Warner, Kaine introduce bill to authorize expanded Petersburg National Battlefield

congressU.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) introduced legislation that would protect some of the most endangered Civil War battlefields in the country by authorizing the National Park Service to acquire more than 7,000 acres to add to Petersburg National Battlefield.

“The Petersburg National Battlefield bore witness to the longest sustained siege in our nation’s military history,” said Sen. Warner. “I am pleased to introduce this legislation with Senator Kaine to expand and preserve this important piece of American history for future generations.”

“I’m proud to reintroduce this bipartisan bill to authorize preservation of key sites from the Siege of Petersburg as part of Petersburg National Battlefield,” said Sen. Kaine, whose legislation to preserve historic battlefields was enacted last year. “This final year of the Civil War Sesquicentennial is the ideal time to preserve and commemorate these historic events, in particular the contributions of approximately 16,000 members of the U.S. Colored Troops.  In addition to preserving an important part of history, battlefield protection supports historic tourism, which benefits local economies throughout Virginia.”

“The Petersburg National Battlefield is one of nation’s most significant Civil War sites,” said Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), who plans to introduce companion legislation in the House with Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA). “Expansion of this battlefield will further protect this historic site, while also providing significant economic activity and expanded tourism in Petersburg.  I commend Senators Warner and Kaine for their commitment to historic preservation and I look forward to working with them and others in the Virginia congressional delegation to ensure that the history of this battlefield is protected for future generations.”

The Petersburg National Battlefield Boundary Modification Act does not spend any money, only authorizes the acquisition of land. The legislation also authorizes one small land transfer between Fort Lee and the battlefield.

The Petersburg National Battlefield – which injects more than $10 million into the local economy annually – currently protects over 2,500 acres of battlefield and historic buildings that were involved in General Ulysses S. Grant’s 10 month Siege of Petersburg, Virginia in 1864-1865. During the Civil War, Petersburg was an important supply post for General Robert E. Lee’s army and the Confederate Capital of Richmond, Virginia. General Grant’s victory over Lee’s army at Petersburg in March of 1865 directly precipitated Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865. This was the longest siege in American military history and was an important event for the United States Colored Troops (USCT) as over 16,000 African-American soldiers served in battle.

In 2005, the National Park Service recommended modifying the Petersburg National Battlefield to include 7,238 acres of significant core battlefield land. The land identified for inclusion was the site of 18 major battles during the Civil War and are in danger of being lost to development. These sites are not currently protected within the National Battlefield and have been identified by the Civil War Trust as one of the most endangered group of historic battlefields in the country.

Acquiring this land – through purchase or donation – would make the Petersburg National Battlefield the largest Civil War historic battlefield in the nation.

Sens. Warner and Kaine previously introduced similar legislation in the 113th Congress.

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