The Civil War began as a struggle between armies of untrained but enthusiastic volunteers. Seven generations later, another army of volunteers is about to descend on America’s Civil War battlefields only this horde of dedicated men and women will be armed with paint brushes, trash bags and weed whackers.
On Saturday, April 4, 2009, history buffs and preservationists of all ages will join forces to clean and restore Civil War-related battlefields, cemeteries and shrines. The nationwide effort dubbed Park Day is underwritten with a grant from The History Channel. Park Day is also recognized by the U.S. Department of the Interior as a “Take Pride in America” event. More than 100 historic sites in 24 states are expected to participate in Park Day 2009.
“Civil War sites are often the victims of their own popularity,” noted Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT) President James Lighthizer. “Without proper maintenance, battlefields can suffer from the ravages of both time and tourism. Our goal is to spruce up these links to America’s past so they can be enjoyed by all.”
Now in its thirteenth year, Park Day is an annual hands-on preservation event created by CWPT. Volunteers gather at designated Civil War sites to help with routine repairs and maintenance. Activities can range from raking leaves and hauling trash to painting signs and trail building. In exchange for their hard work, participants receive T-shirts and can listen to local historians describe the significance of the site.
Among the many sites that will be benefiting from Park Day activities this year are: Mansfield Battlefield in Louisiana, Antietam Battlefield in Maryland, Wilson’s Creek Battlefield in Missouri, and the Wilderness Battlefield in Virginia.
“These are the hallowed fields where our ancestors gave their lives. We cannot allow them to fall into disrepair,” remarked Lighthizer.
With 60,000 members, CWPT is the largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization in the United States. Its goal is to preserve our nation’s endangered Civil War sites and to promote appreciation of these hallowed grounds. CWPT’s website is located at http://www.civilwar.org/.
(For a list of the participating Park Day sites, visit http://www.civilwar.org/parkday/).