Step forward in preserving historic sites

For many years, North and South remained divided on how to observe Memorial Day, which was born of the Civil War.

Even after Northern states began recognizing the holiday, Southern states did not, opting to honor Confederate dead on a separate day until after World War I.

Importantly, U.S. Army commander Gen. John Logan in officially proclaiming Memorial Day in 1868 made clear that the observance was to be a national one and was not to be about any particular battle of the Civil War.

Yet knowing of battles and preserving battlegrounds from that war – and others fought on American soil — remain an important part of remembering the great sacrifices.

Recently, South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott had progress to report in efforts to preserve one of the most important sites from the Civil War.

His Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park Act was approved by the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. The legislation would revamp the protections overseeing two of South Carolina’s most historic locations.

“South Carolina’s history is an essential chapter of our American story, and today we are one step closer to helping preserve some of our state’s most important and historic sites,” Scott said. “By officially classifying Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie as nationally recognized historical park, we can rest assured these areas will continue to be enjoyed by local residents and visitors for years to come.”

The legislation (Congressman Mark Sanford has a similar bill in the House) establishes a management plan for the preservation and maintenance of the Sumter-Moultrie site, and also has the potential to enhance local economic opportunities and growth for the surrounding area by increased tourism and visitation.

Details of the bill include:

• Establishes Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Park.

• Codifies clear and defining boundaries of federally managed land at Fort Sumter.

• Provides the National Park Service with a clear management plan for park, maintenance and development,

• Recognizes the importance of Fort Sumter, Fort Moultrie and the Sullivan’s Island Life Saving Station Historic District in American history and the role they played in protecting the Charleston Harbor during the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and the development of the U.S. coastal defense system from 1776 to 1947.

• Commemorates the lives of the free and enslaved workers who built Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie, the soldiers who defended the forts, the prisoners held there, and the captive Africans brought to America as slaves.

• Bolsters the tourism potential of the community by increasing the visibility, prestige and notoriety of the sites by upgrading the federal designation to national park status.

Each year, Fort Sumter National Monument and Fort Moultrie attract nearly a million visitors to see where the first shots of the Civil War were fired on April 12, 1861. Fort Sumter has been recognized as a national monument since 1948, and since 1960, Fort Moultrie has been administered by the National Parks Service as part of Fort Sumter without a clear management mandate or established boundary.

In divisive and difficult times in Washington, the legislation should be welcomed by politicians of all persuasions. The nation must preserve its history and prioritize dollars to do so.