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Kennesaw Battlefield Could Expand

ATLANTA (Associated Press) -- The privately owned 16-acre tract on Burnt Hickory Road is thick with pines and young hardwoods, but little else of interest other than its role as a staging ground for a Civil War battle 147 years ago.

The land's history has its next-door neighbor, Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, working to scrounge up $2.7 million to buy land. That's the asking price sought by the Cherokee County tract's private owners, who have put the land up for sale.

The site was crossed by Union troops in 1864 as they launched a key skirmish in the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain during Gen. William T. Sherman's march to the sea.

"We have to get the money," said amateur historian Brad Quinlin, a regular visitor to the park. "That's why I want to preserve the land — to tell the stories of the men who fell in battle."

The tract is especially worth fetching, Quinlin says, now that the U.S. this year began marking the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

The park's head ranger, William R. Johnson, says he agrees the National Park Service should buy the land and preserve it before it can be snatched up by developers.

"By putting it in the park, it becomes part of the battlefield," Johnson said. "It won't become something else."

The Kennesaw tract entered Civil War history in June 1864, when Sherman's army was pushing south from Tennessee toward Atlanta. In their path was Kennesaw Mountain and its heavy contingent of Confederate troops.

By holding the high ground, the Confederates were able to defeat the Union soldiers trying to claim Kennesaw Mountain. The Union lost about 3,000 troops in the battle, compared to about 1,000 Confederates.

The national park that now stands on the battle site averages about 1.5 million visitors each year.

Quinlin, a re-enactor in Civil War battles, says the tract being sold along Burnt Hickory Road is where Union Gen. Joseph Lightburn of West Virginia launched his assault in the 1864 effort to take the mountain.

After getting the blessing of the Kennesaw Mountain Historic Association, Quinlin visited Washington in May to urge Georgia lawmakers to lend support for buying the tract using the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, which totaled $126 million in the last fiscal year.

The Kennesaw battlefield is in the district of Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., who says he'd like see park expand.

But the site is just one of many the National Park Service would like to buy, said agency spokesman Jeffrey Olson.

"There's a long, long list," Olson said. "It can take a long time to . . . get funding."