Battle site may be made historic park

Sunday, February 19, 2006

CARTHAGE, Mo. -- A group of battlefield enthusiasts has announced plans to purchase some of the land on which Union soldiers clashed with the state's pro-Confederate governor and militia in the early days of the Civil War.

A few acres of the Carthage battlefield is a State Historic Site. But the Battle of Carthage Inc. has come up with a plan that would dramatically increase the amount of preserved land.

The Battle of Carthage occurred not long after Union forces chased Gov. Claiborne Jackson and members of the Missouri State Guard from the state Capitol. Jackson retreated to southwest Missouri. About 1,100 Union soldiers then marched into the region, seeking to prevent Jackson's army of about 4,000 armed and 2,000 unarmed men from linking up with Confederate troops in Arkansas.

The troops clashed on July 5, 1861, on land about 10 miles north of Carthage. Facing overwhelming odds, the Union troops retreated.

A few acres of the battlefield is a State Historic Site. But the Battle of Carthage Inc. has come up with a plan that would dramatically increase the amount of preserved land.

The president of the not-for-profit group, Gordon Billheimer, said a one-year option has been acquired on 260 acres of battlefield land.

If $800,000 can be raised to buy the property, owners Clifford Leffingwell and his wife have pledged to donate another 60 acres to the project. The group also hopes to raise additional money to pay for maintenance costs.

"It would give us 320 acres of pristine battlefield land," Billheimer said. "We have an opportunity for all time to preserve a representative portion of this hallowed battlefield, and to maintain it in the condition it was when the battle took place."

Re-enactments would be allowed on the site, which would make it unique. He said many other battlefields don't allow re-enactments.

He said the group will be seeking federal and foundation grants, plus local support.

Some of the money the group raised during a 2003 re-enactment, along with donations from local attorneys, was used to cover the purchase option.

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