Gettysburg National Park Acquires 95 Acres
By Gwendolyn Purdom | Online Only | Mar. 25, 2011
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced the transfer of a 95-acre plot of land, known historically as Emanuel Harman Farm, to the Gettysburg National Military Park. "Gettysburg will always have a sacred place in America's heritage for the pivotal role it played in our nation's history and for the enormity of the sacrifice that took place here," Secretary Salazar said in a statement. "With the addition of the Emanuel Harman Farm to the Gettysburg National Military Park, we are able to include another important chapter in the story that helped shape our country."
It was here, on July 1, 1863—the first day of the three-day conflict at Gettysburg—that Confederate forces engaged Union defenders on McPherson's Ridge, that the Union's Iron Brigade captured Confederate commander Gen. James Archer, and that the fight for Herbst Woods resulted in thousands of casualties. Both armies incurred severe losses, and the fight between the 24th Michigan and 26th North Carolina infantries was the bloodiest regimental engagement in the three-day battle, with both infantries losing more than 70 percent of their strength in one day.
The future of this historic terrain, which had been owned until recently by the Gettysburg Country Club and used as a nine-hole golf course, was uncertain once the club went up for sale in early 2009. A developer bought the tract last March, with plans to build more than 200 housing units. Instead, the Conservation Fund and the Civil War Trust, both nonprofit organizations, worked with the buyer to obtain the 95 acres, which they then conveyed to the Park Service (which had tried for nearly 20 years to acquire the land). The property will be restored to its 1863 appearance.
"It's a very exciting moment," says Jim Campi, spokesperson for the Civil War Trust. "This is the culmination of more than a year of negotiations between the country club [property] owner and the Conservation Fund and the Civil War Trust, and this was one of the National Park Service's top priorities for a long time."
Potential threats to parts of the Gettysburg battlefield have been cause for debate in recent years: a developer's proposal to build a casino a half mile from the park, for example, angered many members of the preservation community.
"As we await the decision of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board about placing a casino one half mile from the boundaries of the Gettysburg National Military Park, we applaud this strategy of ensuring that additional land is protected at this important place," says Walter Gallas, director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Northeast Field Office.
Though today's announcement won't directly affect that ongoing fight, Campi says the acquisition of Harman Farm is a step in the right direction.
"The pro-casino advocates were trying to distract the public by saying if these groups were really concerned about preservation they'd be buying the country club, and of course, while that was happening we were in the midst of negotiation to buy the country club," Campi says. "Once again it shows the preservation community puts its money where its mouth is. We're not just advocates for preservation. We're actually the fulcrum for preserving land in these important fights."
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