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U.S. Department of the Interior - Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs
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National Parks Bills: S 1633




STATEMENT OF KATHERINE H. STEVENSON

ACTING ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, BUSINESS SERVICES, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE,

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,

BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS

OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES,

CONCERNING S. 1633 TO AUTHORIZE THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR

TO CONDUCT A SPECIAL RESOURCE STUDY

TO DETERMINE THE SUITABILITY AND FEASIBILITY

OF INCLUDING THE BATTLEFIELD AND RELATED SITES

OF THE BATTLE OF SHEPHERDSTOWN IN SHEPHERDSTOWN, WEST VIRGINIA,

AS PART OF HARPERS FERRY NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK

OR ANTIETAM NATIONAL BATTLEFIELD

 

April 9, 2008

 

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to present the views of the Department of the Interior on S. 1633, a bill to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a special resource study to determine the suitability and feasibility of including the battlefields and related sites of the Battle of Shepherdstown in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, as part of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park or Antietam National Battlefield in the National Park System. 

The Department supports S. 1633.  However, the Department feels that priority should be given to the 32 previously authorized studies for potential units of the National Park System, potential new National Heritage Areas, and potential additions to the National Trails System and National Wild and Scenic River System that have not yet been transmitted to the Congress.

S. 1633 would authorize the Secretary to carry out a special resource study to determine the national significance of the Shepherdstown battlefield and related sites in Shepherdstown, West Virginia associated with the Civil War.  The study would examine whether the area could be included in the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park or the Antietam National Battlefield.  The bill also requires the Secretary to submit a report to Congress no later than 3 years after the date on which funds are made available to carry out this study. 

General Robert E. Lee invaded the North, with the intention of bringing Maryland into the Confederacy.  Lee had a number of strategic reasons for the move.  First, Lee's troops were in much need of military aid and supplies and Maryland's lands were rich in crops and untouched by battle.  Second, Lee saw Maryland as a stepping stone to Pennsylvania, where he could draw the Union Army into a battle on ground of his own choosing.  He could then threaten the cities of Washington, Baltimore, and Philadelphia and perhaps end the war in a short time.  Finally, General Lee hoped that another Confederate victory, this time on Union soil, might also persuade Great Britain and France to grant diplomatic recognition to the South.

As he had done before, Lee divided his army and sent "Stonewall" Jackson in to capture the Federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, with its huge store of supplies.  But the people of Maryland looked on the hungry troops as invaders who had come to plunder their land.  Another unfortunate thing happened.  A Union private was resting near Frederick, Maryland and noticed an envelope in the grass.  It was a copy of General Lee's order to his generals outlining his plans.  The paper was soon in the hands of General George B. McClellan.

The Battle of Shepherdstown, also known as the Battle of Boteler's Ford, was fought on September 19 and 20, 1862.  There were over 600 casualties.  General Lee had moved most of his army back across the Potomac River into Virginia leaving 44 cannons to form an artillery reserve to protect the vital crossing point on the Potomac.  General McClellan had given orders to pursue the enemy across the Potomac.  In the confusion of battle, General Lee received an erroneous report that his cannons had been captured.  Reacting to this misinformation, the Confederates sent a force back to recover the artillery.  In the skirmish that followed on the bluffs of the Potomac, a large number of inexperienced Union troops with faulty equipment were killed.  This convinced General McClellan that the Confederate Army was still full of fight and he decided to delay any further effort to pursue until reinforced.  The battle was considered a Confederate victory. 

The Battle of Shepherdstown was the final engagement of the Maryland Campaign of 1862 that included the battles of Harpers Ferry, South Mountain, and Antietam and ended the Confederacy's first invasion of the North. The National Park Service has provided information and interpretation on the Shepherdstown site at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park and Antietam National Battlefield for over 20 years.

A special resource study would provide alternatives for the appropriate way to preserve, to protect, and to interpret the Battle of Shepherdstown sites and resources.  We estimate that the costs of completing this study would be approximately $250,000 to $300,000.

That concludes my testimony.  I would be happy to answer any questions you or other members

of the subcommittee may have.