The American Battlefield Protection Program (ABPP) is a United States federal government program created by the Secretary of the Interior in 1991, with the aim of preserving historic battlefields in the United States. In 1996, Congress signed into law the American Battlefield Protection Act, which officially authorized the ABPP. The program operates under the American Battlefield Protection Program Authorization as of 2009.
The American Battlefield Protection Program (ABPP) promotes the preservation of significant historic battlefields associated with wars on American soil. The goals of the program are 1) to protect battlefields and sites associated with armed conflicts that influenced the course of our history, 2) to encourage and assist all Americans in planning for the preservation, management, and interpretation of these sites, and 3) to raise awareness of the importance of preserving battlefields and related sites for future generations. The ABPP focuses primarily on land use, cultural resource and site management planning, and public education.
At the direction of Congress the American Battlefield Protection Program has periodically identified, surveyed, and assessed the preservation needs at significant sites associated with the American Revolution, the Civil War, and the War of 1812.
In addition to these studies, the ABPP has either undertaken or supported the identification, survey, and assessment of many other battles associated with additional wars ranging from 16th-century contact encounters to World War II actions in the Pacific.
Congress authorized the Civil War Battlefield Preservation Act of 2002 tasking the American Battlefield Protection Program with producing an update to the 1993 Civil War Sites Advisory Commission Report on the Nation's Civil War Battlefields. Congress required that the update address 1)preservation activities carried out at the battlefields since 1993 2) changes in the condition of the battlefields since 1993 and 3)any other relevant developments relating to the battlefields since 1993.
The American Battlefield Protection Program produced 25 updated reports, by state. The purpose of the reports are to presents information about Civil War battlefields for use by Congress, federal, state, and local government agencies, landowners, and other interest groups to enable them to act quickly and proactively to preserve and protect nationally significant Civil War battlefields; and to create partnerships among state and local governments, regional entities, and the private sector to preserve, conserve, and enhance nationally significant Civil War battlefields.
Congress authorized the Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Historic Preservation Study in 1996 because many historic sites of the American Revolutionary War and War of 1812 were at risk from rapid urban or suburban development. The goals of the study were 1) to gather current information about the significance of, current condition of, and threats to the Revolutionary War and War of 1812 sites and 2) to present preservation and interpretation alternatives for the sites.
The American Battlefield Protection Program identified and documented 677 significant places associated with the Revolutionary War and War of 1812. The 2007 Report to Congress on the Historic Preservation of Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Sites in the United States presented information about at-risk Revolutionary War and War of 1812 battlefields and associated properties for consideration by Federal, State, tribal, municipal, non-profit, and private entities.
The National Park Service, Cultural Resources Geographical Information System Facility (CRGIS) undertook, on behalf of the American Battlefield Protection Program, a study of the significant Mexican-American War battlefields in the United States. CRGIS identified thirteen battlefields in California, New Mexico, and Texas. Each battlefield was documented, battlefield boundaries were drawn, and each site was assessed for threats, integrity, and preservation needs. CRGIS presented maps and final assessments for each battlefield to the American Battlefield Protection Program in 2004.
Congress established the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission in 1990 to identify significant Civil War sites, determine their condition, assess threats to their integrity, and offer alternatives for their preservation and interpretation. Because of limited time and resources, the Commission concentrated on battlefields as the central focus of the Civil War, and of many contemporary historic preservation decisions.
The Commission identified 384 battlefields as the principal battles of the war and classified them according to their historic significance. The battlefields were surveyed and assessed for landscape integrity, threats, and preservation needs. A final report was presented to Congress in 1993. The Commission sunset in 1993, however, the American Battlefield Protection Program continues to implement parts of the Commission's mission and recommendations.
In 1990 Congress authorized a study of Civil War sites in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. The study was to accomplish four tasks: identify significant Civil War sites and determine their condition, establish their relative importance, assess short and long term threats to their integrity, and provide alternatives for their preservation and interpretation by Federal, State, and local governments, or by other public or private entities.
The study defined the Shenandoah Valley as comprising eight Virginia counties--Augusta, Clarke, Frederick, Highland, Page, Rockingham, Shenandoah, and Warren. Fifteen battle events of major significance were identified and documented and a final report detailing each battlefields' landscape integrity, risk, and preservation needs was presented to Congress in 1992.
The American Battlefield Protection Program administers two separate grant programs:
In order to focus closely on battlefield lands and their associated properties, the American Battlefield Protection Program has developed program specific definitions for both property types that help them meet their stated mission of promoting battlefield preservation. The definitions are:
Over the past 20 years, the American Battlefield Protection Program has devised and refined a methodology for identifying and mapping battlefield landscapes. The methodology consists of applying the concepts of Military Terrain Analysis to a battlefield to identify its terrain; identifying the Defining Features of a battlefield; drawing a Study and Core area to delineate the historic boundaries of a battlefield; and assessing the integrity of the landscape (Areas of Integrity) using the National Register of Historic Places Bulletin 40: Guidelines for Identifying, Evaluating, and Registering America's Historic Battlefields.
Military Terrain Analysis is a process used by the military both to describe the terrain of the battlefield environment and to analyze the significance of the terrain. By studying the military significance of the terrain a person can identify the historic battlefield "hidden" in the modern landscape. Military terrain is analyzed using five key aspects (commonly referred to by various acronyms such as KOCOA, OAKOC, and OCOKA):
Once the general area of the battlefield has been identified the next step is to identify features that are associated with the battle and help define the overall battlefield landscape.
Features on a battlefield consist of natural terrain features, man-made features, and place names found in battle descriptions or on historic maps that can be used to locate significant actions and events associated with a battle. An example of a feature on a battlefield may be a place such as a town or farm; a structure such as a mill, house or church, a road, wood lot, earthwork, or farm field; or a natural terrain feature, such as a stream, ridge, hill, ford, or ravine.
Defining Features are features that, in addition to being found in battle descriptions and on historic maps, can be visually located on the modern landscape or under the landscape's surface (archeological remains). This is an important distinction as Defining Features must be topographically defensible. Any feature whose existence can be verified through physical evidence can be mapped as a Defining Feature. Features that no longer exist above or below the surface and therefore have no physical trace are still considered battle features but are not mapped as Defining Features.
Defining Features not only define the battlefield on the landscape but also serve to pin battle events to identifiable locations. They aid in establishing legitimate, historically defensible boundaries around a battlefield landscape and are legitimate historic resources that are supported by historical evidence and source materials. Finding and mapping Defining Features helps to ensure that the battlefield is defined as objectively as possible and to accurately reflect the full extent of the battlefield on the modern landscape.
Study and Core Area boundaries delineate the historical extents of a battlefield. POTNR boundaries delineate areas within the Study and Core Area(s) that still retain integrity and remain to be preserved. The Study and Core Area boundaries define the historic landscape of the battlefield while areas that retain integrity define the modern landscape. For example, if a particular farm field was important during the battle but now is covered by a housing development, it would still be included in a Core or Study Area boundary because the farm field informs the history of the battle. That same farm field, however, would not be considered for inclusion in an POTNR boundary because it no longer has integrity (i.e. conveys a sense of the historic scene) and there is nothing left of the original farm field to preserve.
When surveying a battlefield the Study and Core Areas are identified first and then the portions of those Areas that retain integrity (PotNR) are identified and delineated.
The Battlefield Boundary (formerly known as the Study Area) defines tactical context and visual setting and reflects the historic extent of the battle as it unfolded across the landscape. The Study Area contains all resources and related to or contributing to the battle event: where troops maneuvered and deployed, immediately before, during, and after combat, and where they fought during combat. The Study Area also includes all locations and geographic features that directly contributed to the development and ending of the battle (Defining Features).
The Battlefield Boundary should include the following:
The Battlefield Boundary is restricted to the immediate flow of battle after one side or the other has moved to initiate combat. For example, if a unit left its encampments intending to attack the enemy, it is appropriate to include the encampments and the accompanying approach routes in the Study Area as the initial position of the attacking force. The route of the previous day's march to reach those encampments, however, would not be included.
The Battlefield Boundary ends where the opposing forces disengaged and withdrew. Reasons for disengagement might include darkness or adverse weather conditions, pursuit of a retreating force being halted by a rear guard action, orders to disengage being received, or one force accomplishing its objective and choosing not to pursue its retreating foe. Withdrawal routes end where, logically, the combatants would not be expected to turn back and continue engaging in battle.
There is only one contiguous Battlefield Boundary per battlefield. The Battlefield Boundary is generally drawn, where practicable, to follow natural features and contours identified on USGS 7.5 minute quadrangle maps.
The Core Area of a battlefield is the area of direct combat on the battlefield. A Core Area includes critical land where fighting occurred and casualties were sustained. There may be multiple Core Area boundaries on a battlefield, but all must fall fully within the Battlefield boundary. Of note when drawing Core Area boundaries:
For example, a unit was sent, during the battle, to verify reports of enemy forces being sited at a location removed from the main area of combat. If no enemy forces were found or engaged, the unit's movements from and back to the main area of combat would be included in the Study Area boundary. If the unit found and engaged opposing forces, however, the action would be considered direct combat and would receive its own Core Area boundary.
Artillery positions are generally not included within Core Area boundaries unless they are attacked, give supporting fire, or are directly engaged in fighting with opposing forces.
For example, if cannons were massed to cover a road and their position led to an engagement through cannon fire or a direct attack on the guns, then the position would be included in a Core Area boundary. If, however, the cannons were not engaged but their mere presence caused the opposing force to move on a different road, then their position would be considered as playing a strategic role in the overall battle and would be included in the larger Battlefield Boundary.
Core Area boundaries are generally drawn, where practicable, to follow natural features and contours identified on USGS 7.5 minute quadrangle maps.
"Integrity is the ability of a property to convey its significance." (NRHP Bulletin 40)
Unlike the Battlefield and Core Area boundaries, which are based only upon the interpretation of historic events (historic landscape), Area of Integrity boundaries, also referred to as Potential National Register (POTNR) boundaries, are based on an assessment of the current landscape's integrity (modern landscape) using the guidelines outlined in National Register Bulletin 40. The boundaries drawn around these areas encompass lands that retain their historic integrity and either are already preserved or could be preserved in the future. These boundaries must fall fully within the Battlefield Boundary. In some cases the battlefield landscape will no longer retain any integrity; therefore some battlefields will not have a POTNR boundary.
The degree to which post-war development has altered and fragmented the historic battlefield landscape or destroyed historic features and viewsheds is critical when assessing a battlefield's current integrity. Of note when assessing integrity:
The concept of integrity for the purpose of drawing POTNR boundaries is defined in NRHP Bulletin 40: Guidelines for Identifying, Evaluating, and Registering America's Historic Battlefield (Section VII - Assessing Integrity).