Historic Morris Island Battlefield Again Under Threat of Development

The Ginn Company moves forward with plans to develop historic battlefield and barrier island.

CHARLESTON, S.C., Dec. 22 /PRNewswire/ — Just in time for the holidays, the Grinch has reared his ugly head outside Charleston Harbor. This time, though, the green icon is not trying to steal a few presents; instead, he’s attempting to make away with hallowed battlefield land on the northern tip of Morris Island, S.C.

The Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT) has learned that the Ginn Company, a Celebration, Fla. firm that specializes in resort development, has recorded two land plats for 125 acres on the northern tip of Morris Island. This part of the island, located near Cummings Point, played a pivotal role in the Civil War.

“Our history records few deeds of valor more heroic than the charge of the 54th Massachusetts on the ramparts of Fort Wagner,” remarked CWPT President James Lighthizer. “The scene of such gallantry should be preserved to inspire all Americans, not transformed into a resort for a select few.”

A barrier island just outside Charleston Harbor, Morris Island served as the launching pad for the Civil War siege of Charleston, considered by many historians to be the longest siege in U.S. history. Its shifting sands also witnessed the famous assault by African-American volunteers on Confederate- held Fort Wagner — an attack later depicted in the 1990 movie Glory.

Today, Morris Island is at the center of a national debate about preservation of hallowed battlegrounds. Although much of the island is currently protected, the most historically significant part of the island remains vulnerable to development.

“Preserving Morris Island is a top priority for legions of organizations and individuals in both the public and private sectors,” said Blake Hallman, chairman of the Morris Island Coalition, a coalition of nonprofit groups (including CWPT) seeking to protect the island battlefield. “In the spirit of the holidays, I hope the property owner will allow us a chance to put together a viable offer, saving this land and its historic character forever.”

The plat map recorded by The Ginn Company reads: “Plat of the northern tip of Morris Island owned by Lowcountry Lands, Inc. about to be conveyed to Ginn-LA Fund IV Cummings Point, LLC.” Earlier this year, a Greenville, S.C. developer placed the property up for sale on eBay, an online auction service.

Hallman’s comments were echoed by Nora Kravec, one of the founding members of the Morris Island Coalition: “Morris Island is more than a local historical battle site — it’s a national treasure. The sacrifices made and courage demonstrated on those shores are epic. We owe it to the memory of hundreds of brave soldiers not to let this one go without a fight.”

A public opinion poll commissioned by CWPT in February 2005 reveals that Charleston County voters overwhelmingly support preservation of historic Morris Island. According to the poll, 71 percent of those surveyed advocate protection of the barrier island, located just outside Charleston Harbor. Seventy-seven percent stated that Charleston County should ban development on Morris Island.

With 75,000 members, CWPT is the largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization in the United States. Its mission is to preserve our nation’s endangered Civil War battlefields and to promote appreciation of these hallowed grounds. CWPT’s website is www.civilwar.org.

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