Jimmy Stewart starred in the 1939 film classic “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” in which a well-meaning fellow from a small town pleads the case for a recreation area before Congress.
Flash-forward to 2013, and Pulaski County’s Mr. Neikirk has gone to Washington to do something similar.
Bill Neikirk, former president of the Mill Springs Battlefield Association (MSBA), went with Somerset’s own Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers to the nation’s capital last week to plead the case for the Civil War site in Nancy to become an official national park.
“Yes, very much so,” said Neikirk, chairman of the committee to make Mill Springs a national park, when asked if the panel seemed receptive.
“I was very impressed with the whole system,” he added. “It was a bigger deal than I was anticipating.”
In January of 2012, Rogers introduced binding legislation to push the Mill Springs Battlefield’s inclusion into the U.S. National Parks system. The bill directed the National Park Service to conduct a study that would evaluate the potential for bringing the Mill Springs Battlefield into the fold.
Rogers reintroduced the legislation at the beginning of this year 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.
On Thursday, Rogers and Neikirk addressed the Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation in Washington, D.C. and explained the historic significance of the Battle of Mill Springs to the country as a whole.
“The U.S. Department of Interior classified the Battle of Mill Springs as one of the most important battles in the western theater of the Civil War, and labeled the site an endangered battlefield in Kentucky," said Rogers. "Thanks to Bill and the group he founded, the Mill Springs Battlefield Association, hundreds of acres of battlefield land have been diligently preserved."