Senate OKs purchase of Mathias farm


WASHINGTON -- The Senate yesterday approved $5 million for federal acquisition of 74 acres owned by the family of former Maryland Sen. Charles McC. Mathias Jr, for the Monocacy National Battlefield Park outside Frederick.

The funds are included in a $13.3 billion spending bill for the Interior Department. Earlier this summer, the House cut money for the Civil War battlefield purchase from its version of the legislation. In the next few weeks, House and Senate negotiators will resolve their differences as they produce a final version of the bill.

The $5 million is the second installment in the $12.2 million federal acquisition of the Mathias farm, which the family has owned since the early 19th century. The family has said the property has to be sold to pay taxes, and the National Park Service is anxious to keep it out of the hands of developers.

Last month, the park service completed acquisition of 220 acres of the farm for $7.1 million. The 74 acres still to be acquired are zoned for industrial and office-research use and are the most valuable part of the farm, says Susan K. Moore, acting park director.

Known as the Best Farm, the property is one of five farms on which a Civil War battle -- which some historians call the battle that saved Washington -- was fought on July 9, 1864.

The march of a Confederate force toward Washington was delayed for a day, giving Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant time to rush reinforcements to the capital.

Maryland Sens. Paul S. Sarbanes and Barbara A. Mikulski are ardent supporters of the farm's purchase.

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