Ariz. park is called a threatened battlefield
Civil War group cites budget cuts
The Civil War Preservation Trust is at www.civilwar.org.
Associated Press / May 14, 2010
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RICHMOND — A desert peak where cavalry clashed nearly 150 years ago has joined an annual list of the nation’s most endangered Civil War battlefields because state budget cuts are set to close the park that marks the site.
Picacho Peak in Arizona, the Western frontier in the battle between North and the South, was named for the first time on the Civil War Preservation Trust’s list of 10 historic battlefields most threatened by development or neglect.
In addition to Pennsylvania’s Gettysburg and the Wilderness Battlefield in Virginia, the list includes sites of some memorable battles waged in states where the Civil War still resonates on the eve of its 150th anniversary, primarily in the South and Mid-Atlantic. Picacho Peak stands apart from the rest. The state park is scheduled to close June 3 because of budget cuts.
On April 12, 1862, Lieutenant James Barrett led Union cavalry to the rocky spire 50 miles northwest of Tucson and skirmished with Confederate Rangers. While Barrett was killed and the Union army retreated, Union forces from California eventually moved on to Tucson and snuffed out a Confederate settlement.
The battle, while a footnote in history, still attracts annual visits by re-enactors. "A lot of people who come from the East use it as a vacation,’’ Ellen Bilbrey, a spokeswoman for Arizona State Parks, said of the Civil War reenactors.
A fund drive launched in nearby Eloy, Ariz., is attempting to keep the park open, and the inclusion by the trust in its annual endangered list is a boost to that effort, she said. “Any attention, of course, is going to assist people who are trying to keep that park open,’’ she said.
Called History Under Siege, the most-endangered list is intended to highlight threats to what the trust calls “tangible links to our shared history.’’ With the nation about to mark 150 years since the start of the Civil War, the 2010 installment was released with the support of Jeff Shaara, a member of the trust’s board and author of “Gods and Generals,’’ among other books on the Civil War.
“Nothing creates an emotional connection between present and past like walking in the footsteps of our Civil War soldiers,’’ Shaara said in remarks prepared for the formal release of the list yesterday in Washington.
His father, Michael Shaara, wrote “The Killer Angels,’’ a historical novel on Gettysburg. The battlefield where 160,000 Union and Confederate soldiers fought in the summer of 1863 is on the endangered list because of a second attempt to bring casino gambling within one-half mile of Gettysburg National Military Park.
Like Gettysburg, Virginia’s Wilderness Battlefield was making a repeat appearance on the list. In this case, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is facing fierce resistance to building a Supercenter within a cannon’s shot of where Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant first met on the field of battle.
The others in the top 10 and the threats, as defined by the trust, are:
■ Camp Allegheny, W.Va., where wind turbines on a high ridge across the border in Virginia threaten to blot the view from the battlefield.
■ Pickett’s Mill, Ga., which is amid cuts in public funding. Last fall, its footbridges and portions of a mill were damaged by floodwaters.
■ Fort Stevens, Washington, D.C., threatened by a proposed church community center that would tower over the fort where President Lincoln was the target of sharpshooters.
■ Cedar Creek, Va., where a mine expansion would chew up nearly 400 acres of battlefield.
■ Richmond, Ky., where a new highway interchange would probably attract commercial growth.
■ South Mountain, Md.; the issue is possible development of an energy plant.
■ Thoroughfare Gap, Va., which could see construction of a 150-foot communications tower.
Besides issuing the 10 most-endangered list, the trust also identified 15 “at risk’’ sites.