The NPS’s Newest National Battlefield: Mill Springs, Kentucky

Congressman Rogers, Senator McConnell & MSBA Board Members stand with the new National Park System sign for the Mill Springs Battlefield National Monument (photo courtesy Rep. Rogers)

The Mill Springs Battlefield National Monument in Nancy, Kentucky, is officially part of the National Park System. Word came today from Representative Hal Rogers, who represents Kentucky’s 5th District. Here’s information from the congressman’s press release, issued today:

The new battlefield is the result of the united efforts of Congressman Hal Rogers, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the U.S. Department of the Interior, the National Park Service, the Mill Springs Battlefield Association (MSBA), the American Battlefield Trust and local leaders. Today, a public celebration was held on the lawn of the Civil War battlefield’s Visitor Center and Museum with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) Band from Fort Campbell.

In 1991, the National Park Service identified Mill Springs Battlefield as one of the 25 most endangered battlefields in America. Since then, the MSBA has led the charge to preserve 900 acres of land spanning Pulaski and Wayne counties, along with iconic structures relevant to the historic battle.

Congressman Rogers and Senator McConnell worked diligently for many years to incorporate the battlefield into the National Park System by securing federal funding for land preservation, construction of the Visitor Center and Museum, and most recently, by working directly with Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to establish Mill Springs Battlefield as a National Monument.

“Today, we proudly declare that this once-endangered Civil War battlefield has been rescued, and it is another victory for Kentucky!” said Congressman Rogers, who also helped establish the MSBA. “It has been an honor to work with my friend Senator McConnell, Sec. Bernhardt, the MSBA, and so many others to preserve this historic battlefield so future generations can experience an interactive education about our history in Kentucky and the significant impact that Kentucky had in strengthening our nation.”

“For decades, a group of Kentucky patriots at the Mill Springs Battlefield Association has worked to protect this treasured landmark. With my friend, Congressman Rogers, it is a privilege to join them to preserve its legacy as a National Monument,” said Senate Majority Leader McConnell. “We honor the heroes who sacrificed on this field to save our Union and change the course of history. Through the dedication of this community, I look forward to future generations of Kentuckians learning and appreciating our history here at Mill Springs.”

On March 12, 2019, President Donald Trump signed into law the designation for Mill Springs Battlefield to become a National Monument. On September 22, 2020, Sen. McConnell and Congressman Rogers joined Secretary Bernhardt for a ceremonial signing in the U.S. Capitol to formally establish the Mill Springs Battlefield National Monument as the 421st unit of the National Park System.

“President Trump understands the magnificence and impact our federal lands, monuments and battlefields have on our society and how crucial they are to telling the story of our great nation. Thanks to Chairman Rogers, Leader McConnell, the Mill Springs Battlefield Association and the community at large, this special place will live on for our children, our grandchildren and the many generations to come hereafter,” said Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, Kate MacGregor.

The Battle of Mill Springs was the second largest battle to take place in Kentucky and engaged some 17,000 soldiers. It memorializes the Union’s first major victory on Jan. 19, 1862 when Confederate General Felix Zollicoffer was killed during the battle, becoming one of the first generals to die during the Civil War. The Battle of Mill Springs helped to maintain Kentucky’s Union affiliation throughout the war and offered more than a strategic victory for the Union Army. It served as a national rallying call heralded by the Union and provided a much-needed boost to morale, helping to re-energize Northern war interests.

“Today’s celebration has been a journey of more than 28 years. We are so grateful and thankful to Congressman Hal Rogers and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Without their help, persistence and insight this day would not have been possible,” said Dr. Bruce Burkett, President of the Mill Springs Battlefield Association. “We also owe the American Battlefield Trust, Pulaski and Wayne County executive support and hundreds of volunteers, a deep and heartfelt thank you.”

“Through the power of public-private partnerships, the important historic landscape at Mill Springs has been protected for future generations of Americans to learn from and enjoy,” said David N. Duncan, president of the nonprofit American Battlefield Trust. “It has been our privilege to work alongside government officials at the federal, state and local levels, as well as committed nonprofit partners, to protect nearly 700 acres at Mill Springs — land that is now poised to become part of the inheritance of every American.”

During the celebration, Elisa Kunz was introduced as the Acting Superintendent for the Mill Springs Battlefield National Monument.

“The National Park Service Arrowhead will now be featured at Mill Springs Battlefield National Monument,” said Kunz. “It means a chance to open up to new audiences, develop economic connections, conserve natural resources, and connect with a larger pool of people who understand the value and appreciate the education provided by the National Park Service. Community preservation work has done a great deal to get us to this point and we look forward to growing our audience in the years to come.“

While the entire project is authorized for the National Park System, some of the property – largely in Wayne County – still requires transfer to NPS. Congressman Rogers assured attendees that a second celebration will be scheduled in Wayne County in the near future to mark the completion of this project.

The Mill Springs Battlefield National Monument is now open to the public, including the Visitor’s Center and Museum. Visitors to the new national monument can also begin a 10-stop, self-guided driving tour of the battlefield from the visitor center.

Click here to watch video of the event on WKYT’s Facebook Page.

3 Responses to The NPS’s Newest National Battlefield: Mill Springs, Kentucky

  1. Mill Springs. Where George Thomas first proved himself; and Felix Zollicoffer came unstuck. And in consequence, the First Confederate Line of Defence in the West, stretching from the Cumberland Gap to Newton County Missouri, was broken, paving the way for Fort Henry, Fort Donelson, the Retreat from Bowling Green, the sacrifice of Nashville, the Evacuation of Fort Columbus…
    As for the NPS decision: good to see action was taken while there was still a battlefield site worth preserving.

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