Two Missouri Civil War sites won't be national parks

Wednesday, February 12, 2014 | 4:39 p.m. CST

NEWTONIA — A National Park Service study has recommended that two Civil War battlefields near Newtonia in southwest Missouri will not become part of the national park system.

The park service said Tuesday that the two battles, in 1862 and 1864, were not nationally significant to the outcome of the Civil War and their historical themes were already covered in other sites currently under state and federal control, The Joplin Globe reported.

"No new federal ownership of management is proposed," the study said.

Larry James, president of the Newtonia Battlefields Protection Association, and member Kay Hively said Tuesday they would not comment until they read the study.

"We're disappointed," Hively said.

In the first battle, on Sept. 30, 1862, organized units of American Indians fought on each side throughout the day. It was declared a Confederate victory but the Confederate soldiers could not maintain their presence for long because so many Union soldiers were in the area. The study said several other existing sites already interpret the American Indians' role in the Civil War.

In the second battle on Oct. 28, 1864, soldiers led by Confederate Maj. Gen. Sterling Price were in retreat after a raid into Missouri when they were surprised by Union troops. The Union didn't capture the Confederate troops before they retreated into Indian Territory, but it was considered a Union victory. The study said other protected sites deal with Price's Missouri Expedition of 1864.

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who helped start the effort for the study six years ago, said he would challenge the report's findings. But he also discussed other ways to preserve the battlefields.

"We're trying to work with the Civil War Trust and work beyond the way things are normally done in Washington," he said.

The Civil War Trust is a private, nonprofit organization that works to preserve Civil War battlefields.

Mary Koik, a spokeswoman for the Civil War Trust, said both Newtonia battles were among the 384 most significant Civil War battles cited by the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission, which listed them as a top priority for preservation.

"An update concludes that it remains an excellent candidate for comprehensive preservation," Koik said.

The Ritchey Mansion that overlooks the two battlefields was a hospital and a headquarters during the two battles. The mansion, a Ritchey family cemetery, a slave cemetery, the Old Civil War Cemetery and surrounding land total about 26 acres that are owned and maintained by the nonprofit Newtonia Battlefields Protection Association.

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