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 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.

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