that date for land acquisition, development, and maintenance were as follows:

Chickamauga and Chattanooga$1,177,975


This was considered a very large sum and the committee estimated the cost of the new proposals before it would add another $2,000,000. [77] It appeared the national military park program could easily get out of hand unless treated very carefully.

A second problem also concerned the committee. The pending proposals were by no means confined to battlefields of the Civil War. They ranged the course of American history, from the colonial settlement of Jamestown, through the French and Indian War, the Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Civil War. They included projects to preserve forts as well as battlefields and to erect monuments and memorials. Judging from its subsequent recommendations to the House, the Committee on Military Affairs clearly reached the conclusion in 1902 that the time had come for Congress to consider a general policy and program for this type of historic preservation rather than attempt to handle these diverse proposals piecemeal.

Lastly the committee was concerned about the proliferation of separate park commissions should the numerous pending bills be enacted into law. Most of them were patterned after the national military park legislation of the previous decade and therefore provided for the appointment of an additional park commission for each new project. As Representative Parker later reported to the House:

We have already four military commissions, for Chattanooga, Shiloh, Gettysburg, and Vicksburg.... Separate commissions were necessary to establish these great parks. The system is too cumbrous to be continued beyond the time necessary therefor. Nor was it intended by the statutes which established these parks in 1890, 1894, 1897, and 1899.... Patriotism demands the preservation of these spots [for which bills are pending]. But it is plain they will not be preserved if a salaried commission has to be created for every spot and the surrounding country brought in and changed into a park for the benefit of some neighboring town, or for the glorification of its creators. [78]

As part of their study of these problems, Chairman Parker and his committee held two very interesting hearings on April 2 and April 14, 1902. The chief witness was Brigadier General George Breckenridge Davis, a distinguished career officer of the U.S. Army. Born in 1847 in Ware, Massachusetts, he had enlisted in the 1st Massachusetts Volunteer Cavalry at the age of sixteen. Entering West Point after the Civil War, he graduated in 1871, subsequently seeing military service in Arizona, Wyoming, Indian Territory, and elsewhere in the West. He was twice called back to West Point for duty as a teacher where he gave instruction in history, geography, ethics and law. In 1888 he was called to Washington, D.C., and for the next seven years served as chairman of the Commission for Publication of Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, a monumental historical source collection embracing 130 volumes. Author of several important legal treatises, he ended his career with ten years' service as Judge Advocate General, during which time he also served as United States delegate to the Red Cross Conference in Geneva in 1906 and to the second Peace Conference at the Hague in 1907. [79] General Davis was keenly aware of the problems involved in marking and preserving historic battlefields and his testimony before the committee deeply influenced their subsequent recommendations to the House.

Next "The Antietam Plan"

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