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Archaeology Magazine Features Site

Posted 08/29/2004

The Mansfield Battlefield is featured in the September/October 2004 issue of Archaeology, the publication of the Archaeological Institute of America. Steve Nash, who teaches journalism and environmental studies at the University of Richmond, visited Mansfield during the Spring in preparation for the article which also features other battlefields threatened by development or industry.

The article acknowledges that there is no national policy on Civil War battlefield preservation but rather "a helter-skelter, high-stakes, and often high-volume debate among local and national interests: landowners, developers, Civil War reenactors, relic hunters, history buffs, highway lobbyists, tourism promoters, preservationists, the Sons of Union Veterans, and United Daughters of the Confederacy, to cite a few of the players. In deceptively simple terms, they are debating these questions: how much land do you save, and how much are you willing to spend to save it?"

Writing of Louisiana and the Battle of Mansfield, the author spoke to Dr. Gary Joiner, historian at LSU in Shreveport and a founder of the Friends of the Mansfield Battlefield. Noting that 1500 acres are currently at risk (of the 3200 in the core battlefield), the article points to strip mining that produces three million tons of lignite each year. Nash quotes Joiner: "History, to a lot of folks, is important until the dollar sign gets in the way. . . but there comes a time when you have to have a social conscience. At some point we have to figure out as a culture, that everything does not belong in a big box--Wal-Mart of Home Depot. This is not a Confederate thing, it's not a Union thing, it's an American thing. If we don't protect this land, who's going to? Who will be the guardians of American history if the American people don't do it? It's going to have to be protected from guys in three-piece suits in boardrooms, making decisions about what they consider to be important and unimportant on a local, regional, and national scale."

Referenced in the article is a 1993 Congressional commission report that cataloged 10,500 Civil War battle and skirmish sites. The commission had recommended that $90 million be spent for land acquisitions; however, only $20 million was appropriated and spent. It notes that about $50 million would be required from Congress and an equal amount from state, local and private sources--a total about the same as the amount of money it took to produce the Hollywood epic, Cold Mountain.

The Archaeology article includes the ten most threatened sites from the Civil War Preservation Trust's America's Most Endangered Battlefields and a photo of Joiner viewing the strip-mining progress and Mansfield as well as a sidebar about a report of retired National Park Service employees charging that federal cutbacks are imperiling national parks. The Mansfield State Historic Site is a state site, operated by the Office of State Parks, Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism.

The Friends of the Mansfield Battlefield was formed in 2003 with the mission: to educate, to reach out, and to preserve the lessons of history for ourselves and our posterity. The organization has been involved with preservation and education efforts at the Mansfield Historic Site and hopes to serve as a resource for coalition-building. It will hold its first annual meeting in Mansfield on October 2. Anyone interested in joining can visit the group's Web site at www.friendsofthemansfieldbattlefield.org or call 222-6112 or 221-2853 for a brochure and membership form.