WASHINGTON – Gettysburg was the site of one of the largest battles fought on American soil, but today it is playing host to a different type of fight: Whether slot machines should come to town.
A proposal that would bring gambling a little more than a mile away from the Pennsylvania battlefield propelled it to the top of a preservation group's list of the 10 most endangered Civil War battlefields released Tuesday.
Proposed development was one threat cited by the Civil War Preservation Trust in the naming of the 10 sites located in Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Georgia, Virginia, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Washington, D.C.
"Hallowed ground, where more than 600,000 Americans gave their lives, is being paved over in favor of shopping malls, housing tracts and even gambling casinos," the trust's president, James Lighthizer, said Tuesday during a news conference.
Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina were blamed for some of the disrepair at Fort Morgan, Ala., and two forts outside New Orleans. Sprawl and a lack of money have also contributed to many of the problems at the sites, Lighthizer said.
The site in Glorieta Pass, N.M., is referred to as the "Gettysburg of the West" and is where Union forces were able to turn back the Confederate invasion of New Mexico. The trust blames neglect and public indifference for problems such as the weakening of a structure that served as a field hospital.
The other sites are the Shenandoah Valley, Glendale, and Wilderness in Virginia; the Chattahoochee River line in Georgia; Circle Forts in Washington, D.C.; and Raymond, Miss.
The three-day fight at Gettysburg was a tide-turning battle in 1963 that sent Confederate soldiers into retreat and left 50,000 troops dead. It is also where President Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address warning about the destruction of the nation, and asking that the troops who died there not be forgotten.
Last year, a group of investors from an entity called Chance Enterprises unveiled plans to boost economic development by seeking a slot-machine license from Pennsylvania gambling regulators to anchor the proposed Crossroads Gaming Resort and Spa. State regulators are expected to rule sometime later this year.
The investors released a statement Tuesday accusing the preservation group of lying about its proposed plans so it can raise money.
"It is amazing how the Gettysburg Battlefield has gone from not even being on the trust's list of 25 most endangered battlefield to the top of the list overnight, even though our resort has been a subject of debate and discussion for nearly a year," said David LeVan, the investment group's chief executive officer, in a statement.
"Clearly, the trust is lining its coffers," LeVan said.