RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Manassas Battlefield is expanding on the eve of the 150th anniversary of the first great land battle in the Civil War.
The Civil War Trust, the National Park Service and state and local officials are announcing the successful preservation effort Wednesday in northern Virginia, one day before formal ceremonies marking the anniversary of the Battle of First Manassas, or Bull Run, on July 21, 1861.
The Civil War Trust, the nation's largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization, said the preservation involves two parcels:
- The Stonewall Memory Garden, which involves 44 acres. Thirty-four of those acres will be conveyed by the owner, Service Corporation International, to the trust, while the remaining 10 acres will be conveyed to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources for preservation.
The total value of the land is $1.125 million, according to the trust, which intends to donate the 34 acres to the National Park Services upon expansion of the park's authorized boundary. SCI agreed to sell the land for $100,000, provided the property become part of the park, the trust said.
Preservationists said they feared the land, known historically as the Dogan Farm, would ultimately be developed commercially.
- Smith and Gray Tracts, which were acquired by the trust last year for $570,000, including a $104,800 matching grant from the Virginia Civil War Sites Preservation Fund. Both tracts are destined to be transferred to the park service.
"When you bring all those forces together, there's a recognition these grounds should be saved for the future and not just turned into commercial development," National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis said Tuesday.
The properties are "directly related to the battlefield" and are welcome additions to the 5,000-acre Manassas National Battlefield Park, he said.
"There's always pressure for development on these lands that were really, really important," Jarvis said in an interview with The Associated Press. "One of our best partners has been the Civil War Trust and their ability to help identify these properties, acquire them for us and hold them for us."
Federal battlefield preservation totals approximately $5 million annually. "It doesn't go far," Jarvis said.
The trust's president, James Lighthizer, said the preservation "encapsulates the mission of the Civil War Trust."
"Setting aside these hallowed grounds for the education and enjoyment of future generations will be a lasting legacy of the sesquicentennial," he said in remarks prepared for delivery Wednesday.
The official commemoration of the First Battle of Manassas is scheduled Thursday and continues into the weekend with Civil War re-enactments.
While the Civil War began at Fort Sumter in South Carolina, Jarvis said the first blood was shed at Manassas. Some 5,000 were killed or injured in the battle, a Confederate victory that sent federal forces reeling in panicked retreat back to Washington after hours of fierce fighting.
"The signal that Manassas sent was, this is going to be a long, ugly war and that no one is backing down," Jarvis said. "So Manassas signaled that we're in this for the long haul."
The park service is preparing for a major turnout of re-enactors amid a forecast of temperatures near triple digits.
"I'm sure there'll be a lot of plastic water bottles at this event, which are not all that historically accurate," he said. "We'll make sure everybody is well-prepared for what could be a very hot weekend.
"Hey," he added, "I'm showing up in my wool park service uniform.