Monday, August 17, 2009

Civil War Tour 2009

Every year I spend a weekend on the road with an old friend touring Civil War battlefields. After unexpected back surgery earlier this Summer, I thought we might have to cancel this year. Instead, we decided to limit the driving and focus on Virginia (I had hoped to take in a few sites in Kentucky and Tennessee - perhaps next year).

We will begin with the eastern sites on the Petersburg front, including the Crater and Fort Harrison. I expect this will take the better part of a day to accomplish. From Petersburg, we will head to the North Anna Battlefield park. This is a county park with some of the best preserved earthworks in Virginia. Hopefully we can accomplish all of this on day 1. As we are leaving the night before to knock out most of the driving time to Petersburg, I think we can accomplish all of this, if I discipline myself not to detour every time I see a Civil War Trails sign.

Day 2 will begin with Trevilian Station, the first of two battlefields on our route established by private preservation groups and the efforts of the Civil War Preservation Trust. Continuing the focus on cavalry actions and privately operated sites, a tour of the Brandy Station battlefield is next. I have passed this battlefield many times en route to other sites, and it's about time I spent a day on the field. Given time, we will wrap up day 2 with a visit to Bristoe Station Heritage Park. A short loop trail in this county park surveys A.P. Hill's futile and costly assault on Federal troops positioned along a railroad bed.

If time permits, we may detour to the Wilderness battlefield for a few photos before the Super Wal-Mart destroys the viewshed. Hopefully the short-sighted sprawlocrats of Orange county will listen to the urgings of men and women with a longer view of history than their own and work with Wal-Mart to find a location that does not directly impact the battlefield. Given the tone of their public statements to date, I hold out little hope for a compromise. I may not have a vote in Orange County, but perhaps my wallet does. I will not be spending any money in Orange County, nor will I be stocking up on supplies for the trip at Wal-Mart as I usually do. Thanks, but I'd rather pay more.

A short drive on day 3 will bring us to Manassas. I plan to tour sites from both battles, starting with 1861 in the morning and wrapping up with 1862 in the afternoon. I am particularly looking forward to seeing areas along the unfinished railroad defended by Jackson's troops, as I have not been there since the park completed landscape restorations. As we will be visiting on the anniversary of Second Manassas, I hope to find time for a ranger program or two. My friend is also a member of the 5th New York (Duryee's) Zouaves. Each battle anniversary, the Fifth commemorates the regiment's sacrifice to buy time in the wake of Longstreet's assault, which crushed the Federal left. This will provide a fitting close to a weekend spent on hallowed ground.


Eric Wittenberg said...

Enjoy Trevilians. Not all of the Civil War Trails markers have been placed, so if you can get your hands on the issue of Blue & Gray that dealt with the battle, you will have the complete tour. I wrote the article, and I also wrote the text that's on those Civil War Trails markers.


Steven Mynes said...

Just bought the B&G issue - thanks for the tip. I added Trevilians as an afterthought, but I am looking forward to it as I know little about the engagement. I am hoping to read Glory Enough for All within the next week or so (along with The Last Citadel - it's a tall order for me). I received the book years ago for a contribution to an early CWPT campaign to save Trevilians Station. I believe they said at the time it was written by a promising young historian!

Too bad your Brandy Station book won't be available in time for the trip. Hope you enjoyed your recent vacation, by the way.

Eric Wittenberg said...


We had a great time, thanks. Like every vacation it was too short and went too fast, but we had fun.

Enjoy your trip. You're going to see some very cool places.