Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Part III - East Cavalry Battlefield as a Model for Keller's Bridge

In this post we'll talk about some of the potential pitfalls to developing the Keller's Bridge area like East Cavalry Battlefield.

Of course, with any grandiose plan, there might be potential issues.  Here are a few to consider.

Notice the inadequate mowing
Mowing.  Take a look at the picture and you can see that even at Gettysburg things like grass cutting has become a half-assed proposition.  How do we ensure that not only the walking path (if not paved) but also the roadside and the battlefield area is kept in such a state that doesn't look like the area is not receiving the attention it deserves.  Appearance is everything.  If the area looks messy (overgrown, parking lots with weeds growing through cracks, etc.) then it is not inviting for visitors.  

Monuments.  Cost is very prohibitive.  It might be years before organizations could raise enough money to have a monument created and installed.  And oversight in terms of design would have to be worked out between the Foundation and the group raising the funds...in no way would we want to create a monument that would encourage vandalism.  And as the years go by, how are the monuments maintained?

A. Keller Road.  There is a large and active farm at the end of A. Keller Road.  Development of a battlefield area must take into consideration access for farm vehicles along the road.  We would need to work with the county and state to widen the road where it can be widened.  This will allow for better access as move vehicles visit the area and less chance of accidents or damage to signs along the road.

Whatever direction is taken at Keller's Bridge, we have to consider several factors.  Increasing tourism by modeling a national park will be expensive.  Keeping the area in such a state as to invite visitors will take a lot of labor each week.  Working with local land owners to ensure that increased visitation will not be a hindrance is a concern.  By my, oh my, think about how the area could look, and how this would bring numerous tourists to Cynthiana!

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Part II - East Cavalry Battlefield as a Model for Keller's Bridge

In this post I will talk about some of the ways that Keller's Bridge could be interpreted in a similar manner to East Cavalry Battlefield at Gettysburg.

Developing a significant tourism destination in Cynthiana is going to take a lot of work, especially in terms of money.  First, battlefield ground would have to be purchased.  The American Battlefields Trust (formally known as the Civil War Trust and the Civil War Preservation Trust) will offer a land owner up to four times the value of a piece of battleground.  Knowing that, we will have to determine what ground we truly want to purchase, and then identify and contact those owners to see if they would consider selling their land.  Okay, let's say this comes to fruition.  What then do we do in the area to enhance interpretation and entice visitation?  Read on!

There are numerous Civil War sites out there, from national to state to local to private organizations.  In a previous post I had mentioned the excellent Tebbs Bend Battlefield as a potential model for Cynthiana.  There is a driving tour and an area to walk, and along both are interpretive signs, with a Confederate cemetery with a monument as one of the driving tour stops.  All in all a really excellent site in terms of interpretation.

But, what if the Cynthiana Battlefields Foundation went BIG and developed Keller's Bridge more like a national battlefield?  

Just what am I thinking?  Imagine this...you turn onto A. Keller Road and it has a fresh layer of blacktop.  After immediately turning onto the road, there is a tour stop on the right.  At this tour stop (which is also paved and large enough for a few cars or a tour bus) is a clear view to the river as well as the first of our interpretive panels that would explain the Confederate approach.  Okay, pretty standard stuff here.  Let's get back into our vehicle and drive on.

Within a few feet on the left is a metal sign, painted black with silver letters, that says "Giltner Avenue."  At Gettysburg the park roads are named after Federal officers or labeled "Confederate Avenue," I think this is an interesting concept that adds to the overall atmosphere.  In this case, we would name the avenue after the Confederate brigade commander in this area.

Driving along another few hundred yards will be another tour stop pull off on the left, this one denoting the first encounter between the forces.  Here would be another interpretive panel.  Again, fairly standard battlefield interpretation. 

Okay, now we get to the railroad crossing, where the current Chamber of Commerce stop is located.  This area needs a lot of cleaning and brush removal, but again we can create a pull off, an interpretive panel that talks about the railroad and Hobson coming to Cynthiana from Cincinnati.  From here as well we could create our first walking trail, a short (one tenth of a mile) walking path to the bridge area.  Here, yet another interpretive panel that would discuss the defenses of the railroad and details about the blockhouses built at the various bridges.  One can currently walk to the bridge on the rail ballast (larger rocks), but if we added something like a layer of mulch, or even better, a paved path, we would make it very easy for any visitor to access the bridge area.

Back in our cars, we now head to what I will call "Hobson Avenue", which at this time is nothing more than a lane that climbs up into a field.  But again, if this area was paved we could create an easy access to either a parking area at the top (for a walking loop) or create a driving loop.  Both ideas hold some merit, but I think a walking loop to be preferred as we can encourage folks to get a bit of exercise.  Hobson Avenue would have another metal sign to indicate its location.  At the parking lot would be another interpretive panel, and the start of the walking loop trail, which is only a half mile of fairly easy walking.  Again, this trail could be paved, but at the worst, be kept mown low while the area on either side could be planted with native grasses and flowers, making this area a nature preserve as well.

Now here comes the BIG idea...monuments.  Let's face it, places like Gettysburg and Chickamauga are cool not only because of the ground and the history made there, but the monuments on these battlefields have also become iconic in their own right.  Most folks take pictures of the monuments - they are what draws the eye.  What if we encouraged Civil War Round Tables, reenactment groups, heritage groups, and anyone else who wanted to raise money and have a monument installed?  We would put some parameters around the design, but we have the chance to create a visual display and have each unit that fought in the area represented.  Now of course monuments are expensive, but the sponsoring organization would be responsible for that.  Imagine walking along and seeing the 10th Kentucky Cavalry Battalion monument, or the 171st Ohio Infantry Regiment monument, or a monument to William McKinley's cousin, who was killed at Keller's Bridge.  What about a Kentucky or Ohio state monument?  There are several possibilities.

Sounds great, yes?  Next post will discuss some of the potential pitfalls of having a battlefield area.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Part I - East Cavalry Battlefield as a Model for Keller's Bridge

Last week I made a trip east to attend the Civil War Round Table Congress, held in Harrisburg at the National Museum of the Civil War.  As Harrisburg is an easy drive from Gettysburg, I decided to head out a couple of days before the congress commenced to enjoy some walking at Gettysburg.  I have traveled to Gettysburg several times in the past, and have covered a decent amount of the battlefield, but I haven't had the chance to do a lot of walking.  On this trip I wanted to walk the XI Corps positions on the first day of the battle, along with some of the areas in the southern portion of the battlefield, visit Neill or "Lost" Avenue, and walk the East Cavalry Battlefield area of the park.  I also was able to visit some other Civil War battle sites on the drive to Gettysburg.

One of the most stylish monuments, yet few get to see it
On Thursday I met a couple of my Civil War buddies from the Chickamauga Study Group, and it was a good thing I was able to connect with them as otherwise I would have not been able to visit Lost Avenue "legally."  My two friends have a connection with a gentleman who owns the property right next to Lost Avenue, so after a quick phone call to confirm, we headed to his farm and was able to walk a short distance to visit this little known and very little visited portion of the park.  After this great little sojourn, we headed to Oak Hill and walked to McLean Farm, then cut across the fields along a fence row that dropped us off on Howard Avenue.  From there we walked to Barlow's Knoll, then back along Howard Avenue to complete the XI Corps line.  Walking across the fields near the McLean farm really brought the terrain into perspective, and it helped determined just what the troops could and could not view.  

After a nice lunch at Gettysburg Eddies, we headed to the tower area along Confederate Avenue.  From here we covered Slyder Lane and Farm, walked in the area of Farnsworth's Charge, moved towards the base of Big Round Top, hit the logging road east of Little Round Top, and mosied back towards the the tower area along Wheatfield Road.  Then two of us headed to Hanover to see the sites for that battle and enjoy some delish beers at Aldus!

Along Confederate Cavalry Avenue
Friday morning was overcast, threatening rain, as I parked my car at the north end of East Cavalry Battlefield.  It had been some years since my last visit to this area, and I wanted to walk the ground so as to obtain a better feel for the terrain.  I had recently re-read Eric Wittenberg's book Protecting the Flank at Gettysburg: The Battles for Brinkerhoff's Ridge and East Cavalry Field, so from the battle perspective I had a fairly good feel for ebb and flow of the action, but was looking to see how the various dips and rises in the ground influenced the fighting.  I covered all of the tour road on foot, including a side trip to one of the least visited of all the Gettysburg tablets, covering a little over five miles.  Along the way, my mind wandered and I often wondered about how this portion of the battlefield is interpreted, with War Department tablets, monuments, and wayside interpretive signs, and thought that the Cynthiana Battlefields Foundation could do something on a smaller scale at Keller's Bridge.  Watch for a future post on some ideas on how we could interpret the area.


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