National Park Service Seeks Public Comments on Shepherdstown Battlefield Boundary Adjustment

Sep 26, 2014

Credit Cecelia Mason / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

This week is the last chance to make a public comment about a boundary adjustment for the Shepherdstown Battlefield. The National Park Service is looking for thoughts and opinions on whether the battlefield should be part of the park system. If so, will it be an addition to Harpers Ferry National Historical Park or Antietam National Battlefield?

On September 19th and 20th 1862, the Battle of Shepherdstown was underway. Some say, this battle may have significantly changed the course of the American Civil War. Edward Dunleavy, the President of the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association says it was this small battle that caused Confederate General, Robert E. Lee to retreat south, halting his Maryland campaign.

“Lincoln had talked to his cabinet in July of 1862 about releasing the Emancipation Proclamation," Dunleavy said, "and his secretary of state, Seward, said if you do it now without a military victory, it will fall on deaf ears, but if you do it after a military victory, it’ll have some importance. So the Union army could claim a military victory by pushing Lee’s army in retreat back into Virginia, and on September 22nd, the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation was released by Lincoln. That’s the significance of this battle.”

Dunleavy thinks the Shepherdstown Battlefield would be better as an addition to Antietam, because he says historically, it makes more sense.

“From a purely Civil War standpoint, it really should be part of the Antietam Battlefield," he argued, "Not to take anything away from Harpers Ferry, but the fact is, there was an enormous surrender at Harpers Ferry during the Maryland campaign, but there was really no battle that ever happened there.”

While most of the opinions from the public and even the National Park Service seem to be overwhelmingly for Antietam, that’s still up for debate.

The boundary adjustment will be re-evaluated by both the National Park Service and Congress. Dunleavy says it will probably take at least six months or longer before a decision is made.

The comment period will end on Friday, October 3rd.