Columbia Daily Herald: SH battlefield saved by sale

Grant, donations to buy GM property

Posted on September 26, 2010

A $1.9 million grant from the National Park Service will help pay most of the cost to preserve an 84-acre section of the Spring Hill Battlefield from development.

General Motors agreed earlier this summer to sell the Civil War Preservation Trust the property for $2 million.

Trust officials, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander and others gathered Friday at Rippavilla Plantation to announce the grant and to kick off the trust’s campaign seeking private donations to help pay the rest of the cost. 

Preservationists have consistently labeled the Spring Hill Battlefield as one of the nation’s most endangered Civil War sites because it’s often eyed by developers.

“Make no mistake about it, we are going to meet our financial obligation and we are going to save this land,” said John Nau, chairman of the board of directors for the Preservation Trust.

On Nov. 29, 1864, the Battle of Spring Hill began when Confederate troops encountered Gen. John Schofield’s Union forces while attempting to move north on Columbia Pike. During the night, some 20,000 federal troops slipped by Confederate soldiers encamped just yards away, setting the stage for the bloody Battle of Franklin the next day.

“The repercussions of what happened here can be felt not just at the Battle of Franklin, but they echo all the way to the destruction of the Army of Tennessee in Nashville,” Nau said. “History can turn on a dime, and it certainly did so right here.”

 

The trust hopes to close on the property by the 146th anniversary of the Spring Hill battle. The preservation group purchased a 110-acre section of the battlefield during the 1990s.

Congress this year set aside $9 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to help non-federal entities buy and preserve Civil War battlefields.

Alexander said the acquisition of the property would help draw more people to the Nashville area.

“Heritage tourism is an important source of income for local communities,” Alexander said. “The addition of this land gives Rippavilla more ability to attract visitors to Nashville and to our state.”

Since 1998, the National Park Service has awarded 122 grants totaling about $44 million to preserve more than 16,000 acres of battlefield land, said Bryan Mitchell, chief of heritage preservation services for the Park Service.

“We very much look forward to seeing this significant land added to the rolls of permanently protected Civil War battlefields, and we look forward to many more public-private partnership success stories in the future,” Mitchell said.