Preserving Marylandís Heritage
Saving the past for the future
By Elizabeth Buxton and Jill Kubtako
Imagine what Maryland was like 150 or 200 years ago when it was at the center of numerous skirmishes, battles and revolutionary events. Within a few miles of where we live or work are places where troops marched, ships sailed and artillery flew during two of the most significant American conflicts in history ó the War of 1812 and the Civil War.
In fact, our State saw more military action during the War of 1812 than any other territory, and the Civil War battles fought here resulted in the most casualties of any American war since.
The upcoming commemorations of the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War battles of Antietam and South Mountain, served as additional motivation for the State to preserve significant unprotected sites.
Until 1990, neither the South Mountain battle site, nor the land Union soldiers used as an approach to the Antietam battleground were protected. Since then, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and a consortium of State and federal agencies have worked together to preserve nearly 16,000 acres surrounding historic battlefields.
War of 1812
The British invasion of Maryland during the summer of 1812 and the Chesapeake Campaign of 1814 were tactically important for each side. Following the burning of Washington, the Battle of North Point delayed the British advance against Baltimore, buying valuable time to defend the city. This engagement was part of the larger Battle of Baltimore, a strategic American victory.
South Mountain is often overlooked by those less familiar with Civil War battlefields. It is overshadowed by the slaughter at nearby Antietam, which took place three days later and resulted in a loss of 23,000 men.
The State, through Program Open Space, has protected 1,313 acres of the historic battlefield at South Mountain. Much of this acreage has been preserved through easements rather than outright purchase, enabling the State to accomplish more for its dollar.
The environmental impact of preserving these lands includes additional open space for forest land and stream buffers. They have also become a haven for wildlife habitat for more than 30 rare and endangered plants and animals.
During this period of heightened interest, DNR is working to increase the number of acres protected by easements near battlefields.
The Maryland Environmental Trust (MET) and the Civil War Trust, the largest Civil War battlefields preservation group, have applied for Transportation Enhancement Funds to protect additional acreage near Marylandís battlefields.
The State is also pursuing properties significant to the War of 1812 to add to its current holdings. DNRís land preservation programs will work with property owners, the Civil War Trust, the Governorís Maryland War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission, State agencies and other organizations to safeguard land for its valuable interpretative opportunities and give future generations the ability to embrace our Stateís extraordinary heritage.
Thanks to Program Open Space, the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, Rural Legacy and MET, along with the Maryland Agriculture Land Preservation Foundation, the Maryland Department of Transportation, the University of Maryland and the federal government, these sacred grounds of our past have been saved from urban sprawl. This acreage will remain a visual reminder of a piece of our heritage for generations to come.
Elizabeth Buxton is the Director of MET.
Jill Kubatko is the Publications Manager in DNRís Office of Communications.