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Battlefield land purchases pushed

August 19, 1997

By STEVEN T. DENNIS

Staff Writer

SHARPSBURG - The federal government should buy land in some of the country's most famous Civil War battlefields, including Antietam, to protect them from development, Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., said Monday.

Torricelli asked Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt to include the battlefields on a priority acquisition list in a letter signed by Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md., and two other senators.

A Senate spending bill includes about $700 million for land purchases.

Antietam Superintendent John W. Howard said the battlefield is interested in buying about 200 acres within the battlefield limits.

Howard said the purchases basically would involve filling in the gaps and would not include a major expansion of the battlefield.

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Howard said the battlefield's top priority is a 160-acre farm owned by Howard Miller that is in the very center of the battlefield along Bloody Lane.

Howard said the Miller farm is up for sale now but the battlefield didn't have the money to buy it.

Howard said the need for future purchases beyond the 200 acres is small.

"We're fairly well protected now," he said.

In addition to Antietam, Torricelli focused on two other battlefields, Gettysburg, Pa., and Fredericksburg-Spottsylvania in Virginia.

Torricelli said a total of 3,130 acres at the three battlefields needs to be purchased.

Dennis Frye, the president of the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites, said the letter was an "extremely positive" development and hoped that Congress also would provide matching funds for private groups that want to buy and preserve battlefield land.

Frye said a 1993 report listing 384 battlefield sites across the country said about half are under heavy or moderate pressure from encroaching development.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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