To Preserve The Battlefield As The Veterans Consecrated It
In this day of citizen participation in the protection of historical resources, the situation at the Petersburg Battlefield (PNB) is puzzling. When the details of the PNB General Management Plan (GMP) were made public there was citizen concern on the focus of the Plan. PNB solicited participation in the forming of a new Plan, but were not receptive to the input, and did not disclose details of the plan sent to Washington recently. It is critical for PNB to help protect the resources which are being endangered by the growth of Petersburg, but their focus still seems to be City Point and Five Forks (neither of which is currently endangeed ). Despite speaking out in the past against the quarry planned for the Hatcher's Run area of the Battlefield, PNB reversed their stance right at the critical time when the plan was being discussed in Dinwiddie County hearings. While most National Battlefield Parks are doing all in their power to increase the size of protected sites under their control, PNB gave away 257 acres (book 318, page 799, January 29, 1973, see map). Much of the parcel includes earthworks and entrenchments which were so important in the Siege of Petersburg. These resources could be restored and protected without PNB having to expend money to acquire them. While Gettysburg is planning a new Visitor Center which would be more in the center of the battlefield, PNB had planed moving the Visitor Center to City Point (Hopewell, see map at bottom), which was the Union Supply Depot for the Siege (it is unclear if this is still in the GMP).
Flank and Defense
On 29 January 1973, Chester L. Brooks, Director of the Northeast Region, National
Park Service deeded 257.53 Acres to the City of Petersburg by authority of
Congress and the approval of the President. Public Law 92-272 (86 Stat. 120).
This land includes almost 100% Forts, Fortifications, and earthworks surrounding
Petersburg."The said Grantee and its assigns, covenants with the Grantor
and its assigns, that said Grantee will use the hereinabove described land
for public street and park purposes and no new streets, entrance drives, or
other developments shall be constructed in such a manner as to adversely affect
existing forts, historic earthworks or other historic features." [book
318; page 799]
(follwing photos taken in 2002)
Ft. Fisher (PNB)
Ft. Conahy (PNB)
Fort Fisher Today (2003)
(click on the image for a larger image)
[some excerpts form the report]
In December 1997, the City of Petersburg forwarded a set of recommendations for consideration by the National Park Service in updating the General Management Plan of the Petersburg National Battlefield. Subsequently, the Battlefield developed, but never released or presented to the public, a draft General Management Plan document, dated July 2000. Subsequently, the PNB GMP planning process has been begun anew. This new set of recommendations from the City of Petersburg is presented as part of that process. The City strongly supports its 1997 recommendations, and offers others, urging the PNB to exercise boldness of vision in preparation of the new GMP.
The City's principal recommendations continue to be those of 1997: a major new visitor center and interpretive program in Old Town; a new and updated interpretive program for the present visitor center; a plan for providing full interpretation of the African-American experience in the region; development of an interpretive program to utilize the rail and river linkages between Old Town and City Point; development of a program for interpreting the properties conveyed by the Battlefield to the City; a partnership for training and licensing guides to provide tour services; and a regional archives and archeology center.
The City also recommends that the PNB tell the whole story of the Siege and defense of Petersburg; give its visitors ample choice and variety in stories and interpretive modes; recognize the fact that Petersburg itself was part of the Battlefield; tell important stories on the ground where they happened, despite the loss of context; tell the compelling story of a city besieged / destroyed / fallen; and tell the story of the context of the Siege and of the Civil War in all its aspects.
Morover, in that Petersburg was the target of the Siege, and was part of the Battlefield itself, and since Old Town and its neighborhood have the greatest concentration of Civil-War-related resources and stories to be told in the region, we believe that the focus of the Civil War interpretive program of the PNB and its partners should lie in Old Town.
The PNB should also do everything in its power to encourage scholarship and publication about the Siege and its context, and should build strong interpretive partnerships with the Underground Railroad section of the NPS, and with the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network.
The City recommends that the PNB develop a timeline and an overview of the Siege and of PNB's offerings, to be the backbone of the orientation and interpretive programs at each of the its visitor centers, including Old Town - and at Pamplin Historical Park. While we recommend the careful, limited use of a linear, one-way tour, we also strongly recommend thematic, loop tours, and, at special places, more focused, in-depth stories. Interpretive clusters, where many such in-depth stories can be told, as at City Point, Battery 5, and Old Town, should be the focus of PNB's interpretive program. In Old Town itself, the fullest expression of this mode of interpretation should be used, treating the city as museum, as a powerful embodiment of many compelling, intertwined stories.
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Support for centering Visitor Focus at Old Towne