Tuesday, May 4, 2004

Civil War battery receives grant

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

FORT WRIGHT - It won't be long before people can come and take a peek at Civil War history here.

One of the region's few remaining Civil War batteries will open to the public by June 2005, thanks to a grant from the Scripps Howard Foundation Center for Civic Engagement.

Fort Wright City Council, Northern Kentucky University and the Behringer-Crawford Museum have received a $32,000 grant to restore, preserve and exhibit Battery Hooper. The 6-foot-high earthen wall on a hilltop off Highland Pike was built by Union forces to defend against Confederate attacks during the Civil War.

The grant will be matched by about $32,000 in labor and other in-kind contributions from the three applicants, said Jim Ramage, regents professor of history at NKU.

"This whole project is a model of university-community relationships and partnerships,'' Ramage said. "We've saved a Civil War site quietly, without protests or marching or anything.''

When Fern Storer died two years ago, she left Battery Hooper and the 14 acres surrounding it to the NKU Foundation. Rather than sell the lucrative hilltop site to developers, the NKU Foundation sold the property to the city of Fort Wright. City officials, in turn, announced plans to turn the historic site into a passive park focusing on the area's Civil War heritage.

"This will be a great start to a great park,'' Fort Wright Administrator Larry Klein said of the grant. "The few batteries that do exist aren't very accessible. There will be no place else like this in Greater Cincinnati that'll be preserved and open for public use.''

On May 12, Fort Wright City Council will consider a master plan for the site, Klein said. That plan could be used to seek grants and sponsorships for everything from restrooms to trails to picnic shelters, he said.

Union troops built the first eight of what would eventually be 28 artillery batteries along Northern Kentucky hilltops in 1861.

On Sept. 10, 1862, Confederate Gen. Henry Heth's division of 6,000 veteran infantry appeared south of Fort Mitchell, threatening to attack. When they saw volunteers standing shoulder to shoulder in the 10-mile line of fortifications and rifle pits, they withdrew.

"Men, women and children, African-Americans and whites all worked together to defend the Greater Cincinnati community from attack,'' Ramage said.

Today, only six batteries remain - four in Kenton County and two in Campbell County.

The Scripps Howard grant will help supporters verify the edges of Battery Hooper and its powder magazine, pay for an archaeological dig and an NKU student research project on the battery and Northern Kentucky's Civil War defenses and cover repairs to the late Fern Storer's two-story brick home. The home's first floor will house exhibits on the battery and Greater Cincinnati's role in the Civil War.

Jeaninne Kreinbrink, an adjunct professor in NKU's anthropology department who has researched Northern Kentucky fortifications for more than 20 years, will serve as field director of the restoration project, which is expected to start by fall, Ramage said. This summer, a thermal imaging company from Lexington will pinpoint the battery's borders and show where it was covered by dirt. Many of the items recovered from the dig will be displayed in the museum to be developed on the site.

"We hope to come up with some artifacts, maybe some cannon balls and who knows what else,'' Ramage said.


E-mail cschroeder@enquirer.com

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