Thursday, August 14, 2003

City approves preservation of Civil War battery site

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

FORT WRIGHT - The city has a new park featuring one of Northern Kentucky's few remaining Civil War batteries.

Fort Wright City Council approved purchase of the 14.5-acre site off Highland Pike at its meeting Wednesday. The land contains the two-story home of the late Fern Storer and Hooper Battery, a U-shaped, 6-foot high earthen wall built by Union forces to defend against Confederate attacks during the Civil War.

Wednesday's unanimous vote marked the end of preservationists' year-long battle to protect the historic site from bulldozers.

"I really believe how a community respects its history is a good measure of how it values its future," said Fort Wright resident Kathy Romero,who led the fight to save the battery. She described the purchase as "a win-win for everyone."

Council is buying the hilltop property from the NKU Foundation for $790,000, its appraised value. The site was bequeathed to Northern Kentucky University by Storer, who lived there for 61 years before her death in 2002.

Fort Wright Administrator Larry Klein said the next step will be for members of council, Fort Wright's new parks and recreation board and the city's vision committee to discuss possible uses for the new park, then work with a consultant to develop a master plan.

He said city officials hope to improve the site with the help of federal grants and/or money from foundations.

Council also authorized Klein to solicit proposals for financing for the site.

One of 28 three-sided earthen embankments built from 1861 to 1863 on Northern Kentucky hillsides from Ludlow to Fort Thomas, Hooper Battery served as a lookout and fort for Union troops during the Civil War, said Jeannine Kreinbrink, a consulting archaeologist who works with the Behringer-Crawford Museum. Only six remain.

Hooper Battery is Fort Wright's last remaining Civil War fortification. A few months ago, Fischer Homes bulldozed Perry Battery off Amsterdam Road and Fort Henry Drive to make way for 50 single-family homes.

Union troops built the first eight of what would eventually be dozens of artillery batteries along Northern Kentucky hilltops in 1861, Kreinbrink said.

"In the summer of 1862, the Confederates took Richmond and Lexington,'' Kreinbrink said. "That's when (the Union army) rounded up 100,000 men to throw up some of these batteries. They were in a hurry because for all they knew, the Confederates were heading straight for Cincinnati. They worried that eight batteries wouldn't be enough to stop them.''

Union Gen. Lew Wallace declared martial law. Businesses were shut down throughout the Tristate, and the Army drafted every able-bodied person that it could to build the batteries, Kreinbrink said.

During the next year, Union troops put the finishing touches on the hastily-built structures, adding wooden planking on the inside and building up sod on the outside of the batteries.

Next year, a member of NKU's history department hopes to get a grant to enable students and local archaeologists to unearth Hooper Battery and do historic research at the site, Kreinbrink said. She envisions the battery as part of a larger tour of Northern Kentucky's Civil War fortifications, complete with exhibits of artifacts.


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