WASHINGTON (KT) - As Memorial Day celebrations are under way this weekend, U.S. Rep. Harold "Hal" Rogers and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced plans to introduce legislation adding the historic Mill Springs Battlefield, spanning Pulaski and Wayne counties, to the National Park System.
This effort would commemorate the pivotal significance of the site during the Civil War, as the first major victory for the Union Army.
"Countless local advocates have worked diligently to preserve the hallowed grounds at Mill Springs where nearly 6,000 Confederate Army soldiers camped before the Union Army claimed this crucial land in its march toward victory," Rogers said. "This national designation would be a tremendous honor for our rural region and a testament to those who have successfully preserved this site for battlefield re-enactments and visitors from across the country to learn more about our American landmark."
“I applaud Congressman Hal Rogers for his leadership to preserve the history and culture of Kentucky and our nation by introducing legislation in the House to designate Mill Springs Battlefield as a National Monument,” McConnell said. “Enshrining this American Civil War battlefield among our nation’s most treasured lands can promote the public education, tourism, and remembrance of the Union Army’s first significant victory in the West. I look forward to continuing to work with the Kentucky Congressional delegation and the Department of the Interior to protect this historic battlefield for generations to come.”
In 1993, the battlefield was designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark District, highlighting the exceptional value it illustrates for our nation's heritage. The Mill Springs Battlefield Association, Inc. has tirelessly worked to preserve the site by acquiring more than 400 acres of land in Pulaski and Wayne counties. The association also invested $1.7 million in 2006 to build a 10,000-square-foot Visitor Center and Museum, which exhibits authentic artifacts from the Civil War.
This bill is the second in a two-part process to add the battlefield to the federal system. First, the National Park Service (NPS) must complete a study to evaluate Mill Springs’ addition to the park system. Congress passed legislation in 2014 to authorize the study, which is expected to be completed later this year. Second, Congress must pass legislation officially authorizing the battlefield’s addition to the NPS, which is what this latest bill would accomplish.
Parallel to this legislative effort, most of the Kentucky delegation has also urged U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to recommend to the President that he designate the historic battlefield as a National Monument through the Antiquities Act of 1906. Senator McConnell and Representatives Rogers, Andy Barr, Brett Guthrie, James Comer and John Yarmuth sent a letter with the request to the Secretary in December 2017. As part of this effort, just last week Acting Director of the National Park Service Dan Smith visited Mill Springs and met with local leaders to evaluate the addition of Mill Springs in the National Park System.
The legislation was introduced in the U.S. House Friday and goes before the Senate in June.