Law allows huge expansion of historic Civil War battlefield

Infantry Fortifications at the Petersburg National Battlefield (Photo: Ken Lund from Las Vegas, Nevada/Wikimedia Commons)

PETERSBURG, Va. (AP) — A bill recently signed by President Barack Obama authorizes Virginia’s sprawling Petersburg National Battlefield to more than triple in size, which would create the nation’s largest protected battlefield at a climactic site in the Confederacy’s demise.

Legislation in a defense policy bill authorizes adding more than 7,000 acres to the park. Prolonged trench warfare in the Union’s Petersburg campaign claimed tens of thousands of lives, precipitating the fall of Richmond and Gen. Robert E. Lee’s 1865 surrender.

Though the bill doesn’t provide any new spending or immediately add new properties, some land is in the hands of preservation groups set to transfer it to the National Park Service. Officials say the expansion would defend sites from development, boost tourism and provide a more comprehensive understanding of the campaign.

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