One of my favorite things to do is have adventures with my boys. A few summers ago, we took a day trip to Valley Forge National Historical Park so that the boys could see some Revolutionary history (they both seem to have some interest there) and to give them a chance to complete yet another Junior Ranger program.
At the time we visited back in June of 2019, the Visitors Center was closed for renovations, and a series of temporary trailers were in place to allow folks to pick up maps, watch a short introductory movie, and purchase souvenirs. We especially enjoyed getting to pretend that we were General George Washington for a brief moment.
Once we’d oriented ourselves and got our Junior Ranger activity books, we set out on the standard auto tour route of the park. While not actually a battlefield, the encampment at Valley Forge during the winter of 1777-1778 was a turning point for the Continental Army. Baron von Steuben developed a training program that brought the Colonials much closer to being a professional fighting force. And I really think there is something to the idea that the shared hardships forged bonds among the men that would carry them through the rest of the struggle.
Both boys were interested in exploring the reproduction huts along Muhlenberg’s brigade line. These show something of what the living quarters were like for the men that wintered here.
Nearby, at Redoubt #2, we took our turn manning the outer defenses of the camp. With the British Army spending the winter in Philadelphia, this position had a great view of the likely approaches that would have been used if the red coats had decided to attack.
Continuing along the tour route, we came to an equestrian statue of Maj. General “Mad” Anthony Wayne – one of my favorite figures from the Continental Army. He played a prominent role at both the Battle of Paoli, and the Battle of Stony Point – both fields that I have visited and will need to write up one of these days. The Battle of Stony Point is especially cool and worth a visit for its views of the Hudson River alone.
Our next stop was at Washington’s Headquarters. The house was open on the day we visited, and it was really cool to have the ranger there explain how the house was used by General Washington and his staff. The building is in great shape and getting to see and use the original handrails that were still on the steps was a pretty awesome experience. Tangible connections to the past are always much more impactful.
The visit ended with a return trip to the Visitors Center to have a ranger check our work on the Junior Ranger activities, swear in, and get our badges! We’ll definitely be going back to see the renovated Visitors Center and learn more about our country’s history together.
Whenever I find myself driving through Virginia on US Rt. 15 – usually on my way to visit the homes of the 3rd, 4th, or 5th Presidents – I always want to make a stop at the site of the largest cavalry battle that ever took place in the Western Hemisphere: the Battle of Brandy Station.
In addition to just being a beautiful piece of ground in the rolling hills of Virginia, this was the first battle of the Gettysburg Campaign, so it has a special place in my heart for that reason. Confederate cavalry commander Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart was caught with his pants down here (perhaps even literally) by a newly-rejuvenated Federal cavalry. In total, over 20,000 mounted soldiers charged back and forth here for the better part of the day on June 9, 1863, leading to over 1,400 casualties.
The central feature on the field is Fleetwood Hill. This is where Stuart had his headquarters, and the Confederates ended up rallying on this key high ground as a defensive position. When I first started visiting the field about a decade ago, there were a few large, modern houses along the ridge, and the entire hill was private property. You would never know that today. Fleetwood Hill has since been acquired for preservation and masterfully restored with numerous wayside markers arranged along a trail that tells the story of the battle. There are other interpretive trails in the area of the St. James Church, and the Beverly Ford Road that help give a more complete picture of what took place here.
One of the nice things about the place where I work is that we usually get extra time off around Thanksgiving – normally the day before. Most years it ends up being a free day for me with no other responsibilities, so that means that it’s an excellent time to do some battlefield stomping! Back in the fall of 2018, it specifically meant that I got to visit a few battlefields in the area of Eastern West Virginia that I’d never been to before. This post is made up of my edited notes from that day.
Battle of Shepherdstown (or Boteler’s Ford) – Civil War Battlefield #68
The battlefield is right along the Potomac River. There are a few of the large, metal Antietam / South Mountain / Harper’s Ferry-style wayside markers that tell the story pretty well.
The terrain is the story (isn’t that always the case with these battlefields?). High cliffs along a river. There’s one gap, so obviously that’s where the attack was made. There are also some old cement mill ruins there. It was reasonably serene on this day.
Battle of Hoke’s Run (or Falling Waters or Hainesville) – Civil War Battlefield #69
This battlefield was marked better than I thought it would be. I was able to find a few waysides on the Historical Marker Database, and they tell a thorough story. There’s some “Stonewall” Jackson lore at this field, so that must be why so much attention has been paid here. Terrain seems like it hasn’t changed *too* much, but the Valley Pike (modern-day US Rt. 11) is clearly more built-up than it was during 1861.
Battle of Smithfield Crossing – Civil War Battlefield #70
The fighting at this battlefield seems to have occurred about where WV Rt. 51 crosses Opequon Creek. There are no markers of any kind that I could locate – not even a good place to pull over at the site. Sadly, it was one of the rare battlefields that I couldn’t do much with.
Battle of Summit Point – Civil War Battlefield #71
Not a *battlefield* per se, but any #CivilWarNerd worth his salt has to visit this site that was part of the story leading up to our bloodiest conflict.
The spot where John Brown was executed for murder, inciting a slave insurrection, and treason against the State of Virginia is now located in someone’s yard in the middle of a Charlestown, WV neighborhood. During the Civil War, this part of Virginia would break off and rejoin the Union as a new State of West Virginia, but in 1859 there was still some slaveholding interest here.
It seems like the story is that this area was completely open at the time the gallows were constructed, but the local militia commander later built his house on this spot on purpose. Talk about holding a grudge! There is a nice wayside marker and roadside tablet here. Part of me wonders if having this infamous event happen in your yard increases or decreases your property value.
Back in 2013, Shenandoah University took over ownership of the Union side of the battlefield (it was formerly a golf course) and they are doing their best to rehab it. They had a walking trail with some interpretive markers in place when I visited. Across the Shenandoah River – where the fighting actually happened – is also well-preserved, though not quite as accessible to the public, since that property is owned by the Holy Cross Abbey. I think that there are tours given in the springtime, so it may be worth another visit for that event.
During the Civil War, the Shenandoah Valley was both the breadbasket of the Confederacy, as well as a key transportation corridor used by both sides for their respective invasions. There was almost constant conflict in the region for the duration of the war, and large areas destroyed in actions like “The Burning”. A few summers ago, I toured many of the battlefields in this very important theatre of the war.
Just before the town of McDowell, the Civil War Trust has a small parking lot with markers showing the start of the trail they laid out on their property on Sitlington’s Hill. The signs mention a blueblaze trail, but I couldn’t find any blazes. Combined with the fact that it had just rained, was approaching dusk, and I had no cell phone service, I decided not to venture up the hill. The town was nice, though, and I was able to see the house that Stonewall Jackson used as a headquarters during the Battle of McDowell.
Battle of Cross Keys – Civil War Battlefield #61
A relatively small fight during Stonewall Jackson’s 1862 Shenandoah Valley campaign, Cross Keys is not far to the southeast from Harrisonburg. There’s a wayside marker – a series of them actually – near the cemetery on Battlefield Road. The terrain is very rolling. The Union line was more-or-less along modern Cross Keys Road, and the view to the southeast of the mountains was beautiful. The southern peak of Massanutten Mountain was clearly visible from here.
Battle of Port Republic – Civil War Battlefield #62
Initially, I had some trouble finding the battlefield itself. There is a set of markers near “The Coaling” east of town. The battle took place mainly between that spot and the town. The terrain was basically flat farm fields that are bordered on the north by the south branch of the Shenandoah River.
Battle of Piedmont – Civil War Battlefield #63
More rolling terrain at this battlefield. It is fairly difficult to get a sense for where the lines were. But there are a few markers, and one wayside in the parking lot of the local community center that includes a map.
Battle of Waynesboro – Civil War Battlefield #64
This battlefield – the site of the last fighting in the Shenandoah Valley – has been entirely overtaken by the modern development of the town. I found one marker on W. Main Street near the Masonic Lodge, but there are no waysides here, so there are no maps to orient you to where the action took place.
Battle of New Market – Civil War Battlefield #65
The VMI-run Virginia Museum of the Civil War was fairly sparse during our visit. I got the impression that they were in the midst of re-arranging the exhibits. It’s nice to see them involved at the battle where the most famous aspect is the charge of their cadets. There is a sizeable collection of small arms downstairs which is probably the main attraction. $10 admission seemed a little steep for what it is, though my son was free. He really wanted to get a hat, so I bought him a super-FARBy, cotton kepi with (*UGH*) crossed rifles in the gift shop. It’ll be a fun souvenir for him, nonetheless.
The field itself is small. There is a trail that takes you along the path of the VMI cadets’ attack, and a few reproduction artillery pieces. There’s also a spot where you can get a nice view of the north fork of the Shenandoah River.
Battle of Tom’s Brook – Civil War Battlefield #66
There’s a marker for the Battle of Tom’s Brook along Route 11 in the town where the action took place, and a nice wayside that is deep in the nearby Shenandoah County Park near a storm water pond. A large patch of woods there means that the Valley Pike can’t be viewed from the wayside, so it’s a little hard to really see and appreciate the terrain. Some imagination is required.
Battle of Fisher’s Hill – Civil War Battlefield #67
There are a few markers along Route 11, but that’s not all. A totally separate section of the battlefield – Ramseur’s Hill – has been preserved on the northwest side of I-81. There are a few waysides and a walking trail there. During my initial trip, I didn’t get out to explore too much, as my son was already pretty burned-out on battlefields for the day, but I was lucky enough to come back for a special tour that was given on the 155th anniversary of the Battle of Fisher’s Hill, and the views are amazing from the top of the hill.
When Virginia seceded at the start of the Civil War, it put the US Capitol right on the border with the rebel forces. There were immediate efforts to secure at least some portion of the southern shore of the Potomac river, and the Federal City became one of the most highly-fortified places in the world. There are still some remnants of those wartime earthworks, but you have to know where to look. Luckily, there is an NPS unit for that: The Civil War Defenses of Washington.
A couple years ago, I took a day trip through two of the more famous ones – mostly so that I could visit the site of the only Civil War battle to take place in the District of Columbia.
Directly south of the city, in Maryland, this transitional second / third system fort was meant to defend against naval attacks coming up the Potomac river.
The terrain here is a little steep (like the $10 NPS entrance fee), and combined with the fort itself makes for some impressive view sheds. The grounds are in good shape, and they are interpreted fairly well, but there was never any “action” here, so there’s no really story to grab visitors’ attention. In addition to the main fort, there are a few Endicott-era batteries, too.
Being located within the DC suburbs, and without a clear “battle” story to tell, the fort seems to get used more as a general purpose park by locals. I noticed a few families on the grounds with picnic lunches during my visit.
Battle of Fort Stevens – Civil War Battlefield #59
The Battle of Fort Stevens is the only Civil War battle to take place in DC. In the years since the war, there has been a great expansion of the city, and what was once an open field that the Confederates attempted to attack across, is now a neighborhood with shops and even some taller buildings.
What is here of the fort is largely a reconstruction with more durable materials. Where there were wooden pilings and gun platforms, there are now reproductions made of poured concrete. And because of the modern development that has taken place, only the western portion of the fort has been retained.
I’ve written before about a business trip I took to Raleigh, NC back in 2017. What I didn’t include in that post is the stops that I made on the way home to Maryland. I made the most of that travel day by visiting more than a dozen Civil War sites along the way from Raleigh to Petersburg. I packed a lot of adventure in to that day.
I left my hotel and headed over to the site of the largest Confederate surrender of the war – and the first that I’d ever visited. I arrived at around 10am. The retired lady working at the front desk was very personable and knowledgeable – we hit it off immediately. She showed my around the visitors center, started their orientation movie for me, and then gave me a tour of the grounds. It’s a pretty nicely-kept place. The house itself, while not the original (it burned in 1921) is an exact duplicate that was moved from a farm 4 miles away. I’m told that it’s a good example of a 19th century middle class southern homestead. Overall, it was a very cool experience.
Battle of Dinwiddie Court House – Civil War Battlefield #42
After a couple hours in the car, I was ready to start the Petersburg area tour. The first stop that I made on the trip north was at this small battlefield that was basically just a precursor to the Battle of Five Forks. There are a few monuments and markers in front of the titular court house, but not much else.
There is a satellite visitors center for Petersburg National Battlefield here, but it is quite small. The field itself is also small and frankly feels kind of barren. There are a couple monuments at the intersection, and a few waysides there and at the Confederate left flank to tell the story of the attack.
Battle of White Oak Road – Civil War Battlefield #44
Battle of Boydton Plank Road – Civil War Battlefield #45
Taking White Oak Road east, I arrived at the intersection with the old Boydton Plank Road – now modern US-1. This was the center of the fighting at the Battle of Boydton Plank Road. There is a roadside marker near the intersection, but I didn’t find much else.
Battle of Lewis’ Farm – Civil War Battlefield #46
Officially, this action is referred to as the Battle of Lewis’ Farm, but the roadside marker here calls it the “Quaker Road Engagement”. A lot of Civil War battles have at least two names, and it seems like they can get especially confusing around Petersburg. The field on the east side of the road seems to be well-preserved farmland, but there is 20th century housing on the west side. Brig. General Chamberlain received his final wound of the war here.
Third Battle of Petersburg – Civil War Battlefield #47
The final breakthrough of the Confederate line at Petersburg, the Third Battle of Petersburg was a full-blown disaster for the Confederates. Aside from the fact that the loss forced the abandonment of their entire Petersburg line, it also claimed the life of one of their senior corps commanders: Lt. General A.P. Hill.
Battle of Peebles’ Farm – Civil War Battlefield #48
The Civil War Trust has laid out an interpretive trail here at the Battle of Peebles’ Farm that leads up toward the Pamplin Historical Park property. I didn’t walk the full trail (nor visit Pamplin) on this trip, but I feel like both would be worth doing. There are a few waysides here to help explain the fighting.
Battle of Hatcher’s Run – Civil War Battlefield #49
Several hundred acres of the field at the Battle of Hatcher’s Run have been saved over the years by the Civil War Trust. They have a small parking lot and some wayside markers that provide a jumping-off point for a trail.
Battle of Globe Tavern – Civil War Battlefield #50
Part of the fight for the Weldon Railroad, there are some good waysides here at the Battle of Globe Tavern. Also, Fort Wadsworth was quite large, and pretty intact. This site is part of the regular tour route for Petersburg National Battlefield, so it may see slightly more visitation than some of the other sites I visited.
First Battle of Petersburg – Civil War Battlefield #51
Maj. General Benjamin Butler’s attempt to take Petersburg ended rather quickly in the summer of 1864. It would take a prolonged siege – and far more troops than Butler had on hand – to get the job done.
Battle of Jerusalem Plank Road – Civil War Battlefield #52
The “Battery 5” area behind the visitors center was also quite cool – most especially the site of the “Dictator” siege mortar that rests on a trail a short distance to the north.
After picking up a tour brochure, I started on the auto tour route, which goes along a one-way road headed south. Stop #3 – Confederate Battery #9 – was particularly interesting in the way that the park has it preserved and interpreted.
Battle of Fort Stedman – Civil War Battlefield #53
Within the Eastern Front section of Petersburg National Battlefield, the Battle of Fort Stedman is Stop 5 on the official auto tour. The fort itself is fairly well-preserved, and there is a trail over to where the Confederate position was. Only a few hundred yards separated the lines at this point. While Lee’s attack against this position met with initial success, the Confederates were forced back before noon. It would be the last purely offensive attack that Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia every made.
Second Battle of Petersburg – Civil War Battlefield #54
Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant had beaten Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia in the race to Petersburg, but there was still a small Confederate defense force that had turned back Butler’s attack about a week earlier. The Union assaults didn’t go off well, and the fortifications the rebels had built along the Dimmock line were substantial, so when Lee’s reinforcements arrived, the fight became futile. The Union failure to break the line here brought on the Siege of Petersburg.
Battle of The Crater – Civil War Battlefield #55
At the southern end of the Eastern Front auto tour route is the highlight of Petersburg, in my opinion: The Battle of The Crater.
This was a very cool, bucket-list kind of experience. What is left of the crater today is much smaller than I had imagined. Once the battle was over, the area returned to being used as farmland, and over the years, the once-massive hole in the earth had been gradually filled in. The entrance to the mine has been re-created, and there are some cool waysides that explain the event for visitors. The biggest surprise to me was just how short the mine tunnel was. The Union and Confederate lines were VERY close to each other in this sector.
Battle of Yellow Tavern – Civil War Battlefield #56
Today, the battlefield has been consumed by the modern US-1 / I-95 corridor. The original Yellow Tavern has been replaced by gas stations, restaurants, and some neighborhoods. Within one of those residential areas, Civil War nerds can find a monument marking the spot where J.E.B. Stuart was mortally wounded. He was taken to Richmond, died the next day, and was buried in Hollywood Cemetery.
Three years ago today, I took my boys on a day trip to Northern Virginia to check out some battlefields that we’d never seen before. It turned out to be a really cool experience and set many of our road trip traditions. Let’s dive in to the battlefields!
Battle of Aldie – Civil War Battlefield #34
One of the gaping holes in my list of battlefields had been the three cavalry actions that led up to the Battle of Gettysburg, so they were the fields I wanted to see most on this trip. Aldie was the first of these small battles, and I wrote a post about it a few years ago.
Aldie is a VERY small town. There is a cool-looking mill there, though it was closed when we visited. The fighting took place west of town, and there are markers and waysides there that do a good job of explaining the action.
The town itself is quite nice. In fact, it is the kind of place where you pass polo fields on the way in. The center of town has a few boutique-type shops and restaurants. It really seems like the kind of place that you could have as a destination with your significant other.
On the downside, I couldn’t find any signs discussing the battle action. It turns out of course that I just wasn’t looking in the right place. I’ll be making a return trip to the area one of these days.
The fighting took place east of the town in a large, bowl-like area. It’s quite pretty there. The Goose Creek bridge is well-preserved and serves as the visual hallmark of the battlefield. A small park on Vineyard Hill has a wayside explaining the action and a great view.
Battle of Thoroughfare Gap – Civil War Battlefield #37
There is not much here – a few roadside markers sit beside State Route 55 near the Broad Run Post Office and across the highway from the Chapman’s Mill ruins.
Battle of Buckland Mills – Civil War Battlefield #38
Not much of the field for the Battle of Buckland Mills is accessible though the Civil War Trust bought up some land here. It appears to be in a decent state of preservation. A small portion of the mill town still exists as well.
Battle of Bristoe Station – Civil War Battlefield #39
The largest and best-preserved of the fields I saw that day was for the Battle of Bristoe Station. This was one of those forgotten battles (along with Mine Run) that took place in the autumn after Gettysburg. This offensive movement by the Confederates resulted in a small Union victory.
A park has been created out of the preserved land and it appears to be well-used by the community. There is also an audio tour that can be followed from your cell phone, and it really helps to explain Bristoe Station and the other area actions that led up to it. Since that first trip, I’ve been back to Bristoe Station a couple times and it is always nice.
A few years ago, I traveled to the Raleigh, NC area for a work conference. Of course, I wanted to check out some of the local historical sites in my downtime. There was plenty to see!
Battle of Averasboro – Civil War Battlefield #40
I got up early on Sunday morning to start my “off” day, and was able to get on the field at the Battle of Averasboro by 8:40am. Though it’s only a mile or two west of I-95, it really feels like you’re out in the country. My guess is that not much has changed since 1865.
The field is privately owned, but definitely well cared-for, with a small museum located at the northern end. Several signs make it clear that relic hunting is forbidden and outline other things that the caretakers have in place – including video surveillance.
There are numerous markers and a few monuments, but they appear to be from different eras, and thus each has a slightly different way of explaining the action to visitors. For one thing, different markers seem to break the battle into a different number of stages, so I can see how it could be confusing to keep track of what all is going on for a novice. As it turns out, the action revolves around a pretty straight-forward defense-in-depth by the Confederates.
The visitors center was closed on the early Sunday morning that I visited, so I can’t tell you any impressions of it, other than to say that they have a fake artillery piece out front. Hey – at least it’s something. The other thing I took away as I drove through the field was the complete lack of distinct terrain features. Any elevation changes that exist are minuscule. Just about the only factor in the battle was the Cape Fear River that anchored the Confederate left.
On to the next site!
Battle of Bentonville – Civil War Battlefield #41
This was the main event. The Battle of Bentonville was the largest battle to ever take place in North Carolina, and was the culmination of Sherman’s march through the south, and Johnston’s attempt at defense. For me personally, this was the first battlefield I had ever visited where General Sherman had been involved. Pretty crazy to think about.
The State of North Carolina owns several pieces of the battlefield (though in many cases just enough to have a pull-off with a few wayside markers at a tour route stop) and operates those as the Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site. Most of the field is still privately held, with modern houses occupying the bulk of that area. The spots that are preserved are quite nice, though.
There are also numerous wayside markers that do a great job of explaining the battle action, and even a few monuments – including one of the standard Texas ones. I was able to pick up a copy of the driving tour brochure before I came, which was handy because this was another site where the visitors center was completely closed down on a Sunday morning. On the plus side, the driving tour comes with a phone-in audio narration component that really adds another dimension to the visit. All of these factors mean that you can get a very complete experience in only a couple of hours.
Like Averasboro, the terrain here was VERY flat – only a few small ravines and creek beds provided some cover for battlelines – and you can see that the lines seemed to form along them. Ground that is not composed of sand is swamp. It must have been miserable to fight here. I recall one of the waysides mentioning that there was significant difficulty in burying the dead – whenever they dug more than a foot or two down, the hole would fill with water.
North Carolina State Capitol
After checking in for my conference, I decided to walk around downtown Raleigh a little. The grounds of the North Carolina State Capitol had a few interesting monuments, and some real artillery in the form of Cyrus Alger and Co. siege mortars.
One place in downtown Raleigh that I knew I wanted to see was the Oakwood Cemetery – final resting place of Colonel Henry King Burgwyn, who was killed at Gettysburg leading the 26th NC Infantry in their famous attack against the 24th MI. Known as “The Boy Colonel”, Burgwyn was only 21 years old at the time of his death.
Like other prominent southern cemeteries, Oakwood has a large mass grave of Gettysburg dead, removed to what was assumed to be their home State from where they had fallen on the battlefield – probably in the 1870s. The design of the marker for this section of the cemetery mirrors the North Carolina monument present at Gettysburg today.
Though I only spent a few hours poking around the Raleigh area (and beyond), they were thoroughly satisfying. Hopefully I’ll be able to make a return trip some day.
Three years ago today, I took a day trip to Winchester, Virginia in order to check out some of the battlefields. My oldest son went along as well. It was the first trip there for both of us, and it remains a wonderful memory.
First and Second Battles of Kernstown – Civil War Battlefield #29, 30
There is a battlefield park that incorporates a large chunk of the field, but it is only open on the weekends during May through October, so it was closed while we were there.
Luckily, the more interesting part of the field to me – the spot where Richard Brooke Garnett and the Stonewall Brigade fought behind a wall at First Kernstown – is on the other side of Route 37, south of Cedar Creek Grade at Rose Hill Farm Park. It was cool to be there and see the terrain, even if the wall there is a reproduction. My son had had enough hiking at that point, so we didn’t go back in the woods to look for the remains of the original wall.
Second Battle of Winchester – Civil War Battlefield #31
The Second Battle of Winchester took place on the road to Gettysburg. A Confederate corps under the command of Richard Ewell attacked and completely overwhelmed the Union garrison in town under Robert Milroy. Milroy made the decision to try to sneak out of town overnight, and much of his force was captured in the process. But we’ll talk about that later.
While not an “official” battle, I tend to think of the Battle of Stephenson’s Depot as being a separate action from the Second Battle of Winchester. This is the spot where about half of Milroy’s fleeing Union command was captured by Confederate forces under Edward “Allegheny” Johnson. There are a few markers near where the railroad depot was (though when we visited, one was damaged to the point of being missing) and even a monument close by.
Third Battle of Winchester – Civil War Battlefield #32
Third Winchester was the bloodiest battle that took place in the Shenandoah Valley area, but you’d never know it if you visited the field today. I parked in the lot right off of Redbud Road and took a hike through woods, across fields, and over Redbud Run to the famed Middle Field. It made for a very pleasant 3-mile round trip. A monument to Battle’s Alabamians had just recently been erected on the field during my last visit, so that was pretty cool to see. By far though, my favorite part was this lovely tree-lined path just before the Middle Field.
All-in-all, it was a great trip. A model for many more I’d take in the years ahead.
While there were many important events happening in Maryland concerning the War of the Rebellion, the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission identified only seven “official” battlefields here in my native state. There are a few that you may know of (and that I’ve covered here already – Antietam, Monocacy, and South Mountain) but some of the smaller ones remain under-the-radar for most folks (and even for some #CivilWarNerds). Today, I’ll be writing about those.
Battle of Boonsboro – Civil War Battlefield #24
After the Battle of Gettysburg, the Confederates started to pull back toward Virginia. The weather was bad, and it took a long time for them to retreat across southern Pennsylvania and through Maryland. Several small actions took place along the way – mostly involving cavalry units fighting each other. The Battle of Boonsboro was just such an action.
There is a wayside marker in the parking lot of Boonsboro Antiques and Collectibles that explains the action that took place mostly across the road. This rather messy engagement wasn’t much more than a delaying action for the Confederates.
Battle of Williamsport – Civil War Battlefield #25
Not really a single battle as much as a drawn-out series of small pokes and prods, the Battle of Williamsport was the final piece of the Confederate retreat following Gettysburg.
There are numerous markers surrounding Williamsport that discuss the various stages of the combat there. With no major action taking place, it is hard to direct you to any one place. I found a walk along the C&O Canal to be quite nice when I visited, as it affords an opportunity to learn about a little more than just the Civil War history of the area. One of the major visitors centers is located near the site of the Confederate crossing.
Battle of Folck’s Mill – Civil War Battlefield #57
The Battle of Folck’s Mill was a very minor action near Cumberland, Maryland. Mostly an artillery duel, it was fought by local militia protecting the city of Cumberland from a Confederate raid late in the war.
Sadly, what is left of the field is extremely difficult to access. The mill itself still exists – at least as ruins – but it is surrounded by highways and private property. You would never know it was there. There are some wayside markers located on the grounds of the Ali Ghan Shriner’s Hall that discuss the action, but the terrain has been completely changed by the modern highways and interchanges in the area. The approaches and artillery positions have been completely obliterated, so a fair amount of imagination is needed on a visit.
Battle of Hancock – Civil War Battlefield #58
Surprisingly, this is the ONLY “official” battle of Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’sBath-Romney Campaign in the winter of 1862. Hard to believe since there was really no combat during the Battle of Hancock. Jackson showed up on the Virginia (present-day West Virginia) side of the Potomac and hurled some artillery rounds at the Union troops in town. After a couple of days, he moved on. Simple as that.
There are markers explaining some of the action on the Maryland side of the river, along the C&O Canal. The town itself has some character, and if you’re there on a day they’re open, the Hancock Town Museum is worth a visit.