The American Battlefield Protection Program Amendments Act was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on Monday, Sept. 10.
This bipartisan bill, which was produced by U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12), will offer competitive matching grants to preserve battlefields from the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Civil War, according to a press release issued by Holt's office. Holt first introduced this legislation nearly one year ago.
The bill will now be sent to the U.S. Senate, along with a companion bill submitted by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer of New York, for further consideration.
Holt’s legislation aims to protect hundreds of battlefields sites (the list is attached to the PDF section of this story) throughout the state of New Jersey from commercial development, including sections of Manalapan and Freehold Township where the Battle of Monmouth took place.
Manasquan is also named on the list of sites.
According to Manasquan's borough historian, Mary Birkhead Ware, during the Revolutionary War, the Manasquan Inlet served as a refuge for small boats, and eventually became a small seaport.
“Sprawl and commercial development are threatening the historic sites where our nation was forged and shaped,” Holt said. “Each time a historic battlefield is replaced with a parking lot, a chapter of American history is obscured, and future generations lose an important window onto their heritage. This bill would provide matching funds that would leverage private efforts to preserve our nation’s past.”
The American Battlefield Protection Program (ABPP) currently provide competitive matching grants to help private efforts protect Civil War sites. The ABPP has helped save over 16,500 acres of historic sites across 14 states since it’s inception in 1999, according to Holt's statement.
Holt’s legislation will add to the success of the ABPP by reauthorizing the program and creating an identical program that will protect battlefields from the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.
When Holt was in the last session of Congress he introduced a similar bill which passed unanimously in the House of Representatives, the release stated.
“The public-private partnerships fostered through the American Battlefield Protection Program have been responsible for setting aside some of our nation’s most significant historic sites,” President of the Civil War Trust, James Lighthizer, said. “But our nation was not only shaped on the battlefields of the 1860s — and this measure will help encourage the protection and appreciation of the full scope of our history.”
David Hackett Fischer publicly testified in front of Congress in support of Holt’s bill saying that the legislation becomes more and more urgent with each passing year.
“Sites now presently endangered include some of the most important events in the history of the American Revolution,” Fischer told Congress.
The National Park Service has indicated that protecting Revolutionary War and War of 1812 battlefields is essential, but the progress is poor.
Out of 825 battlefield sites across the country, 107 are lost, 254 are in poor condition or fragmented, and 222 are in danger of being destroyed within a decade.
Besides aiming to preserve Monmouth Battlefield State Park, battlefields throughout New Jersey in Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth and Somerset Counties will also be covered by this legislation.