03/21/12 — Bentonville battle site to grow, thanks to grant from N.C. Heritage Trust

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Bentonville battle site to grow, thanks to grant from N.C. Heritage Trust

By From staff reports
Published in News on March 21, 2012 1:46 PM

The Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site will grow by 120 acres thanks to a $350,000 grant from the North Carolina Natural Heritage Trust Fund.

The Civil War Trust, the nation's largest battlefield preservation organization, will match the state grant dollar-for-dollar using funds from the federal American Battlefield Protection Program, effectively allowing the state to acquire the land for half of the total. With the completion of this project, the Trust and the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources will have partnered in the preservation of a total of 1,435 acres at Bentonville.

"The remarkable work done to permanently protect the Bentonville Battlefield is among the great success stories of this organization," Trust President James Lighthizer said. "We are honored to continue such a fruitful long-term partnership with the state of North Carolina and look forward to many more opportunities for mutual achievement in the months and years to come."

Lighthizer emphasized that the availability of federal battlefield preservation matching grant funding made this project an outstanding investment for the state, essentially allowing the popular state historic site to grow significantly, while funding only half of the fair-market value for that land.

The Battle of Bentonville, fought in Johnson County in March 19-21, 1865, is often referred to as the Confederate army's "last stand in the Carolinas." This defeat, coupled with the surrender of Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia a few weeks later, prompted Gen. Joseph E. Johnston to surrender his command on April 26. Fighting raged over more than 6,000 acres during the largest engagement to take place in the Tar Heel state and 4,500 men fell as casualties.

North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources Secretary Linda Carlisle said in a release that Bentonville was special because so much of it has been preserved.

"Our Bentonville Battlefield is a rare jewel because, unlike many Civil War battlefields, the landscape includes miles of original trenches in a largely undeveloped, agricultural area. We are grateful that the Civil War Trust recognizes and supports our efforts," she said . "We are preserving history and open space, while simultaneously enhancing economic activity in the area with tens of thousands of visitors and an economic impact of nearly $7 million for Johnston County annually."

Each of the nine properties covered by the grant is adjacent to previously preserved properties, allowing the project to enhance the preservation legacy at Bentonville. Today, a total of 1,435 acres have been permanently protected at Bentonville, much of it through partnerships between the Civil War Trust, Bentonville Battleground Historical Association, the Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site and the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources.

With its proximity to Interstates 95 and 40, Bentonville has long been eyed by preservationists as a site potentially vulnerable to development. Today, Johnston and Wayne counties continue to experience long-term development pressure that is threatening the remaining rural landscape in the vicinity of Bentonville. This project will preserve open green space as well as the remnants of a battlefield that, in the words of the federal Civil War Sites Advisory Commission, had "a decisive influence on a campaign and a direct impact on the course of the war." This combination of historic significance and pending threat, earned Bentonville a Priority I, Class A ranking in that congressionally-authorized report, the highest possible designation.

The Civil War Trust is the largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization in the United States. Its goal is to preserve our nation's endangered Civil War sites and to promote appreciation of these hallowed grounds through education and heritage tourism. To date, the Trust has preserved more than 32,000 acres of battlefield land in 20 states, including 1,919 acres in North Carolina. To learn more, visit the trust's website at www.civilwar.org.