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 Posted: Mon Feb 11th, 2008 04:32 pm
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Rebel Yell
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As I can tell that there are many long-time battlefield trampers in the group, I was wondering if any of you would be willing to share your memories of your first-ever battlefield visit???

Mine was a hot summer day in 1960 just after my 9th birthday.  I and my family were visiting my grandparents in Washington DC. To entertain myself on the long drive there from Connecticut, I read my Landmark Book series copy of "Gettysburg".  During the visit, my grandfather noticed the book and asked if I found it interesting. After replying in the positive, he then asked if I would like to go there.

I leapt at the opportunity!!! I will never forget my first views from Little Roundtop, climbing the boulders of Devils Den, seeing the cannon ball hole in Trostle's barn, and so much more. But the biggest thrill of the day for me was my grandfather and I walking the ground of Pickett's Charge (or Longstreet's Assault, if you prefer). As we approached The Angle I was overcome with awe and admiration for the brave men of both sides as I envisioned the carnage that took place there.  Thus began my interest in learning about the war and the men who fought it. Thanks, grandpa!!!



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 Posted: Mon Feb 11th, 2008 05:33 pm
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Rebel Yell
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Hi, Bama...I was travelling from California to Maryland quite a few years back and my route took me very close to Shiloh. I was sorely tempted to stop my trip and visit the field, but time was short and I did not go. I have regretted that decision since. ))..  However, I did not make that mistake again when I was travelling cross-country and was near Little Bighorn Battlefield. Again, being a Landmark book reader as a boy, I had read about Custer and the "last stand", so I took an extra day and went there. One of the best decisions of my life.

Thanks for responding and sharing!!!



 Posted: Mon Feb 11th, 2008 05:42 pm
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ashbel
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Mine was Gettysburg - 1971.  Spent the weekend there with my wife.  It was a great experience for me and reinforced my Civil War passion.  Since then I have visited just about every NMP and many of the other sites as well.

There is no substitute for walking a battlefield to understand what happened. 



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 Posted: Mon Feb 11th, 2008 06:13 pm
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Rebel Yell
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Bama, if you get to Antietam, make sure you allow some time to visit South Mountain (if you haven't already). And the Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick is worth a stop.
Have you done Harpers Ferry yet???



 Posted: Mon Feb 11th, 2008 06:13 pm
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susansweet
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My first visit was to Bull Run in 1977 when I was visiting a friend in Fairfax.  It was July , hot and humid.  We wandered around the area near the stone bridge. Now here's the funny part , a couple of days later we went to the Visitors center near the Statue of Stonewall.  I actually at the time thought I was visiting two different battlefields.  This time I was at Manassas!!!!  I wasn't so up on Civil War at the time .  I was into Medieval English History and American Western History. 

My first REAL visit to a battlefield that started my journey that I am on now all started when I saw a sign while I was traveling cross country after I retired from teaching.  I planned a trip from California to Boston for a month of sight seeing and visiting friends.  I had spent time in Oklahoma searching for family graves and seeing the town I use to visit when I was a child.  I was cutting across the corner of Arkansas to get to Springfiled Mo. to visit a friend.  There it was the little sign that said Pea Ridge.

I said to myself, that is a Civil War battlefield I should visit it .  I made a left turn and headed to Pea Ridge.  I bought a cd of the tour route and drove around the site.  I took tons of pictures read all the markers. I was hooked.  I then drove on and stopped off in Springfield for my visit but on the way saw that Wilson Creek was right there and visited that site.  In talking to the ranger I ended up buying two books.Belle Wiley's Johnny Reb and Billy Yank.  They were the first two books in my now Civil War library.

Since then I have visited many sites and laugh at my mistake at Manassas/Bull Run.

Susan



 Posted: Mon Feb 11th, 2008 06:33 pm
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Rebel Yell
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Hi Susan, yeah, I did the same thing when I started out. Bull Run/Manassas, Antietam/Sharpsburg, Pea Ridge/Elkhorn Tavern, etc. Also I did wonder why so many battles took place in national parks???



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 Posted: Mon Feb 11th, 2008 07:40 pm
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ole
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First vist ever was Sharpsburg. I don't remember why -- it just seemed like a good idea at the time. My bride got into the camping thing so we went east -- I think '87. Antietam, Harpers Ferry and Manassas. Had I been more up on what had happened I'd have wanted to look at the gaps in South Mountain and on to Leesburg and Ball's Bluff. But I wasn't and we didn't. (She liked the shopping in Harpers Ferry.)

Tent-camping a bit north of the Manassas Battlefield scared the bejeesus out of both of us. Creatures screaming in the night. (The host explained the next morning that the sounds were likely vixens summoning their kits, but that didn't settle the heebie-jeebies all that much.) Best part of that stop was a sailor on leave heading for Arizona on a motorcycle. Helped him set up his loaned tent, shared a beer or three, and fed him breakfast. Nice boy!

Next trip was, I think, about '03. Perryville. Same story, second verse. Wasn't prepared with knowledge of the battle before walking the ground. (It's quite impossible for me to read two books in an afternoon.) But it was a barbed hook. Now I plan to visit at least one annually. And I've learned to read up on each at least a little before the visit.

Nice thread!

ole:cool:

 



 Posted: Mon Feb 11th, 2008 08:06 pm
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connyankee
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I went to Manassas sometime in the '80s.  Wanted to see what the ruckus was about (proposed shopping mall).  Got interested in preservation and joined APCWS (now CWPT).  I knew I was ignorant so I started reading and hoofing it through battlefields.  I keep waiting for the balloon to burst but so far it hasn't.  Probably never will.

connyankee

 



 Posted: Mon Feb 11th, 2008 08:10 pm
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Rebel Yell
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Hi, Bama. The east cavalry field is an often overlooked part of the battlefield which means that you will probably have it all to yourselves when you go there.  Points of particular interest to me are the Rummel Farm (last time I went there was a small admission charge to actually go on the farm, but worth it),  the area where Custer began his charge ordering "C'mon, you Wolverines" and Cress Ridge (site of Stuart's horse artillery) and a good view of the field.  Blue & Gray magazine had an issue a while back with some excellent maps depicting the action, so if you have or can find it, I highly suggest taking it with you.

You might also want to go over the "south" cavalry field as well and follow Kilkpatrick's route leading up to the area of Farnsworth's Charge.  Again Blue & Gray had an issue containg info on the sites and personnel involved.

I personally don't think that Stuart's failure to gain the union rear was a factor in the repulse of Pickett's Charge. Even if Stuart had broken through, there was more than sufficient union infantry strength in his path to contain him. And, to be honest, I feel that Pickett's Charge would not have succeeded with or without Stuart. 

Just one more thought. If you have not yet had a meal at the Cashtown Inn, by all means go. It's a little pricey, but the ambiance and its historical significance are worth it.



 Posted: Mon Feb 11th, 2008 08:13 pm
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Rebel Yell
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Hi Ole, and thanks. I am enjoying sharing my experiences and you all sharing yours with me.  Appreciate the positive feedback.



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 Posted: Mon Feb 11th, 2008 09:27 pm
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ashbel
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I agree with Reb on the statement that Pickett's Charge would not have succeeded anyway.  My opinion is based on the terrain and supports the value of visiting battlefields.  The perfect defensive position for the armaments of the day was being at the military crest of a gently rising plain.  Gettysburg was not the only place where this was proven true.  Look at Fredericksburg and Malvern Hill and others.  Such a position proved to be almost impregnable.

If you read the accounts of the battle your impression is that in Gettysburg the Union held the "high ground."  In my mind that means that the Union positions were at least several hundred feet above the surrounding land.  But when you go there you realize that it wasn't the case.  The same with Marye's Heights in Fredericksburg.  The Heights were just the top of a gently rising plain.  I remember visiting there and thinking "Is that all there is?"  And Malvern Hill is not much of a hill either.

And I agree with the statement that you have to study before you go to a battlefield.  Otherwise you just don't know the significance of what you are seeing.

 



 Posted: Tue Feb 12th, 2008 01:09 am
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ole
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I agree with Reb on the statement that Pickett's Charge would not have succeeded anyway. 
When lots and lots of guns with crossfire and enfilade opportunity have a mile of open country in which to murdelate an advancing infantry, there's really not much chance for what's left of that advancing infantry to deliver a KO punch. The more of them there are, the more of them there are to fall on the field.

ole

 



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 Posted: Tue Feb 12th, 2008 01:47 am
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Parault
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1974 Vicksburg NHP.  I was very young but I was all eyes.  Even at that age I had started down the path of military history.

 

P.L. Parault

Last edited on Tue Feb 12th, 2008 01:48 am by Parault



 Posted: Tue Feb 12th, 2008 01:49 am
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Dixie Girl
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Havent been to any battlefields yet but i have been to Fort Macon and Fort Fisher on the N.C. Coast.



____________________
War Means Fighting And Fighting Means Killing - N. B. Forrest When war does come, my advice is to draw the sword and throw away the scabbard." Stonewall Jackson


 Posted: Tue Feb 12th, 2008 02:09 am
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Doc C
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Vicksburg in the early 60's. Wondered at the time where the confederate statues were.

Doc C



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