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Ed Zwick Wannabe
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Post by lance » Mar 21st 2005, 8:30 pm

Interesting thing I stumbled across.

As housing prices are becoming absolutely insane here in the US (worse in Spain) land for new homes is coming a premium. As land is gobbled up many developers are attempting to build on lands where Civil War battles were fought.

Last I heard some developer in South Carolina is trying to put a resort where the 54th Massachusetts (as depicted in the awesome movie Glory) charged a Confederate fort. The good folks at the Civil War Preservation Trust ( are trying to buy up and preserve land where these battles were fought.

Question: For those of you back east (Megs in Virginia?) are you hearing about this issue?

Europeans: How has your respective countries dealt with this issue? Considering how old Europe is I wouldn't expect that every battlefield is preserved. How have governments decided to perserve which pieces of land and why?


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Post by emmie » Mar 21st 2005, 9:36 pm

well, I'm from the south and currently live in Savannah, Georgia which is a hugely historic city. they are all about preserving. in fact, if you buy an historic house downtown, you have to sign all these papers about how you will paint the house in its original colors and abide by all the rules for the historic district. so I can imagine how people living near Civil War battlefield would be in a uproar about developers trying to take over. and I even know several people who are part of the reenactment groups. I would think that there would be enough of them to protest such an action.

me, personally, I think we should preserve such places as long as possible. not just for historical preservation, but out of respect for all the lives lost.

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Post by SanDeE* » Mar 21st 2005, 10:26 pm

This doesn't have to do with historic battlegrounds, but in my hometown of Madison, Wisconsin there is a law that says no building can be taller than the capital building. I really like that, because it is definitely the the highlight of Madison's skyline, which would of course be ruined if the view of the capital is blocked. By the way, Madison's capital building and the capital building in Austin, TX are the only two that are based directly on Washington DC's building. Neat, huh?

I hate all that urban sprawl stuff. I really hope that resorts won't be built on historic land. Are we eventually not going to have any culture here in the US, or what?
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Post by starbug » Mar 22nd 2005, 6:09 am

Yes, that is an interesting question... I'm by no means an expert but in the UK I pretty much think it works like this:

- the UK has so much battle-history, is currently so populous, and is also pretty small. these factors mean it's going to be near impossible to conserve every battle site indefinitely.
- there is no current statutory protection. every bit of land in the UK is owned by somebody, so it's not like a developer can just buy up bits of land on their whim; someone has to be willing to sell it.
- a proportion of battlefields are owned by either the National Trust, the MOD, or local authorities, or the crown. They're unlikely to sell it for development without seriously considering the historical implications. However, a private owner might not be so scrupulous.
- Many battlefields are currently farmland. The UK is riddled with historical 'rights of way' and I have walked across many a historic battlefield myself (even those on private land since landowners are not allowed to erect obstacles to a right of way or prevent people accessing them in any way) since the UK countryside is pretty open to people who want to do that. All battlefields are marked on ordnance survey maps with a crossed pair of swords and the year it took place, so you can easily tell when you're on one if you've got a map.

I found this really good website but if you look at the map of battlefields in england on that site you will see the extent of the problem we would have if every battlefield had to be preserved forever, which I think is probably there aren't any actual laws about it. I suppose it depends on what kind of development; I'm pretty sure there'd be outcry about building a giant shopping mall on the site of a battle, but that's as much because we have strict planning laws about building on green land anyway; you can't just plop a giant mall on a hillside! I can't imagine anyone would object too strenuously if cattle were allowed to graze the land though, which is probably what's currently happening to loads of them.

In the final analysis though, the USA is a huge place, with a low overall population density and really not that many battlefields. It's not much of a comparable situation and I would agree that the battlefields you do have should be preserved, no question. It's not like there aren't enough malls for people to go to. Urban sprawl is so vile anyway.


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