When Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant met at City Point in early 1865 to discuss the strategy for following up the impending Union victory in the Petersburg campaign, they couldn’t have known that another battle would be fought more than a century later to preserve some of the ground where that victory was won.
Much of the battlefield where Union and Confederate soldiers contended during the nearly 10-month siege of Petersburg has been lost already to development and neglect, and more of it remains endangered by the same enemies. Even the location of the historic meeting of Lincoln and Grant was in danger not long ago of crumbling into the Appomattox River.
But those who have been fighting to protect the area’s Civil War heritage have won some important victories of their own in recent years. Now they are pushing ahead with a grand strategy to expand the size of the area under protection and to restore and refurbish many of the sites already preserved.
Leading the battle for the past decade was the National Park Service’s Bob Kirby, who served from 2000 until last month as superintendent of the Petersburg National Battlefield before leaving to take the top job at the Gettysburg National Military Park.
In an interview before his departure for Pennsylvania, Kirby retold some war stories of his own about his battles against time, Mother Nature and tight government budgets on behalf of history lovers.
For example, he said, the bluff over the Appomattox where City Point sits had been eroding for years. “We were going to let it sit, but then Hurricane Isabel came along” in 2003 and accelerated the erosion dramatically, he said. “We got emergency funding and put in a 750-foot retaining wall,” a $1.3 million project.1
To read the entire article at The Petersburg Progress-Index, click here.
- Buettner, Michael. “Protecting local Civil War sites is an ongoing battle.” Petersburg Progress-Index. Petersburg Progress-Index. Web. 21 Mar. 2010. ↩