Dinwiddie receives national grant for battlefield preservation

By Michael Campbell | News Editor

The rich history of Dinwiddie and the role it played in the birth of our nation isn’t hard to find along the roadways of the county as historic landmarks and the Pamplin Historical Park and The National Museum of the Civil War Solider pepper the landscape of the county.

Now, thanks to a new grant from the federal government, Dinwiddie can continue to preserve history that is, all to often, lost to the passage of time.

Dinwiddie is among a series of communities that received grant funding from the National Park Service and the U.S. Department of the Interior as part of the service’s American Battlefield Protection Program.

The county received $55,800 from the NPS with hopes of “establishing a battlefield support group that identifies and advances short and long-term goals for the preservation of battlefields in Petersburg.”

The Secretary of the Interior initially created the ABPP in 1991, with Congress signing the American Battlefield Protection Act into law in 1996, which officially authorized the ABPP.

According to the NPS, in conjunction with its partners, more than 600 battlefields across 16 wars have been surveyed. Additionally, since 1992, the ABPP has awarded over 500 Battlefield Planning Grants to help protect more than 100 battlefields in 42 states and territories.

The department notes, through their Battlefield Acquisition Grants, they have helped preserve nearly 100 Civil War battlefields in over a dozen states.

For County Administrator Kevin Massengill, a lifelong resident of Dinwiddie, he discussed the importance of preserving the past while the county continues to grow in the future.

“As the county develops, we don’t want to lose those historic sites and artifacts,” he remarked. “You can look at Crater Road in Petersburg and I have been told there were huge earthworks that were leveled out and shopping malls were placed there.”

Officials with NPS note the challenge rapid growth across the nation is having on historic sites in America.

“Battlefields are rapidly disappearing as urban and suburban development engulfs the landscape,” they remarked. “It is important that our preservation partners help to protect the battlefields in their communities in order for future generations of Americans to understand the important role the events that took place at these sites played in our nation’s history.”

The grant that Dinwiddie received is one of 25 from the National Park Service totaling $1.198 million, all aimed at preserving and protecting significant battle sites from all wars fought on American soil.

According to the NPS, their funded projects have preserved battlefields from the Colonial-Indian Wars through World War II and included site mapping, archeological studies, National Register of Historic Places nominations, along with preservation and management plans.

“During the Siege of Petersburg, for an eight to nine-month period, this whole region was just immersed with battles, skirmishes and stories of siege,” remarked Massengill. “You can just walk in the woods here now and find mini-balls and earthworks.”

Given the rich history found not only in Dinwiddie, but the entire Hopewell-Petersburg-Prince George-Dinwiddie region, Dinwiddie officials are aiming to use the over $55,000 in federal dollars to develop a “regional community guide to Civil War battlefields.”

As part of the project, a series of meetings have been scheduled across the region to increase awareness of the project and garner more citizen engagement.

The next meeting is scheduled in Dinwiddie on Tuesday, Nov. 29 at 5:30 p.m. at the Eastside Community Enhancement Center along Boydton Plank Road.

“Battlefield preservation enables current and future generations to better understand the connection between military conflicts and important social and political changes that occurred in American history,” officials said. “Saving the site of every military conflict that occurred on American soil is impractical; however, the ABPP is committed to helping states and local communities preserve the most important battlefields for future generations.”

Copyright 2016 by Womack Publications