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Preservation group: Fort Stevens among most endangered Civil War battlefields

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 13, 2010; 11:25 AM

The Civil War Preservation Trust announced Thursday that Washington's beleaguered Fort Stevens, where Abraham Lincoln came under enemy gunfire in 1864, has again been placed on the trust's annual list of most endangered Civil War battlefields.

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The fort, off Georgia Avenue at 13th and Quackenbos streets NW, is one of 10 endangered Civil War sites threatened by development and other factors across the country, the trust said as it in issued its annual "History Under Siege" report at the National Press Club.

The list comes ahead of next year's 150th anniversary of the war.

"All across the country, our nation's irreplaceable battlefields -- these tangible links to our shared history -- are threatened by inappropriate development, misguided public policy . . . and, in some cases, simple apathy," the trust's president, James Lighthizer, said in written statement. "Next year marks the sesquicentennial of the bloodiest conflict in our nation's history, and [this] . . . is an opportune time to shine a spotlight on the places that tell America's story."

Also on the endangered list are three sites in Virginia, one in Maryland and one in Pennsylvania.

Fort Stevens, which also made the list in 2006, was among the ring of forts that protected Washington from Confederate forces during the war. Lincoln came under rebel sniper fire when he visited the fort in 1864 during a Confederate campaign that reached the city's suburbs.

The fort has largely been absorbed into the city's Brightwood neighborhood and now faces the construction of a large church community center planned in the vicinity, the trust said.

In Virginia, the trust listed the Wilderness battlefield, west of Fredericksburg, as endangered. The Wilderness was the site of a bloody struggle in 1864 between the chief armies of the Union and Confederacy in the war's eastern theater.

It was the first battle between Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee, both of whom suffered heavy casualties, and marked the beginning of the war of attrition that eventually led to Lee's surrender nearly a year later

The trust said the battlefield is threatened by a massive commercial development that could put a Wal-Mart and other retailers near its border.

Also in Virginia, the trust said the Cedar Creek battlefield, site of a another 1864 battle, near Strasburg, is threatened by the expansion of a limestone mine. Cedar Creek also made the list in 2008.

The third endangered Virginia battlefield is at Thoroughfare Gap, near Haymarket in Prince William County, where the site of an 1862 battle is threatened by the possible erection of a tall cell phone tower.

In Maryland, the trust said the South Mountain battlefield, near Frederick, was threatened by the possibility of the construction of a natural gas compression station.

And at Gettysburg, just across the Maryland border in Pennsylvania, the trust said the war's most storied field still is threatened by the possibility of a gambling casino on the outskirts of town.

The Washington-based trust says its endangered list has helped protect more than 29,000 acres of battlefield in 20 states.

"Nothing creates an emotional connection between present and past like walking in the footsteps of our Civil War soldiers," Civil War author Jeff Shaara, who also appeared at the list's unveiling, said in the statement. "I hope that by drawing attention to endangered Civil War battlefields, Americans will this see hallowed ground in a new way and understand that these sites must be preserved for future generations to experience."



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