The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

February 13, 2014

Our View: Newtonia ball is in our court

— Southwest Missouri has an important story to tell about the Civil War, but if key sites that share that story are going to be preserved, the marching and fighting will have to be done by us.

The National Park Service has determined that Newtonia’s two battlefields and related historical sites, including the antebellum Ritchey mansion, aren’t worthy of inclusion in the national park system.

While we disagree with the findings in the report, there’s probably little that can be done about it.

Likewise for the state of Missouri, which has never moved on including Newtonia as a candidate for a state historical site, even though we think Newtonia is an excellent candidate for that list as well.

If further action is going to be taken to protect Newtonia’s and other local Civil War sites, it won’t be by adding them to the roster of state or federal parks.

Instead, it’s going to fall on nonprofit and local initiatives. The Newtonia Battlefields Protection Association has done good work acquiring and maintaining key sites, including the Ritchey mansion and about 26 acres associated with the two Civil War battles.

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who launched an effort to add Newtonia to the national park system six years ago, has pointed another way: developing other kinds of partnerships to preserve the battlefields.

“We’re trying to work with the Civil War Trust and work beyond the way things are normally done in Washington,” he said recently.

The Civil War Trust is a private, nonprofit organization with a reputation for preserving Civil War battlefields, including many in the Trans-Mississippi area.

Recently, the trust was involved in the effort to secure easements to protect about 100 acres that witnessed the battle of Carthage in 1861. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has protected less than eight acres of the site, none of which was battlefield but rather the spring where Union troops camped the night before the battle and where Missouri State Guard troops camped after their victory.

Southwest Missouri has bookends, if you will, that tell the story of the Civil War on the frontier: a story about where the war began — the battle of Carthage — and where it ended — the second battle of Newtonia.

Let’s not let opportunity slip through our fingers any longer.

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