At the Camp Bartow Preservation meeting May 17, Kristen McMasters of the American Battlefield Protection Program gave a presentation on how her office assists communities and organizations in preserving and saving American battlefields.
The ABPP is a section of the National Parks Service and is mandated by Congress to focus solely on protecting historic battlefields on American soil and in the waters around America.
“These are significant sites where something important happened,” McMasters explained. “We look at battlefields, no skirmish sites. We’re looking at the bigger battlefields that really had an influence on the outcome of the wars. This is anything on American soil. This could be an Indian conflict. One of my sites was a Dutch versus British engagement in 1805 in the Virgin Islands. It doesn’t have to be American forces. It’s just places of conflict and sacrifice.”
The program covers battlefields from the Virgin Island to Guam, and everything in between. It was formed after several controversies arose, two of which centered around the Manassas National Battlefield Park.
Disney attempted to put in a theme park adjacent to Manassas battlefield and outraged local historians. The second incident was on the Stuart’s Hill tract of the battlefield. The tract was not part of the park and the landowner attempted to put a strip mall on the land.
Through Congress enacting eminent domain, the battlefield was saved and Congress created the ABPP to try to avoid issues in the future.
“We had no clue how many battlefields were out there,” McMasters said. “We have over four hundred national units in the National Parks Service. If you think about how many conflicts there were just in the Civil War, it’s well over ten thousand places of conflict. Principle battlefields are a little less than four hundred maybe. We have no hope of ever owning all of that.”
Instead of trying to buy every acre of battlefield in