The U.S. House of Representatives yesterday passed the American Battlefield Protection Program Amendments Act, a bipartisan bill authored by U.S. Rep. Rush Holt that would provide matching grants to preserve battlefields from the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Civil War.
The legislation will now be sent to the U.S. Senate, where a companion bill has been introduced by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer of New York.
“Sprawl and commercial development are threatening the historic sites where our nation was forged and shaped,” Holt said in a release about the legislation. “Each time a historic battlefield is replaced with a parking lot, a chapter of American history is obscured, and future generations lose an important window onto their heritage. This bill would provide matching funds that would leverage private efforts to preserve our nation’s past.”
The legislation would build on the success of the American Battlefield Protection Program, which provides competitive matching grants that support private efforts to preserve Civil War sites. Since 1999, the program has helped save more than 16,500 acres of historic sites in 14 states. Holt’s bill would reauthorize the program and create an identical program to preserve battlefields from the Revolutionary War and War of 1812. The legislation is supported by numerous historic preservation organizations, including the Civil War Trust, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Crossroads of the American Revolution Association, and the National Parks Conservation Association.
“With every year that goes by, this legislation grows more urgent,” said historian David Hackett Fischer in his testimony to Congress in support of the bill. “Sites now presently endangered include some of the most important events in the history of the American Revolution.”
According to the National Park Service, the need to preserve battlefields from the Revolutionary War and War of 1812 is dire. Out of the 825 nationally significant battlefields and associated sites from these wars, 107 have been lost, 245 are in fragmented or poor condition, and 222 are in danger of being destroyed within the next ten years.
Among the sites covered by Holt’s legislation are hundreds of battlefields and associated sites throughout New Jersey, including several site in Mercer County. Revolutionary War military action areas and Nassau Hall are on the list for Princeton. A full list of eligible areas in Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, and Somerset Counties is available online.