Monday, June 23, 2014

Eastern Civil War Trip

Caissons at The Wilderness
Yes, I know, it HAS been some time since I have posted regularly on this blog.  I am hoping that will change a bit now that the wedding and honeymoon are past, and the stress from planning and anticipation of those large life events has subsided.  Yep, I got married!  And the honeymoon was a great excuse to visit historical sites in the east while giving my new bride the chance to see many gardens as well as Washington, D.C.

However, the heat, like our trip to Gettysburg two summers ago, was oppressive.  While touring Fredericksburg/Chancellorsville/The Wilderness/Spotsylvania Court House, the temperature hit 100 degrees.  Days like those make it difficult to get out and walk the ground, but we did cover all the car tours and I got to see battlefields I had yet to tick off the list.  We also stopped at McDowell to see a bit of that area (part of Jackson's Valley Campaign). 

Add to this Monticello, Montpelier, Mount Vernon, Harpers Ferry, and the National Mall, and we had quite an historic week.  We hope to go back either later this year or early next year to enjoy cooler temperatures.

I was able to score some great titles, taking advantage of some ridiculous discounts at Harpers Ferry.  I have now added the following to the Civil War library:  Army of the Potomac - McClellan's First Campaign (Beatie), Colonels in Blue - Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and the District of Columbia (Hunt), Chancellorsville and the Germans (Keller), Chancellorsville Battlefield Sites (Harrison), Simply Murder - The Battle of Fredericksburg (Mackowski and White, and The Fredericksburg Campaign (O'Reilly).

Some Battlefield Thoughts

Garden at Montpelier...Perryville has an empty corner in town
When I travel to other battlefields I often try to compare them to Perryville.  National parks have their advantages of course, as they often have large visitor centers, huge gift shops with massive book selections, usually a lot of interpretive signage, both modern and older.  However, many of them also suffer from development, and the four battlefields mentioned above suffer from modern encroachment.

Fredericksburg was a huge disappointment.  Much like Stones River, the battlefield is mostly covered by modern housing and business.  One cannot get a feel for the open ground in front of the stone wall, simply because it no longer exists.  But even the drive down to Prospect Hill was less than impressive.  No monumentation, and very little interpretation, and a lot of modern "progress".

The other three battlefields are more open, being further away from Fredericksburg proper, and have more opportunities for keeping the landscape as it appeared in 1863 and 1864, but they, too, have their issues with housing around many of the areas that should be preserved.  

After visiting the area, it makes me realize even more what a gem Perryville is and can be.  There are what, one thousand acres now saved?  And of those one thousand acres, most of it is very much the same as in was in the fall of 1862, and what isn't the same the park and the Friends of Perryville Battlefield will make the effort to make it that way.  This makes supporting the park, the Friends, and the Civil War Trust very important because at Perryville, your dollars are helping to save this land and make it one of the premier Civil War sites in the nation.  While Perryville doesn't have the eye-catching monuments of Gettysburg or the miles of paved tour roads of Antietam, what it does have is great potential, not only for the battlefield, but also for the town as well.

Bench at Ellwood (Wilderness Battlefield)
Anyway, my thoughts are all over the map with ideas for Perryville, things like benches at the tour stops to having Merchants Row cleaned up and installing green spaces to having more artillery displayed, including ammunition caissons.  My point is simply this: appreciate Perryville.  Make a trip to see the battlefield, walk the ground.  Spend a few dollars in the museum shop, buy gas at one of the two stations in town.  Join the Friends group and/or the Civil War Trust.  Become an advocate for Perryville!


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