S 1785 - 7.23.14


July 23, 2014

Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to present the views of the Department of the Interior on S. 1785, a bill to modify the boundary of Shiloh National Military Park in the States of Tennessee and Mississippi, to establish Parker's Crossroads Battlefield in the state of Tennessee as an affiliated area of the National Park System, and for other purposes.

The Department supports S. 1785.

S. 1785 would add three sites related to the Siege and Battle of Corinth to the boundary of Shiloh National Military Park. In 1991, the “Siege and Battle of Corinth Sites” was designated a National Historic Landmark. The Corinth Battlefield Protection Act of 2000 (Public Law 106-271) authorized the creation of the Corinth Unit, as part of Shiloh National Military Park, to “interpret the Siege and Battle of Corinth and other Civil War actions in the area in and around the city of Corinth, Mississippi.” The legislation defined a large partnership role with state, local, and private park partners in the planning, development and interpretation of the unit. The law also authorized a special resource study to identify and determine any other areas that would be appropriate for inclusion in the unit.

The “Corinth Special Resource Study and Boundary Adjustment Environmental Assessment,” completed in 2004, identified 18 sites that have a high degree of integrity and significant resources that would provide opportunities for public enjoyment, and recommended that these be included in the boundary of the Corinth Unit of Shiloh National Military Park. In 2007, Congress amended the Corinth Battlefield Protection Act of 2000 (Public Law 110-161, Section 127) to expand the boundary of the Corinth Unit of Shiloh National Military Park to include 12 of those sites.

S. 1785 would further modify the boundary of Shiloh National Military Park to include three of the six remaining sites identified in the 2004 special resource study. These three sites – the battlefields of Fallen Timbers, Russell House, and Davis Bridge – would contribute significantly to telling the remarkable story of the Union Army's Mississippi Valley Campaign during the Civil War, especially the Battle of Shiloh, Tennessee and the Siege of Corinth, Mississippi. The Mississippi Valley Campaign was a major milestone on the road that led to the final success of the Union Army in the war and the ultimate reunification of the nation.

The first battlefield that S. 1785 would include in Shiloh's authorized boundary is Fallen Timbers. On April 8, 1862, after two days of fierce fighting at Shiloh, Major General Ulysses S. Grant dispatched Brigadier General William T. Sherman on a reconnaissance to investigate Confederate intentions. Sherman encountered a large Confederate field hospital protected by a force of Southern cavalry under Lieutenant Colonel Nathan Bedford Forrest in an area called Fallen Timbers. Sherman advanced against the Confederate force and captured the field hospital with its surgeons and about 250 wounded Southern soldiers and about 50 wounded Union soldiers that had been previously captured by the Confederates. After this engagement, the Confederates retreated to Corinth and Sherman returned to Shiloh Church. Thus, the final shots of the Battle of Shiloh were fired at Fallen Timbers. A cautious and methodical Union advance would now mark the beginning of the advance upon, and siege of Corinth.

The Fallen Timbers Battlefield site consists of 468 acres of agricultural and forested land, a small portion of which is developed. The Civil War Trust has acquired approximately 270 acres of this land with the intention of donating it to the federal government. The remaining 198 acres that would be included in the boundary are in private ownership.

The second battlefield that S. 1785 would include in Shiloh's authorized boundary is the Russell House. On May 17, 1862, during the advance upon Corinth, Union forces led by Major General Sherman, fought a Confederate brigade and compelled the southern force to abandon its strong outpost at the Russell House situated on the Tennessee-Mississippi state line. Because the position possessed a great natural strength, Sherman's men lost no time fortifying it and driving the enemy further south toward Corinth.

The pastoral setting of the Russell House Battlefield retains a high degree of integrity, contains the extant remains of field fortifications, and has high potential for archeological survey and research. The approximately 666-acre tract that would be included in the boundary is in private ownership.

The third battlefield that S. 1785 would include in Shiloh's authorized boundary is Davis Bridge. On October 5, 1862, Union troops attacked a retreating Confederate force at Davis Bridge on the Hatchie River. The Federals drove the Confederates back across the river, seized the bridge, and charged into a thicket east of the river. Confederates defending the heights overlooking the crossing to the east inflicted heavy casualties on the Federals and checked their further advance, thereby permitting the defeated Confederate force to retreat south into Mississippi. The engagement at Davis Bridge was the last Confederate offensive in Mississippi.

In 1998, a 598-acre portion of the Davis Bridge Battlefield was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The bridge across the Hatchie River has long since washed away and the banks of the river have undergone erosion, but the 1,090 acres proposed to be included in the park boundary retain a high degree of integrity with much of the acreage remaining in agricultural cultivation or woodlands. The State of Tennessee owns approximately 845 of these acres. An approximately five-acre plot, which is a contributing property to the Siege and Battle of Corinth National Historic Landmark, has been donated to the National Park Service by the Davis Bridge Memorial Foundation.

If this legislation is enacted, we anticipate that we would acquire the majority of land by donation and that we would not develop visitor services or facilities at the three sites for the foreseeable future. Therefore, land acquisition and development costs would be minimal. Our current estimate for administrative costs associated with land donation at the three sites is $60,000 to cover title searches, environmental site assessments, and closing actions.

S. 1785 would also establish Parker's Crossroads Battlefield in the State of Tennessee as an affiliated area of the National Park System. The bill designates the city of Parkers Crossroads and the Tennessee Historical Commission as the management entity for the affiliated area and authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to provide technical assistance and enter into cooperative agreements with the management entity for the purpose of providing financial assistance for the marketing, marking, interpretation, and preservation of the affiliated area. As an affiliated area, Parker's Crossroads Battlefield would continue under non-federal ownership and management, but the owner would be required to administer the site consistent with laws applicable to units of the National Park System.

Affiliated areas comprise a variety of locations in the United States that preserve significant properties outside of the National Park System. Some of these have been designated by Acts of Congress and others have been designated administratively. All draw on technical assistance or financial aid from the National Park Service.

The Parker's Crossroads Battlefield is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is significant for its role in the military history of the Civil War and its archeological potential to yield information concerning the battle. The Parker's Crossroads Battlefield was the final engagement of Confederate now-Brigadier General Nathan Bedford Forrest's West Tennessee raid of December, 1862 which resulted in the disruption of Major General Ulysses S. Grant's supply lines as his army advanced towards Vicksburg. Forrest's raid and the simultaneous destruction of Grant's supply depot at Holly Spring, Mississippi, caused Grant to end his overland campaign against Vicksburg.

Since the battle, the area has remained largely in agricultural fields and forests consistent with its appearance in 1862, and the site retains a high degree of integrity. It is likely that the site contains physical remnants of the battle which can provide information concerning troop movements and areas where primary fighting occurred. The site is known to contain the remains of soldiers who were killed during the fighting and other burials may have also occurred there.

We recommend amending both of the map references in S. 1785 to allow for more current maps to be substituted. We would be happy to provide the committee with recommended language and updated maps. We may also suggest some technical amendments.

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my statement. I would be pleased to answer any questions you or any members of the subcommittee may have.

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