NWA EDITORIAL | Artifacts found on land near the national battlefield in Pea Ridge can help reveal Arkansas, American history

Artifacts help tell battlefield’s history

Planning commissions do important work, but it's not often they draw editorial comment. But when a subdivision is proposed next to a Civil War battlefield and national park, a little extra scrutiny is in order.

This particular subdivision is on 43 acres adjacent to the Pea Ridge National Military Park. At 4,300 acres, the park covers a lot of the area where more than 23,000 soldiers fought in March 1862 in one of the most important Civil War battles west of the Mississippi River. But with that many troops, the modern-day boundary of a national park certainly doesn't contain all the land affected by their presence.

The Benton County Planning Board recently approved the subdivision, but Mayor Jackie Crabtree requested developers keep the Pea Ridge National Military Park Foundation apprised of any historical artifacts found on the property while it's being developed.

Crabtree, who serves as chairman of the foundation, said a lot of activity surrounding the Battle of Pea Ridge took place on the property to be developed. The developer is under no legal obligation, but park supporters hope information will be shared when artifacts are uncovered, as they almost certainly will be.

You think 160 years means there's nothing to find? Don't bet on it. People across the southeast United States, where most battles were fought, still find soldiers' buttons or bullets or utensils. A drought-stricken Mississippi River recently cleared the way for a metal detector enthusiast to find a belt buckle inscribed with the letters "U.S."

Certainly the hope is any property owner around a national historic site would share an appreciation for the story that site is attempting to tell. Every artifact contributes to a better understanding of how people lived back then and, in this case, perhaps adds some details about how the soldiers were encamped.

We appreciate the supporters of the Pea Ridge National Military Park Foundation taking steps to encourage nearby landowners to share their discoveries. People unquestionably own the land themselves, but Arkansas and American history belongs to everyone. Subdivisions come and go, but any artifacts found there can help tell the story of what happened 160 years ago

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