Weekly Column of U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander “Protecting Our History”

Posted on August 17, 2007

From the Senate’s earliest days, new members have maintained a ritual of addressing the chamber on an issue of particular importance to them. When I entered the Senate in 2003, I held to that tradition and gave my maiden address on two topics I care about the most: the education of our children and the principles that unite us as Americans. I emphasized the importance of teaching American history and civics so our children can grow up learning what it means to be an American. One way we can do this is by preserving the places where this history happened. This summer I cosponsored the Civil War Battlefield Preservation Act of 2007, legislation to protect historic Civil War battlefields throughout the nation including many sites in Tennessee. In our state, 1,462 military engagements took place during the war – including 38 major battles – making the Volunteer State second only to Virginia in Civil War military sites, according to the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area. America has been, and will continue to be a work in progress, and studying the Civil War is an important lesson for future generations about how far we have come. This bill will protect cherished Tennessee sites like Chickamauga, Fort Donelson and Parker’s Crossroads. According to the Civil War Sites Advisory Committee, almost sixty percent of Civil War battlefields in the U.S. are gone or are in danger from urban development. We need to save this history before it’s too late. This legislation will help buy land from willing private owners and aid partnerships with state and local governments to assist with preservation efforts. It will authorize approximately $10 million dollars over a five year period to encourage state, local and private sector investment in historic land preservation. Of this, approximately $2 million will fund programs to protect 649 acres of battlefield land in Tennessee. As we approach the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, the Battlefield Preservation Act will help us reflect on this turbulent time in our nation’s past. The anniversary is expected to renew interest and increase visitation to the country’s Civil War battlefields across our county. Preserving the history of the Civil War is one way we can make sure future generations grow up learning what it means to be part of the story of this work in progress, America.