|Vol. IV, No. 4, Spring 1991 / Vol. V, No. 1, Summer 1991|
Preservation Corner I
Planning for Wilson's Creek Battlefield
by Malcolm J. Berg
It was over forty years ago, in 1950, that the Wilson's Creek National Battlefield Foundation, a non-profit corporation established by the Springfield Chamber of Commerce, began an effort to acquire 38 acres of land southwest of Springfield.The area would include Bloody Hill, the site where General Nathaniel Lyon fell mortally wounded,subsequently to die, in the six hour Battle of Wilson' s Creek August 10, 1861.
The first legislative effort to set aside Wilson's Creek battlefield as a national monument had failed in 1896. Over the next fifty-four years, ten additional attempts to gain legislation for this purpose were also unsuccessful. But private initiative would succeed where governmental involvement had failed.
The cost of the 38 acres was to be $1600, just over $40 per acre. An unusual approach was taken by the Wilson's Creek Battlefield Foundation to raise the money. Rather than seek a major donor, the decision was made to allow as many citizens as possible to participate. $2400 was donated, raised largely by the school children of Greene County, the original "Penny Brigade." The acreage was purchased in October of 1951.
The deed to Bloody Hill was delivered and the National Park Service assumed management of the Battlefield in August, 1961, the centenary of the battle. In 1972, the State of Missouri made available to the Park Service an additional 1712 acres to include more of the official battlefield site into the Park.
The most recent benchmark in the evolution of Wilson's Creek National Battlefield was reached in 1990 with the signing of a joint planning agreement between Greene County and the National Park Service.
This agreement includes plans for potential green-way and lineal park sites, featuring a greenway corridor extending ten miles along Wilson's Creek between the National Battlefield and the City of Springfield. Even more important, perhaps, is the provision for overlay zones or buffer areas around the perimiter of the battlefield, with new zoning, or amendments to present zoning, to restrict or limit intrusive development visible from the battlefield.
A view shed or "seen area" from key locations within the battlefield will be identified. Geographic imaging techniques will be used to assist in developing the landscape on the perimeter of the park, and to coordinate a program to restore the vegetation to an 1861 appearance. The combination of these two efforts will materially assist in the development and preservation of one of the gems of the National Park System.
Those of us in the National Park Service appreciate the enduring support and appreciation that the City of Springfield, Greene County, the State of Missouri, and park neighbors have demonstrated through the years. This latest cooperative venture between the National Park Service and Greene County officials, as well as the opportunity to work with our neighbors to enhance the natural and cultural heritage of the battlefield and to preserve the pristine visible landscape for all to enjoy, is a timely step in the preservation of a national treasure.
Malcolm J. "Mac" Bergis
Superintendent of the Wilson's Creek National Battlefield near Springfield,
Greene County, Missouri.
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