Sunday, August 22, 2004

Dig at Civil War site will include citizens

By Cindy Schroeder
Enquirer staff writer

FORT WRIGHT - For years, William Dupps has planned family vacations around trips to major battlefields.

Next month, the 75-year-old Florence man will get the chance to unearth artifacts at one of Northern Kentucky's few remaining Civil War batteries. The excavation is one of two supervised digs for local residents organized by the city of Fort Wright at Battery Hooper.

"I've been to a lot of major battlefields and stuff like that," Dupps said. "When I heard about the dig, I thought, 'Here's a chance to get my hands on a real one.' "

Dupps is one of about 40 Northern Kentuckians who've signed up to excavate the 6-foot-high earthen embankment. While the site saw no action, it was part of Northern Kentucky's 10-mile line of hilltop fortifications and rifle pits to deter Confederate attacks.

"It's a symbol of a time when a community came together in a crisis,'' said Dr. James Ramage, regents professor of history at Northern Kentucky University. "Men, women and children lined up to defend the area against attack. ... The enemy saw the show of strength and went away in the night without attacking.''

Dupps will be joined at the dig by his son, Eric, 46, and his 11-year-old grandson, Will, both of Independence.

For a University of Kentucky history major who celebrated his high school graduation with a trip to Gettysburg, next month's dig is a chance to re-live local history, Eric Dupps said.

As a youth, Eric Dupps played at the site with friends from his church youth group but never knew a battery existed on the property, which was then home to the late Fern and Sheldon Storer.

Through the dig, the Independence man hopes to fill in some of the blanks in his knowledge of Northern Kentucky's role in the Civil War and look at the site through a soldier's perspective, just as he did at Gettysburg.

"Recently, I've been trying to explain gun batteries to Will,'' Eric Dupps said. "I'm hoping this will give him a greater appreciation of what took place here during the Civil War.''

Earlier this year, Fort Wright City Council, Northern Kentucky University and the Behringer-Crawford Museum received a grant to help restore, preserve and exhibit Battery Hooper.

That grant is being matched by labor and other in-kind contributions from the three applicants.

"When we got the grant, we felt the citizens should be involved,'' Mayor Gene Weaver said of the city's decision to sponsor citizen digs. "It's a park for the people, and we want them to be actively involved.''

Last summer, the city of Fort Wright bought the 14.5-acre site from the university's foundation to ensure its preservation. By the end of the year, the Cincinnati design firm, Human Nature, will present its recommendations for development of what will likely be a passive park. The project is expected to include a Civil War museum in the Storer home, a shelter, trail system, a tot lot and possible outside venue such as an amphitheater.

"This is going to be a work in progress for many years to come,'' Weaver said.

Besides the citizens' digs, history and archaeology students from NKU led by Ramage and Jeannine Kreinbrink also will excavate the site next month. The Behringer-Crawford Museum also is sponsoring a daylong program at Battery Hooper in late September for students from Kenton County schools. The program will include re-enactments of drills by Confederate and Union soldiers and students will be able to view Campbell County communities through a telescope at the hilltop site.

Sign up for excavations

What: Citizen excavations of Battery Hooper in Fort Wright. Families, including children 10 and older, are encouraged to participate.

When: Sept. 19 and 25

To register: Call (859) 331-1700. Fort Wright residents will be given preference if too many sign up.

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