The Public Consensus Building Plan for the South Mountain Battlefield is the first in-depth study of the preservation status of the critical battlefield in a generation.

With funding from the American Battlefield Protection Program of the National Park Service, the Delaplaine Foundation, and the Tourism Council of Frederick County, Preservation Maryland contracted with Hanbury Preservation Consulting and the William & Mary Center for Archaeological Research to develop a consensus-building plan for the South Mountain battlefield. The project involved collection of detailed GIS mapping data and the preparation of an in-depth report.

a preservation plan for the future

This report includes an analysis of the significance of the battle; the compilation of an inventory of documented historic resources within the battlefield areas; a review of past preservation efforts by local, state, and federal governments, as well as nonprofits and private property owners; and recommendations for the battlefield and the Shafer Farmhouse based on feedback from public meetings, stakeholders interviews, and online surveys.

Photo from Stone Sentinals.

During the course of this study it was also made public through a Washington Post report that the State of Maryland was considering a land swap that would transfer state lands at South Mountain to the federal government. The non-public nature of this project and the lack of transparency have aroused suspicions about the federal government’s role in this historic and designated State Battlefield. It is hoped that the Consensus Building Efforts and Results, and Recommendations in this report will be useful in considering the future of South Mountain — not only nationally as a battlefield and cultural landscape, but also at a state and local level as an asset in the areas of tourism, recreation and natural lands, farms, and agribusiness that should be fully and transparently explored before being divested.

Download the Full ReporT (PDF)


The report identified eleven key recommendations, informed largely by public outreach and engagement, which include:

  1. Institute an informal but organized battlefield preservation network with regular meetings and communications infrastructure.
  2. Review existing preservation tools and assess them for areas of conflict or improvement. Develop best practice models for future use.
  3. Develop a strategic approach for the use of traditional preservation tools.
  4. Create tools to assist with understanding the physical scope and extent of the battlefield.
  5. Communicate clearly and reinforce the understanding of the battlefield through a consistent brand.
  6. Advocate to expand the benefits of designation, and manage expectations.
  7. Address transportation issues through publications, wayfinding, and shuttle services.
  8. Improve interpretation through comprehensive plan to include branding, coordination of sites, events, and improved orientation.
  9. Develop a Cultural Landscape Report and an Archaeological Assessment for battlefield lands, both with recommended treatments.
  10. Define and track impacts of battlefield tourism.
  11. Continue to support local and statewide efforts at preservation and interpretation.

A full exploration and detailed analysis of how to implement these recommendations are available in the full report.

Next steps for south mountain battlefield

The report is the first step — implementation based on this public engagement process must now follow.

Preservation Maryland remains committed to investing in the future of the South Mountain Battlefield and has already begun to partner with organizations to act on the report’s findings. In early October 2019, Preservation Maryland partnered with the Maryland State Highway Administration to launch a full-scale archaeological investigation of critical, privately held battlefield land. Archaeological work of this type was outlined as Recommendation #9 in the final Report.

Archaeological investigations at South Mountain Battlefield, October 2019.

Archaeological investigations at South Mountain Battlefield, October 2019.

Moving forward, the organization hopes to secure support to establish the informal, but organized battlefield preservation network which was a goal underscored in almost every conversation with key stakeholders, landowners, and the general public and was the very first recommendation of the final report.

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