Wednesday, February 17, 2010

CWL: Our Poor Power To Add or Detract and the Loss of the Historic Farms of the Gettysburg Battlefield

Far Above Our Poor Power To Add Or Detract: National Park Service Administration of the Gettysburg Battlefield, 1933-1938, Jennifer M. Murray, Civil War History, 45:1, 2009, pp.56-81.

170,000 soldiers marched to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and 51,000 were killed, wounded, captured or became missing. About 10,000 dead, 30,000 wounded, 10,000 prisoners. The crossroads village and farms were devasted. then Lincoln visited and further immortalized the battle. These hallowed grounds have been administered by three different groups: Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association (1864-1895), the U.S. War Department (1895-1933) and the National Park Service (1933-present).

Within the first five years the NPS implemented an unprecedented number of indeliable changes to the battlefield. Preservation and interpretation goals directed efforts toward public education and park roads. The agricultural and Soldiers' National Cemetery landscapes were adversely affected in regards to their historical integrity.

Though the campaign is thoroughly studied but the preservation and memorialization processes have received scant attention. In 1991 the NPS' Harlan Unrau completed an in-house examination entitled Administrative History. Barbara Platt published in 2001 This Is Holy Ground. In 1995. GNMP ranger Karlsont Smith examined the 1895-1995 era for the fourth Gettysburg spring seminar. Murray views all three publications providing a less than thorough presentation of the years first five years of the NPS' governance.

Murray notes that within the past twenty interpretations have moved from soley tactics and strategies to include commemoration and memorialization. As examples, Murray cites, Amy J. Kinsel's 1992 Cornell University dissertaion and its publication in The Gettysburg Nobody Knows in 1997, Christian Spielvogel's Interpeting Sacred Gound 2003 Penn State University dissertation and Ben Dixon' Living Battlefield 2000 University of Oklahoma dissertation. Murray finds Dixon's work to be engaging because he is a cultural geographer who divided the battlefield's history into five segments and focuses upon the landscape as well as pays attention to the battlefield's administration. Dixon work may soon appear in print from Johns Hopkins University Press. For an overview of memorialized North American battlefields, Murray uses Edward Kinenthal's 1991 University of Illinois dissertation Sacred Ground that examines Lexington, Corcord, the Alamo, Gettysburg. Little Bighhorn and Pearl Harbor.

During the War Department administration, the acquistion of Civil War battlefields was for the purpose of preservation and memorialization of the landscape that would also serve as a learning laboratory for military historians and West Point cadets. Boundaries were surveyed, roads were constructed and the lines of battle and troop positions located and marked. Preservation included restoring the battlefield to its 1863 appearance.

The historic farmsteads of McPherson, George Weikert, Henry Culp, Abarham Trostele and Nicholas Cordori were acquired by the War Department and veteran's recollections and visits to the sites were used to place markers. The Army, the National Gaurd used the park for instruction and camping. Portions of the battlefield were used for infantry and tanks instruction by Captain Dwight D. Eisenhower during World War I.
Also during the war the National Park Service Act was signed by President Woodrow Wilson which established a federal agency to oversee and administrer national parks, monuments and reservations for the purpose of conservation of nature, wildlife and historic objects for the enjoyment of future generations.

At this time though the NPS did not have the national military parks under its purview. Between 1920 and 1933 the NPS continually sought control of the military parks through the argument that the War Department failed to effectively adminster and interpret the sites for the public. After pledging not to alter the military character of the parks, NPS received the sites from the War Department in 1933. President Franklin Roosevelt by executive order trasfered forty-three parks, monuments and memorials from the War Department to the NPS.

Gettysburg's 2,530 acres, 24 miles of roads and 1,728 monuments were received by the NPS which appointed James McConaghie the first superintendent of GNMP. He changed Gettysburg in significant ways though the NPS lacked a comprehensive nationwide stategy or program for acquisition and perservation of the sites. The Historic Sites Act of 1935 and the Historic Preservation Act of 1966 provided a degree of guidance.

McConaghie believed he had inherited an insufficient framework of interpretation from the War Department. What was sufficient for soldiers' training was insufficient for the education of the public. The War Department's 1904 inspection report noted that the GNMP resources included 462 tablets, 324 artillery pieces, a massive and detailed topographic map and a guide service that was tested and licensed. Guide books, such as Bachelder's 1873 Gettysburg: What To See and How To See It and Minnigh's 1924 Gettysburg: What They Did Here were privately published.

For McConaghie the provision of educational services was the most important work of the NGMP. In 1937 the director of the NPS intructed the services historians to devote their off-season hours to research and interpretative writing. Frederick Tilberg was hired in 1937 as GNMP's assistant historian to plan, direct, and supervise research at the battlefield park. Two seasonal historians were hired to present educational programs, assist visitors and advance research.

The post-stock market crash New Deal placed public works funds into the hands of the NPS. Between 1933 and 1940 $220 million was allocated for the NPS's projects in the parks. Nine historians were hired to write publications for the public. The GNMP brochure was rewritten and a map included. Guide fees were set at $3 per car and ranger stations were built at the entrances to the park. The Peace Light Memorial was built and the Soldiers' National Cemetery interpretation began to focus on Lincoln's Address as a plan to preserve and protect the resting place of 3,512 Union soldiers. Replacing and resetting headstones was the purview of the Civilian Conservation Corps; the corps removed the pipe fence and replace it with stonewalls and planted evergreens.

The Civilian Conservation Corps continued to work in the park; roads were removed or widened, culverts and curbs were added to accommodate automobiles. Twelve historic buildings were chosen to be conserved and repaired. The farm buildings of Basil Bigg, Abraham Bryan, Michael Bushman, Nicholas Cordori, henry Culp, Jacob Hummelbaugh, Daneil Klingle, Edwar McPherson, John Slyder, Abraham Trostle, John Wentz, George Weikert, Lydia Leister were saved. But, the John Forney farm buildings were removed because they were an eyesore in the view from the Peace Light Memorial.

The Pennsylvania Commission which built the Peace Light Memorial purchased the ground on which the Forney farm buildings stood and offered the structures to the GNMP which refused them. The Pennsylvania Commisssion had the structures removed before the 1938 dedication of the memorial. McConaghie stated that the buildings were of questionable historic value and only offered an expensive problem of restoration. The director of the NPS noted the farm buildings' destruction and distributed a memo stating that the loss of the farm buildings was not a general rule of the service.

This endorsed a War Department trend and reversed an National Park Service trend in regards to farms. In 1935 historian Louis King implemented a policy that viewed farms as having lesser value and the notion of cultivation of farms within the park was impractical. King viewed stone walls and wooden fences as being incompatible with modern mechanized farm equipment. King's notions led to a decrease of the number of working farms in the park. in 1933 there were 16 working farms within the park's boundaries. Soon there were only eight. The William Patterson farm was folded into the George Weikert farm to reduce maintenace, bookkeeping and records handling. Murray states that in merging these properties, the GNMP implementd a policy of utilitarianism, not preservation.

For Louis King and the administrators of the GNMP, pofit from leased farms carried more weight than the preservation of the historic farms. Six farms were to be abandoned, two farms were to be given over to forests, and six farms were to be preserved. Obstructions to mechanized farm equipment was removed. The Culp Farm was heavily impacted; rocks, trees and 8,850 feet of fencing was removed. The NPS farm policy undermined the integrity of the historic landscape notes Murray and continued to do so until the 1990s.

Top Image Source: 12th New Jersey Monument, Bliss Farm (Civil War Librarian
Second Image Source: Daniel Klingle Farm, Emmitsburg Road, (Civil War Librarian)
Third Image: Bushman Farm,
Fourth Image: Bushman Farm from Warfield Ridge Big Round Top in distance (Civil War Librarian)
Fifth Image: Weikert Farm, Taneytown Road, (Civil War Librarian)
Sixth Image: Patterson Farm, Taneytown Road, (Civil War Librarian)

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