The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Opinion

March 13, 2013

Honey Springs Battlefield deserves significant national historic landmark distinction

ENID, Okla. — When you talk about the Civil War, major battles like Shiloh, Antietam and Gettysburg come to mind.

The Battle of Honey Springs near Checotah isn’t the first one mentioned, but it recently received significant recognition as a national historic landmark. And it’s a well-deserved distinction.

Honey Springs Battlefield Director Christopher Price told the Muskogee Phoenix the designation is a feather in the site’s hat.

“It puts us on the map,” Price said. “It says they recognize what happened here in 1863 is important to our whole country. The Civil War did happen in Indian Territory.”

Bob Blackburn knows all about Honey Springs. The executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society told Oklahoma Gazette that the First Kansas Colored Regiment’s participation is Indian Territory’s most unique Civil War moment.

Popular culture showed us the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment storming Fort Wagner in the 1989 film “Glory.” In July of 1863, the regiments experienced their first major engagements there and in Indian Territory.

“The Union won that day largely because of the bravery and discipline of the First Kansas Colored Regiment,” Blackburn told the publication about Honey Springs. “And they were literally fighting for their freedom, not just for a cause, not for state’s rights. They weren’t fighting to protect the Union.”

Per capita, Indian Territory saw more destruction and death than the state of Virginia, Blackburn said.

“You not only had the North fighting the South; you had tribal members fighting each other,” Blackburn told the Gazette. “We were kind of the borderland. If anyone was going to fight in another region, they had to come across.”

With the distinction, Honey Springs receives a designation letter, a plaque and technical preservation advice, according to the Muskogee Phoenix.

The commemoration of the battle’s 150th anniversary will take on special meaning this summer. We can’t wait.

We hope the planned 5,000-square-foot visitor center is near completion for the re-enactment scheduled for Nov. 9 and 10.

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