Mill Springs Battlefield is a step closer to becoming National Park
House OKs legislation to allow feasibility study
by Chris Harris Commonwealth Journal
The Mill Springs Battlefield is — hopefully — one crucial step close to becoming a national park.
On Monday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would officially allow for a feasibility study in the ongoing quest for Pulaski County’s Civil War battlefield to become a part of the National Park system.
The bill — HR 298 — would “direct the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a special resource study to evaluate the significance of the Mill Springs Battlefield located in Pulaski and Wayne Counties, Kentucky, and the feasibility of its inclusion in the National Park Service, and for other purposes,” according to its text.
And while Congress has a reputation for gridlock, this vote was unanimous — something which pleased Somerset’s own Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers, who pushed for the bill’s passage, speaking about it to the House on Monday.
"The Battle of Mill Springs is a source of great pride and interest to the people I serve," said Rogers. "Victory in the Battle of Mill Springs held off the Confederate advance into Kentucky, and laid the groundwork for later Union successes.
"We have a great number of historical sites, which have been dutifully and faithfully preserved so that new generations can appreciate what this country has been through, and what their forefathers cared for," he added. "The Mill Springs Battlefield is a jewel of this group of sites, and will be an excellent addition to the National Park Service."
Rogers’ office noted that in the early 1990s, the U.S. Department of Interior classified the site of the Battle of Mill Springs as one of the most endangered battlefields in Kentucky.
Recently, the push has been made for the Nancy-area site’s inclusion into the National Park Service. In January of 2012, Rogers introduced binding legislation to direct the park system to conduct a study that would evaluate the potential for bringing the Mill Springs Battlefield into the fold.
The Fifth-District Representative reintroduced the legislation at the beginning of 2013 with a new Congress in place, in recognition of the 151st anniversary of the Battle of Mill Springs, or the Battle of Logan Crossroads.
The Battle of Mill Springs occurred on January 19, 1862 in Pulaski and Wayne counties and was the first significant victory for the Union Army in the west. The Confederate defeat at Mill Springs blazed a trail for Union troops to move from Kentucky into Tennessee.
Jack Keeney, executive director of the Mill Springs Battlefield Association (MSBA), applauded the Congressional decision.
“We’re very encouraged,” he said. “We look forward to working with them (the National Park Service).”
Keeney noted that it would be a long process remaining if the bill clears its way through Washington entirely — the U.S. Senate still has yet to approve it — but hopes to still be in the director’s chair when the end goal comes to fruition.
“We’ve got a one-to-three year study to go,” he said. “We’re tickled and happy, but anxious when working with the government because we know it’s a slow process.
“At this point, I think we’re at the mercy of ‘what do they need from us?’ and we’ll provide it for them,” he added when asked what the MSBA might do to help make the battlefield’s case for inclusion.
Still, “it’s an exciting time to know people outside our area are interested in our facility and battlefield.”
Bill Neikirk, former president of the MSBA and still a dedicated Civil War enthusiast, helped Rogers make the case for Mill Springs in Washington last year. He was happy to hear the news but stressed that until the Senate passes the bill, nothing is settled yet.
“Obviously, we’re very excited. We’ve been working for a few years to get to this point, so we’re one step closer to being a national park,” he said. “Now ... where the public can help us is to contact the senators’ offices (currently Sen. Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul in Kentucky) and help us to make Mill Springs become a national park.”