Senators urge panel to approve battlefield expansion bill

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) are encouraging a Senate panel to advance their legislation authorizing the expansion of three units of the Vicksburg National Military Park.

The National Park Subcommittee of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has received testimony on the Champion Hill, Port Gibson and Raymond Battlefield Addition Act (S.265). Cochran introduced the bill with Wicker in February, and Congressman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) has introduced companion legislation (HR.2083) in the House of Representatives.

The Cochran-Wicker bill would authorize the National Park Service (NPS) to acquire, through voluntary sale, donation or exchange, up to 11,680 acres of property determined to be significant to the preservation of historic battlefield sites.

“There is strong overall support for safeguarding more of the battlefields associated with the Vicksburg Campaign. Our legislation would allow the National Park Service to enter into agreements to preserve and restore battlefield sites that, in the light of history, were important to the course of the Civil War,” Cochran said. “I am hopeful that this first hearing will lead to enactment of this worthwhile legislation.”

During the hearing, testimony was presented stating support for the bill by the U.S. Department of the Interior. The measure is also supported by Gov. Haley Barbour, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Civil War Trust, Friends of Raymond and other elected officials and community leaders in Raymond, Port Gibson and Hinds and Claiborne counties.

The measure addresses three separate parcels: the Port Gibson Unit in Claiborne County and the Raymond Unit and Champion Hill Unit, both in Hinds County. Designated “modified core battlefield” sites by the NPS, these properties also encompass several historic homes, such as the Shaifer House at Port Gibson and the Coker House at Champion Hill. The NPS would assume maintenance and security responsibilities for these structures once they are included in the Military Park.

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