Battlefield Visits: More Virginia Battlefields

From my travels, September 21, 2019.

I had a weekend to myself, and there were a few events that I wanted to attend: a show by the amazing comedy bluegrass band The Cleverlys, and a 155th anniversary hike / tour around the field of the Battle of Fisher’s Hill that I posted about before. Both were taking place that weekend in the Shenandoah Valley, so why not visit a few more battlefields while I’m on the way?

Battle of Aquia Creek – Civil War Battlefield #130

There is a park with a marker right at the landing. This site is mostly interpreted for its later use as a logistical hub for several Union campaigns. Across the street, there is a small park that is used for Native American ceremonies. Up on the hill nearby, there is an artillery position that was used by the Confederates during the Battle of Aquia Creek.

The remains of the Confederate artillery position at the Battle of Aquia Creek. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
The remains of the Confederate artillery position at the Battle of Aquia Creek. – Photo by the author

I decided to drive down through Fredericksburg, with a stop at the Chancellorsville Visitor Center to see if they had any information about my next stop. Turns out that they had a brochure describing a driving tour. As a bonus, I got to drive through the Wilderness battlefield along the way, too.

Battle of Mine Run – Civil War Battlefield #131

I stopped by the Payne’s Farm site of the Battle of Mine Run that the American Battlefield Trust has preserved in the last few years. They appear to have a nice interpretive trail laid out here, but it was very overgrown at the time of my visit. I didn’t push too far. I might return to try in colder weather.

#SignSelfie with one of the waysides at Mine Run. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
#SignSelfie with one of the waysides at Mine Run. – Photo by the author

It was disappointing to see that there is no interpretation along Mine Run where the Confederate line ended up. This was, indeed, “The Great Battle Never Fought“.

Battle of Morton’s Ford – Civil War Battlefield #132

The Battle of Morton’s Ford is a bit of a strange one. I believe that this is the first battlefield that I’ve visited with absolutely no interpretation of any kind. No roadside markers. You just have to know where you’re going and what you’re looking at.

The field is all privately-held, and the closest access is along a gravel road called Horseshoe Road. I believe I was able to pick out the old road trace that led down to the ford itself, but there is little else here.

Battle of Cedar Mountain – Civil War Battlefield #133

Another field where the American Battlefield Trust has taken the lead with preservation is the Battle of Cedar Mountain. They have a set of trails with some good interpretive markers along the way. I particularly enjoyed the view across the field from the gate.

Cedar Mountain is a lovely place. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
Cedar Mountain is a lovely place. – Photo by the author

Battle of Trevilian Station – Civil War Battlefield #134

Being a Custer fan, the Battle of Trevilian Station has been on my radar for a while. There is a web-based driving tour, and I did part of it because of time constraints. There are numerous monuments and markers in the vicinity of the old railroad station where Custer had his “first last stand”.

One of the typical markers at the Battle of Trevilian Station. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
One of the typical markers at the Battle of Trevilian Station. – Photo by the author

As it was getting late in the afternoon, and I’d seen all the fields that I had planned on, I had to make my way down to Bold Rock for the Cleverlys’ show. It was a great way to end the day!

The Cleverlys put on a great show! - <i>Photo by the author</i>
The Cleverlys put on a great show! – Photo by the author

Battlefield Visits #129 – The Battle of Cedar Creek

From my travels, August 1, 2019.

While on another road trip to visit Chattanooga – this time with more family members along, including my two boys – I decided that it would be nice to finally visit the site of the Battle of Cedar Creek. I could check it out for myself, and the boys could get another Junior Ranger badge. That’s fun for everyone!

The Visitor Contact Station at Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
The Visitor Contact Station at Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park. – Photo by the author

Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park is a fairly new unit in the NPS – having only been established in late 2002. During our visit, it felt like a site that was still trying to figure itself out. For instance, the visitor contact station is at a strip mall in Middletown, VA. This is the only NPS site in the Shenandoah Valley, so I think they are trying to tell the whole story of both campaigns, with Cedar Creek as the climax of all that activity.

The visitor contact station had some cool museum stuff – including some interactive “try on” pieces for the boys. And you’ve got to love any battlefield with an electric map!

Isaac and "Nene" examine the electric map! - <i>Photo by the author</i>
Isaac and “Nene” examine the electric map! – Photo by the author

During our visit, I felt like the driving tour was a little rough, but thorough. The terrain here is gorgeous with rolling hills and valleys, and it isn’t too hard to imagine what it would have been like in the mid 19th century. It’s also pretty easy to see how the Confederates’ approach during their early morning attack would have been effectively covered by the lay of the land.

The standard Shenandoah Battle Plaque out on the field during the driving tour. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
The standard Shenandoah Battle Plaque out on the field during the driving tour. – Photo by the author

Back at the contact station, I helped the boys work through their Junior Ranger books and struck up a conversation with the ranger about all things Civil War – including my goal of seeing all the battlefields. Like most rangers I’ve encountered on these visits, he was a pleasure to speak with – I could have stayed there all day. Eventually, the boys had their books checked, got sworn in, and made a nice memory with their dad, and their “nene” and “baba”.

Swearing in the Junior Rangers. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
Swearing in the Junior Rangers. – Photo by the author

Phoenixville

From my travels, June 17, 2019.

Since I had already taken the day off work to get some dental work done in the morning, I figured that I might as well use the rest of the day to check out some history stuff that had been on my list for a while. It was time to head north, to Phoenixville, PA.

The 1882 Foundry Building has been preserved as an event venue. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
The 1882 Foundry Building has been preserved as an event venue. – Photo by the author

This cool town was once the home of the Phoenix Iron Works, a large industrial operation that made a number of iron products. The most interesting ones for my purposes were the 3-inch Ordnance Rifle that was used by the Union army during the Civil War. A large majority of the cannons of this type were made right here in Pennsylvania along the Schuylkill River.

After my recent visit to the West Point Foundry in New York, I felt that I had to see this other artillery factory that was closer to home. In retrospect, I’m really glad that I decided not to wait any longer – as you’ll see in a little bit.

Signage for the Schuylkill River Trail near the old ironworks site. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
Signage for the Schuylkill River Trail near the old iron works site. – Photo by the author

There are a few remnants of the old iron works still around. The most notable is the Foundry Building that was built in 1882. This structure has been restored and now serves as an event venue (with a small museum as well). A few blocks over, the Superintendent’s Office Building still exists as a restaurant. It was vacant during my visit.

The Superintendent's Office Building. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
The Superintendent’s Office Building. – Photo by the author

Opposite the Foundry Building, on the path of the Schuylkill River Trail, was a “demo” bridge built out of Phoenix Columns – another of the company’s products for creating pre-fab bridges – that dates to 1871. This bridge carries the trail across French Creek.

The Phoenix Column Bridge. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
The Phoenix Column Bridge. – Photo by the author

Sadly, all of these structures were built in the post-Civil War years. The site where the artillery was made was on the north side of French Creek, along the trail. I was able to walk along the path, and even went off on some side trails, but I couldn’t find any ruins that looked to be from the right era. There was a lot of poured concrete, which I think would have been installed later. The iron works eventually made the transition to steel, and continued to operate into the 1970s.

Overgrown ruins in the area where the Civil War-era portion of the iron works would have been. These are gone now. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
Overgrown ruins in the area where the Civil War-era portion of the iron works would have been. These are gone now. – Photo by the author

Today, the site where the cannons would have been forged is a new neighborhood called “Steelpointe“. Nothing of these houses existed when I visited in 2019, so I’m glad that I was able to see the site in as “pure” a form as possible. I wonder how many of the people who live here realize how important this stretch of land along the creek was to the Union war effort. I’m constantly reminded of how much history is directly under our feet, if we only have the will to explore it.

While I was in the area, I also rolled through Valley Forge National Historical Park, but that’s a story from another post, as I decided to go back the next weekend with my boys.

Battlefield Visits: Road Trip to Chattanooga, Part 6: Back to Baltimore

From my travels, May 31, 2019.

I had a great time visiting Chattanooga and driving the route of the Atlanta Campaign with my nephew, but every history nerd road trip has to come to an end eventually. As I made my way back home, I stopped at a few more battlefields that I’d never visited.

As a bonus, I even got to see some reenactment artillery being towed up I-81 along side me.

It's always an adventure driving down the Shenandoah Valley! - <i>Photo by the author</i>
It’s always an adventure driving down the Shenandoah Valley! – Photo by the author

Battle of Guard Hill – Civil War Battlefield #126

There is one marker to the Battle of Guard Hill within the cluster of markers along US-522 near the base of Guard Hill. The position is definitely elevated above Front Royal, and you can readily see the defensive advantages. Even so, Union cavalry was able to prevail, sweeping the rebels back toward town.

The marker to the battle along US-522. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
The marker to the battle along US-522. – Photo by the author

Battle of Front Royal – Civil War Battlefield #127

If you wanted to avoid the fighting during the Civil War, the lower Shenandoah Valley was NOT the place to be. There were constant battles, raids, occupations, and even burnings throughout this area from 1861-1865.

The Battle of Front Royal was part of Jackson’s 1862 Valley Campaign, and was a decisive Confederate victory. Maj. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson utterly overwhelmed the small Union force in town and forced them to flee to Winchester. Famous southern spy Belle Boyd also played a role in helping prepare the rebels for their attack.

Nice map of the Battle of Front Royal. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
Nice map of the Battle of Front Royal. – Photo by the author

There are some markers discussing this action near the Guard Hill one in that standard “Shenandoah Valley” style – with more embossed maps on large, vertical boards. In the town square near the courthouse there are more markers and a good wayside. I found this fight to be particularly interesting as it is another field with Maryland vs. Maryland action.

Confederate Memorial in the town square in Front Royal. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
Confederate Memorial in the town square in Front Royal. – Photo by the author

Battle of Manassas Gap – Civil War Battlefield #128

There is a single wayside in the park and ride on Dismal Hollow Road to tell the story of the Battle of Manassas Gap, and it does that pretty well, I think. The gap is visible behind you from that location.

My one quibble would be that the wayside declares this battle to be the final action of the Gettysburg Campaign, but I feel like that was over as soon as the Confederates got back across the Potomac River.

Battlefield Visits: Road Trip to Chattanooga, Part 5: Revisits

From my travels, May 30, 2019.

Chickamauga, Revisited

Since I was still in town – and largely done with the Atlanta Campaign – I decided to go back and really properly do Chickamauga since the only other time I had visited, I didn’t really know what I was doing. Luckily, my nephew was game.

The entrance to the visitors center at Chickamauga - <i>Photo by the author</i>
The entrance to the visitors center at Chickamauga – Photo by the author

We started, appropriately enough, at the visitors center. There is a great display of artillery out front, so I got to nerd out with my nephew about that. Around the side, they even have a mountain howitzer. Very cool! For the rest of the day, my nephew tried his hand at identifying the cannons – and he did pretty well!

After orienting ourselves, we did the standard auto tour. What really impressed me about the place was the old War Department tablets. There are similar monuments at Gettysburg – one for each corps, division, brigade, and battery. Here at Chickamauga, though, each unit has multiple tablets, at places where they fought or maneuvered. With enough time, you can follow the movements of individual units – with some markers even being hidden in the middle of the woods. It’s wild. I could spend a lot of time here.

One highlight of this visit was that I was able to get over my acrophobia enough to climb the Wilder Brigade Monument Tower. It honestly wasn’t that bad since the spiral staircase is enclosed. The view from the top was pretty cool.

We took a selfie at the top of the Wilder Tower. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
We took a selfie at the top of the Wilder Tower. – Photo by the author

The farthest “off the beaten path” we went, was to the far right of Maj. Gen. George Henry “The Rock of Chickamauga” Thomas’ line to find the monument to the 121st OH. My old high school buddy, Jim, had sent me a photo years ago of him shaking his fist at the marker. I really wanted to give a proper response. Being able to do that along with my nephew was a really special memory.

My response on behalf of Thomas' men. - Photo by my nephew
My response on behalf of Thomas’ men. – Photo by my nephew

Missionary Ridge

The Iowa Monument marks the start of the road along Missionary Ridge. Lookout Mountain is in the background. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
The Iowa Monument marks the start of the road along Missionary Ridge. Lookout Mountain is in the background. – Photo by the author

After a quick stop for lunch, we headed north. I wanted to actually drive along Missionary Ridge and see what was left of the field. There’s not much – it’s mostly very expensive houses now. The route is utterly littered with War Department plaques, but I doubt anyone ever reads them. There is no where safe to pull off and park near the vast majority of these monuments and markers. You’d almost have to walk along the road to take them all in, and it’s a narrow road. I don’t think that would be very safe.

There are a few spots called “reservations” where there is about a block or so of “park.” While there weren’t very many of these to stop at, the views when you did were awesome. Not as good as Lookout Mountain, but better than your average Civil War battlefield.

Panorama of the view to the north from the Bragg Reservation. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
Panorama of the view to the north from the Bragg Reservation. – Photo by the author

I had a great visit to Chattanooga and Atlanta. It was time to get on the road back to Baltimore. But there were a few more spots to hit along the way.

Battlefield Visits: Road Trip to Chattanooga, Part 4: Kennesaw Mountain and Beyond

From my travels, May 29, 2019.

Once again, we were able to get going from Chattanooga pretty early in the morning. I was really looking forward to finishing off the Atlanta area battlefields, and was pretty sure we were going to be able to do it. The universe had other plans.

Battle of Kennesaw Mountain – Civil War Battlefield #120

We were able to arrive at the NPS site for the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain by about 10am. It was a Wednesday morning. The parking lot was absolutely PACKED. Was I here on the battle anniversary or something? No that wasn’t until June 27th – almost a month away. What was going on?

My nephew and I got parked in a massive overflow lot about a half-mile away. Even that was filling up fast. What is the deal here? Either way, we were all set to start our visit by checking out the museum in the visitors center.

As we approached the building, I noticed that they had posted hours: they opened at 9am, but there is a separate vestibule with restrooms that opens at 7:30am. That seems a little odd. When we got into the main information desk, I asked the ranger about it. As it turns out – or so he told me – Kennesaw Mountain gets more visitation than ANY other NPS Civil War battlefield. This is because it is set right in the midst of the Atlanta suburbs, and is overwhelmingly used by joggers who like to run up the mountain. I would come to find out just how many in a little while.

The museum was pretty good. Being the only NPS site along the Atlanta Campaign, they tell the story of the whole campaign here – not just Kennesaw Mountain’s part. After checking out all the exhibits, we made the hike back to the car to begin the auto tour. Stop 1 was the top of Kennesaw Mountain itself.

There’s a two lane road up the mountain, but it was absolutely choked with joggers – most of whom did not want to move to the side of the road, and several of whom gave me irritated looks as I drove past them – as if I was using the park the wrong way or something. It is the most bizarre experience I have ever had on a battlefield. At the top, we parked and walked a trail along the ridge. There are a few artillery pieces up there, and one can see the skyline of downtown Atlanta if it’s a clear enough day – it was for us.

The skyline of Atlanta is just visible in the haze at center. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
The skyline of Atlanta is just visible in the haze at center. – Photo by the author

We had to fight our way back down the mountain with the joggers, but once we moved on to the second stop and beyond, we barely saw another soul on the battlefield. I suppose it is nice that people visit, but it really seems to me like the vast majority of them are missing the point of the place.

The hike to the Illinois Monument was the one big highlight of our visit to Kennesaw Mountain. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
The hike to the Illinois Monument was the one big highlight of our visit to Kennesaw Mountain. – Photo by the author

And part of me feels like the NPS has largely caved to that user base here. It certainly could be that the visit started with a bad experience and that colored the rest of it for me, but I honestly found the auto tour to be somewhat hard to follow, and the stops to be not well-interpreted. The one exception was the Illinois Monument, which we hiked to along the route of the Union attack. That was a really nice moment. Apart from the initial stops, the place is oddly peaceful. It’s one of the strangest battlefields I’ve visited so far.

Battle of Kolb’s Farm – Civil War Battlefield #121

While the CWSAC considers the Battle of Kolb’s Farm to be a separate action, the site is included as the final stop on the Kennesaw Mountain auto tour route.

There are a few markers here, and the field seems to be mostly intact – though the modern road intersections are larger than they were in 1864. Sadly, the disappointment continued, as one of the NPS waysides here had Brig. Gen. John White Geary’s name misspelled on a battle map as “Greary”. It was fitting, I suppose.

Atlanta History Center

It was time to finally head into Atlanta. I had been looking forward to seeing the newly-restored Atlanta Cyclorama at the Atlanta History Center ever since I heard about it online. I’ve been to see the Gettysburg one several times, and being able to see the only other surviving cyclorama is pretty cool. The restoration looked great – complete with a diorama as it would have been presented back in the late 19th century.

The Atlanta Cyclorama. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
The Atlanta Cyclorama. – Photo by the author

The rest of the museum was great as well. They have a Civil War section that contains some cool weapons, along with the coat that Maj. Gen. John B. Gordon wore at Appomattox. At the time, they also had a large exhibit about the history of BBQ, which I’m sure my now-wife would have loved.

Battle of Peachtree Creek – Civil War Battlefield #122

As I mentioned in previous entries, the battlefields in modern metro Atlanta are all obliterated now by the sprawl of neighborhoods radiating from the city. Only small parcels here and there exist to memorialize these actions. The Battle of Peachtree Creek is an excellent example of this.

One of the tablets in the small neighborhood park that commemorates the battle. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
One of the tablets in the small neighborhood park that commemorates the battle. – Photo by the author

We visited Tanyard Creek Park, where a few markers exist in a variation of the “pocket park” from before. While the story is told on the tablets, the modern visitor simply can’t visualize what the fighting here was like. It’s a theme that will continue through the rest of our day.

That said, the park itself is lovely and peaceful with some trails. We walked down to Tanyard Creek and the rush of the water was calming. I’ve started to record the sound of the streams at all the battlefields that I visit, and I particularly enjoyed this one.

Battle of Utoy Creek – Civil War Battlefield #123

The landscape of the Battle of Utoy Creek is completely gone. We had no trouble finding the two markers that exist along Cascade Road, but they are entirely surrounded by neighborhoods that did not exist 150 years ago.

Battle of Ezra Church – Civil War Battlefield #124

The Battle of Ezra Church also has a small “pocket park” adjacent to the C.A. Scott Recreation Center, with several tablets attempting to explain the action to the modern visitor. Once again, though, nothing of the field remains as it was in 1864.

What can I say? I love a tablet with an embossed map. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
What can I say? I love a tablet with an embossed map. – Photo by the author

Battle of Atlanta – Civil War Battlefield #125

The action that the cyclorama was made to portray. And again, modern Atlanta has just wiped the field of the Battle of Atlanta right off the map. In addition to being packed with neighborhoods, modern I-20 bisects the battlefield and makes it impossible to visualize.

A vertical cannon marks the approximate spot of Maj. Gen. McPherson's death. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
A vertical cannon marks the approximate spot of Maj. Gen. McPherson’s death. – Photo by the author

I visited the intersection of McPherson Ave. and Monument Ave. to see the monument to the death of Maj. Gen. James Birdseye McPherson.

Just For Fun…

As we were driving down toward the Atlanta History Center, we passed by what was at that time Sun Trust Park – now Truist Park – where the Atlanta Braves play. I had never been to any MLB stadium outside of my beloved Baltimore Orioles, nor had my nephew. On a whim, I checked whether they were in town, and when I saw that they were scheduled to play the rival Washington Nationals that night, I made the rather spontaneous decision to buy a couple of tickets.

The view from our seats. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
The view from our seats. – Photo by the author

We had a great time! And with former Orioles Kevin Gausman pitching, and Nick Markakis in left field for the Braves, it was almost like seeing my guys. Sadly, the home team was thrashed that night, 14-4.

A couple of happy guys at the ball game. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
A couple of happy guys at the ball game. – Photo by the author

After the game, we made the drive back to Chattanooga. There was one more day in town for me to revisit an old favorite, and see a couple of new places, too.

Battlefield Visits: Road Trip to Chattanooga, Part 3: On to Atlanta!

From my travels, May 28, 2019.

This was going to be an exciting day. My nephew and I were going to check a lot of battlefields off the list. We got up early (no small task for a teenager) and got on the road before 9:30am.

Battle of Ringgold Gap – Civil War Battlefield #109

Not too far down the road, we came to our first stop, the Battle of Ringgold Gap. While not considered part of the Atlanta Campaign, this was right along our route, and I’d never visited before.

The story here is that Maj. Gen. Patrick Cleburne’s men fought for over 5 hours as a rear guard after the Confederate army was forced off of Missionary Ridge outside of Chattanooga. The Union attack here was not well executed, and Grant made the call not to pursue beyond the gap, returning his troops to the defenses of Chattanooga.

Patrick Cleburne is the Confederate hero of the battle. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
Patrick Cleburne is the Confederate hero of the battle. – Photo by the author

We checked out another of the New York monuments – very much like the one at Wauhatchie the day before. It was a little off the beaten path, so that was pretty cool. The main visitor focus for this battlefield is on the small “pocket park” that was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps back during the Great Depression. It’s a parking area with a few markers and picnic tables right off of US-41.

There are a lot of these "pocket parks" along the route to Atlanta. These maps they have are pretty cool. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
There are a lot of these “pocket parks” along the route to Atlanta. These maps they have are pretty cool. – Photo by the author

The gap itself has clearly been widened over the years to make room for I-75, but you can see that even in its natural state it would have been quite substantial in late 1863.

First Battle of Dalton – Civil War Battlefield #110

Fighting at the First Battle of Dalton took place in Mill Creek Gap. This is another location that is marked by a CCC “pocket park” just in front of the Georgia State Patrol Station on US-41.

I just <i>had</i> to take my nephew here. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
I just had to take my nephew here. – Photo by the author

There’s a trail near the parking area that leads a little farther up the ridge to the site of Fort Fisk – perhaps named for some distant relative of his? The surprise of seeing that sign definitely put a smile on his face. A nice memory to be sure.

Second Battle of Dalton – Civil War Battlefield #111

The field of the Second Battle of Dalton seems to have been obliterated by modern development. I had a hard time finding any markers for it, and even a couple of the visitors centers and museums in town were unable to direct me to anything concrete.

There is a statue of Joseph E. Johnston in downtown Dalton, but no trace of the second battle fought here. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
There is a statue of Joseph E. Johnston in downtown Dalton, but no trace of the second battle fought here. – Photo by the author

That said, my nephew and I got to spend a little time driving around the town, and it seems like a pretty nice place.

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The Tunnel Hill Heritage Center and Museum had this cool display outside. What are Sherman’s Neckties? They’re AWESOME – that’s what! – Photo by the author

Battle of Rocky Face Ridge – Civil War Battlefield #112

I know that a park has since been established north of Dalton to help preserve some of the history of the Battle of Rocky Face Ridge, but that did not exist at the time of my visit. My nephew and I took a look at the southern portion of the field, in Dug Gap.

There is a small parking area there and a few markers and waysides to give the visitor a little bit of the story. From there, we walked on a short trail up to the ridge and saw some of the rock formations and cliffs. It was a very peaceful spot.

Battle of Resaca – Civil War Battlefield #113

We hit the first of our disappointments for the day at the next stop: the Battle of Resaca. There is a nice park here preserving part of the Union section of the battlefield, but it is only open Friday – Sunday. Of course, we were visiting on a Tuesday.

Chevaux de frise guard the modern entrance to the Resaca battlefield park. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
Chevaux de frise guard the modern entrance to the Resaca battlefield park. – Photo by the author

We were able to park just outside the gate, and see a couple of markers that were nearby, but neither of us wanted to press our luck exploring any farther. One thing that I really liked was the reproduction chevaux de frise that stand right next to the gate. At least there won’t be any cavalry attacks here!

Battle of Adairsville – Civil War Battlefield #114

There isn’t much going on at the site of the Battle of Adairsville. In truth – none of the battles of this campaign produced the kind of fighting and casualties that one would expect from major Civil War battles. This campaign was really a master class in maneuver given by Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman.

One of the markers at Adairsville. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
One of the markers at Adairsville. – Photo by the author

We were able to find a few, kind of rough-looking, roadside markers near a cemetery in town, but that was about it.

Battle of Allatoona – Civil War Battlefield #115

There have been a lot of changes to the field of the Battle of Allatoona since 1864. The most obvious one hits you as soon as you park your car and see the huge earthen dam that holds back the artificially-created Lake Allatoona. That means that a part of this field is now underwater. The day we were there featured plenty of activity going on, with people walking along the trails and taking out their boats.

Like so many of the battlefields we are seeing on this trip, the reason it came to be was all about the railroad. The Western and Atlantic Railroad cut right through a gap here, and that narrow channel through the mountain still exists. The railroad has been converted to a walking path, and about half way down the trail, there is a set of stairs leading up the side to the star fort which commanded the approaches here.

This trail lies where the railroad once came through. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
This trail lies where the railroad once came through. – Photo by the author

Apart from the remains of the fort, there are several waysides and even a few monuments – the coolest of which are stone markers that commemorate the different States that supplied men for this fight. I couldn’t resist having my nephew pose with the North Carolina one, since that is where he grew up. Sadly, there was no Maryland monument.

My nephew poses with the monument to North Carolina troops at Allatoona. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
My nephew poses with the monument to North Carolina troops at Allatoona. – Photo by the author

Battle of New Hope Church – Civil War Battlefield #116

The church from the Battle of New Hope Church still exists, and while there is another of the “pocket parks” here, I get the sense that the congregation takes a certain amount of pride in the field. There are worm fences and even some earthworks here, and they were in pretty good shape.

My nephew tries out the defenses at New Hope Church. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
My nephew tries out the defenses at New Hope Church. – Photo by the author

As we get closer to Atlanta, less and less land is preserved in the sprawl of the modern metropolis. Only small little landmarks are left in the wake of countless new neighborhoods. That’s the story here as well.

Battle of Dallas – Civil War Battlefield #117

I’ll be honest – I was very confused by the Battle of Dallas. And it isn’t like this is my first time on a battlefield. There are plenty of markers scattered around town, but the places that they seem to label as being part of the defensive lines don’t seem all that defensible to me. Maybe the terrain has changed in the last 150+ years with the massive growth of Atlanta?

I found these isolated signs, in the midst of new development, difficult to follow. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
I found these isolated signs, in the midst of new development, difficult to follow. – Photo by the author

This feels like the kind of place that I would need to study a lot, and come back with some period maps to try to get my head around it. I just wasn’t able to grasp it on the field.

I will add: the best wayside that I found was over behind the Chamber of Commerce building.

Battle of Pickett’s Mill – Civil War Battlefield #118

The Battle of Pickett’s Mill has been partially preserved as a Georgia State Park, but like Resaca, it wasn’t open on the day I can through. It’s a shame, because it seems like it may be pretty solidly interpreted. For now, my nephew and I had to settle for the marker in the small parking spot out front.

Pickett's Mill was closed. Bummer! - <i>Photo by the author</i>
Pickett’s Mill was closed. Bummer! – Photo by the author

Battle of Marietta – Civil War Battlefield #119

I was initially confused by the Battle of Marietta. It turns out that this was really a series of smaller actions that occurred around the area rather than one concerted fight. We visited the site of Gilgal Church, which had some cool reconstructed earthworks.

Field fortifications at Gilglal Church. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
Field fortifications at Gilglal Church. – Photo by the author

11 battlefields was a fine number for one day. As it was starting to get late, we decided to head back to Chattanooga and resume closer to Atlanta in the morning. There would be a few surprises coming for us – mostly pleasant ones.

Battlefield Visits: Road Trip to Chattanooga, Part 2: Around Town

From my travels, May 27, 2019.

I arrived in Chattanooga by mid-morning, and met up with my nephew and brother-in-law. They joined me for the rest of the day of battlefield exploration.

Battle of Davis’ Crossroads – Civil War Battlefield #107

Our first stop was the farthest outside of town – well into northwest Georgia, in fact: the Battle of Davis’ Crossroads. It took quite a while to drive out to that fairly rural area from Chattanooga.

The fighting here was a prelude to Chickamauga, with the Confederates attempting to bottle up the Union forces in the mountain cove to the south. The Federals avoided the trap, and held off the Confederates, with neither side gaining a clear victory.

At the crossroads itself these days, there isn’t much more than a small restaurant – the Pigeon Mountain Grill. We back-tracked a bit to a small pull-off about a mile east of the crossroads where there were a few wayside markers from the American Battlefield Trust. They were in ROUGH shape and almost unreadable during our visit.

Trying to get the drone in the air. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
Trying to get the drone in the air. – Photo by the author

My nephew brought along his drone and put it up a few times to get an aerial perspective of the field – something that I’d never attempted before. Sadly, his GoPro was not cooperating and we didn’t get any usable footage.

Battle of Wauhatchie – Civil War Battlefield #108

We packed up the equipment and made our way back toward town. Our next stop at the site of the Battle of Wauhatchie is one I’d been looking forward to seeing for quite a long time. The Federal troops who fought here were from the XI and XII Corps and had been part of the Army of the Potomac just a few months before. George Sears Greene, hero of Culp’s Hill at Gettysburg was still commanding his brigade here. Finally, some familiar faces!

This was a surprise night attack against the Confederate defenses of Lookout Mountain that succeeded in driving the rebels away and clearing a path for resupplying the encircled Union forces in the city of Chattanooga. The establishment of this “cracker line” meant that the Confederate hopes of re-taking the city were over.

Our first stop was the parking lot behind the nearby Walmart. I had read that this spot had the best view of the whole field, and boy was that true. The entire valley below was the battlefield, with Greene’s men holding a position at center-right.

The view of the Wauhatchie Valley from the Walmart parking lot. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
The view of the Wauhatchie Valley from the Walmart parking lot. – Photo by the author

After taking in the spectacular views of Lookout Mountain from this side, we drove over toward the mountain, behind the McDonald’s and Hardee’s, and took the quick hike up to where the XI Corps New York Monument was – there were plenty of familiar names on that one, from Carl Schurz to Wlodzimierz Krzyzanowski. That was a really cool experience actually – checking out a monument that almost no one goes to just steps from I-24.

My nephew and I examining the XI Corps New York Monument at Wauhatchie. - <i>Photo by my brother-in-law, Jonathan Fisk</i>
My nephew and I examining the XI Corps New York Monument at Wauhatchie. – Photo by my brother-in-law, Jonathan Fisk

Once we were back at the car, we headed toward the southern end of the field, where Greene’s brigade had fought. There was a small monument to them there in the front yard of a light industrial building.

Lookout Mountain and Point Park

On my first trip to Chattanooga, I never actually got up onto Lookout Mountain. I had heard that the view from Point Park in particular is the greatest of the Civil War-related views. I really wanted to get up there, and luckily the guys were enthusiastic, too.

This is where the NPS memorializes the Battle of Lookout Mountain – or the “Battle Above the Clouds”. We took in the sights near the entrance – including the wide open vista of the city of Chattanooga – and all I can say is that it was absolutely incredible. The photos I took don’t do it justice at all.

My nephew and his dad, posing in front of Chattanooga. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
My nephew and his dad, posing in front of Chattanooga. – Photo by the author

We continued down the northern slope and got to the site of the Ochs Memorial Museum, and Roper’s Rock. Everyone who visited here during the Civil War wanted to get their photo taken, and I was no exception of course.

My nephew and I as close to Roper's Rock as we were allowed. Moccasin Bend is in the background. - <i>Photo by my brother-in-law, Jonathan Fisk</i>
My nephew and I as close to Roper’s Rock as we were allowed. Moccasin Bend is in the background. – Photo by my brother-in-law, Jonathan Fisk

A little farther down, my nephew indulged my nerdiness and got a photo of me near the spot where Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant also posed with his staff back in 1863. The angle isn’t quite right, but you can see some of the same rock formations.

My attempt at re-creating Grant's pose on Lookout Mountain - <i>Photo by my nephew</i>
My attempt at re-creating Grant’s pose on Lookout Mountain – Photo by my nephew

My first trip to Lookout Mountain was absolutely incredible. Truly a bucket list kind of thing. I’m lucky to have been able to share the experience.

Chattanooga National Cemetery

Since it was Memorial Day, there was no better way to commemorate the occasion than with a stop at the Chattanooga National Cemetery. I’m happy to report that it was quite crowded there when we arrived around 4:30pm. I’m so used to seeing people use the holiday as an excuse to go to the beach, and it was somewhat uplifting to see so many others paying their respects to our departed veterans.

Monument to Andrew's Raiders in Chattanooga National Cemetery. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
Monument to Andrews’ Raiders in Chattanooga National Cemetery. – Photo by the author

The main focal point of the cemetery – at least from a Civil War perspective – is the graves of several of Andrews’ Raiders. These men captured a Confederate locomotive, The General, and attempted to tear up the Western and Atlantic Railroad as they drove from Atlanta toward Chattanooga. The mission ended with many of the men being captured and executed by the rebels as spies. There was even an old Disney movie made about the event.

The next day would have the real fun start: my nephew and I would re-trace the route of the Atlanta Campaign!

Battlefield Visits: Road Trip to Chattanooga, Part 1: The Drive to Tennessee

From my travels, May 26 and 27, 2019.

I had taken a week of vacation to go visit some family in Tennessee, and of course my favorite thing to do on a trip is visit battlefields – especially ones that I hadn’t visited before. For this trip, the main focus would be to attempt to see all the battlefields of the Atlanta Campaign, and while I was driving, to stop at a few fields that I had missed before in Virginia and eastern Tennessee. This “part 1” post covers my drive from the Baltimore area to Chattanooga.

Battle of Cloyd’s Mountain – Civil War Battlefield #103

Located just north of Dublin, VA. There is a small pull-off along the west side of VA-100 that has a few monuments and markers. The field here is quite pretty – with rolling terrain and fields leading all the way up to the mountains.

The view of the field from right off VA-100. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
The view of the field from right off VA-100. – Photo by the author

Confederates were overwhelmed in this fight, and the Union troops succeeded in destroying their target: a railroad bridge carrying the Virginia & Tennessee Railroad. A relatively small engagement, the Battle of Cloyd’s Mountain is most notable for who participated. On the Confederate side, Brig. Gen. Albert Jenkins was mortally wounded here and captured by Union forces. He would die from his wounds less than 2 weeks later. Patrick Cleburne’s brother, Capt. Christopher Cleburne, was also mortally wounded and buried on the field.

The grave of Capt. Christopher Cleburne. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
The grave of Capt. Christopher Cleburne. – Photo by the author

The Union force here included the 23rd OH, at the time mustering future President William McKinley among its ranks, as part of a brigade commanded by future President Rutherford B. Hayes.

Battle of Marion – Civil War Battlefield #104

This is another small battle that was part of the Saltville Campaign. Union forces were targeting industrial targets in southwestern Virginia including saltworks, lead mines, and of course the Virginia & Tennessee Railroad.

A very small Confederate force under the command of Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge fought a holding action for two days against a Union force while facing more than 4-to-1 odds. Eventually, they were undone by a lack of ammunition and were able to retreat through the mountains as night fell. Union troops occupied the area and caused quite a panic among the citizens.

There is a small wayside that does a good job explaining the action and some human interest stories related to the fighting. It is located in a small pull-off along US-11 east of town where it crosses the Holston River.

I continued on my way and made it as far as Knoxville, TN before finding a hotel for the night.

Battle of Campbell Station – Civil War Battlefield #105

In the morning, I made my way down the road to visit the site of the Battle of Campbell’s Station. This battlefield is sadly not very well-preserved nor interpreted.

There is a wayside in Founder’s Park that talks about the battle. It seems like it was a pretty minor holding action to keep the Confederates at-bay as the Union forces filed into the defenses of Knoxville.

Of note for a Civil War nerd: the town of Campbell’s Station is now known as Farragut, TN. This is because famed Admiral David Glasgow Farragut was born nearby.

Battle of Fort Sanders – Civil War Battlefield #106

Circling back a bit, I was able to find the site of the Battle of Fort Sanders.

Nothing exists of the fort today – in fact it was basically on the site of the modern Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center in Knoxville. There are a few markers about the fort and battle just east of the hospital campus along S 17th Street. The area is now rather built-up and primarily residential, but it is easy to see how holding the top of this ridge would have been fairly dominating.

Looking to the north from the top of the ridge near Fort Sanders. The Confederates would have been attacking toward the camera here. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
Looking to the north from the top of the ridge near Fort Sanders. The Confederates would have been attacking toward the camera here. – Photo by the author

Confederate troops under Lt. Gen. James Longstreet attempted a bayonet charge against the Union defenses here and were repulsed with heavy losses. Knoxville would remain under Federal control.

With these visits concluded, there were only a few more hours in the car until I would arrive in Chattanooga to start the real fun.

Battlefield Visits: Chickamauga / Chattanooga

From my travels, January 29, 2005.

Chattanooga Campaign – Civil War Battlefield #11
First Battle of Chattanooga – Civil War Battlefield #12
Second Battle of Chattanooga – Civil War Battlefield #13
Battle of Chickamauga – Civil War Battlefield #14

It’s hard to believe that it has been over 20 years since I visited my first battlefields in the western theatre, and it all happened somewhat accidentally.

A few friends and I had planned a trip to see Dave Brubeck perform in Knoxville, TN – I had been a fan of his music since high school, and the chance to see him live was too much to pass up. One of my close friends grew up just outside Knoxville, so the plan was to stay with his parents, see some sights, and go to the show. It turned out to be a really great trip – and yes Brubeck was incredible.

One of the things that my friend wanted to do while we were down south was to drive down to Huntsville, AL to visit the US Space and Rocket Center. I had never been, and I have always enjoyed the Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, so I agreed – mainly because they have a Saturn V rocket, and I had never seen one in person.

I wasn’t nearly as much of a Civil War nerd at the time as I am now. Living in the Baltimore area all my life, I had been to the major NPS sites that my family knew about that were close to home: Gettysburg, Manassas, Antietam, and Harper’s Ferry. We had also taken a few road trips when I was a kid to places like Hampton Roads and Charleston. I had been to a total of 10 battlefields so far, and had very happy memories of tramping around Gettysburg, but at that point in my life, I didn’t really understand the full scope of the war, let alone the idea that there were battles that happened that didn’t become national parks later.

I took only one photo on that first trip to Chickamauga - I was so confused by what that acorn was all about! - <i>Photo by the author</i>
I took only one photo on that first trip to Chickamauga – I was so confused by what that acorn was all about! – Photo by the author

For whatever reason, though, I noticed that our route was going to take us past Chattanooga, and I was able to convince my friends to take the long way through town to be able visit Chickamauga. I drove past Missionary Ridge and saw the prominence of Lookout Mountain for the first time. When we finally got to Chickamauga, we didn’t stop at the visitors center. We didn’t do the actual driving tour. I had NO idea about how the battle was fought, or the personalities involved. I was, frankly, a little lost. I only knew the broad strokes of Gettysburg and that was it as far as Civil War knowledge went for me at the time. In fact, I would say that I didn’t really learn anything during our brief drive-through tour of Chickamauga, but it was still my first time in Chattanooga, and I still count these as my first visits to these fields, because they did begin to open my eyes to the idea of just how much I didn’t yet know.

I’ve since been able to return to Chattanooga three times – even bringing my family along, too. The stories of those trips are coming soon. Through the Internet, I’ve been able to discover so many books and resources to learn more about the conflicts that happened there, and I now consider Chickmauga to be my second-favorite battlefield, right behind Gettysburg. Those mountains and valleys straddling the TN / GA border will always hold special memories for me.