Good 'first battlefields'

Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Mark F. Jenkins

Colonel
Member of the Year
Joined
Mar 31, 2012
Messages
13,124
Location
Central Ohio
The Central Ohio Civil War Roundtable traditionally has an open discussion in its January meetings, with a topic selected ahead of time; this month, it was 'battlefield visits.'

One interesting question posed was, "What do you think is the best battlefield for a first-timer to visit?" There were a number of suggestions, but many mentioned Antietam for its combination of monuments, interpretation, preservation, and the relative simplicity of the actions (compared to other big battles), as well as being rather less crowded than, say, Gettysburg.

I agreed with the Antietam suggestion. What would you say?
 

gary

Captain
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Messages
6,464
Fredericksburg or Ball's Bluff. Both were very simple. The terrain isn't complicated and the maneuvers few.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

kel1985

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 6, 2011
Messages
3,589
Location
Pittsburgh, Pa.
Malvern Hill is another pretty basic battle, Antietam is good, and gary is right, Fredericksburg despite the scale is pretty simple.
 

NFB22

First Sergeant
Joined
Jun 21, 2012
Messages
1,669
Location
Louisville, KY
Fredericksburg is very simple to figure out. A "first-timer" can easily see how the terrain played into the battle where as a novice at place like Gettysburg could get confused very quickly as to what or who went where.

On the other hand I could make a case for somewhere like Fort Sumter, Pickens, Pulaski, or Morgan & Gaines. All located near popular vacation spots like Pensacola or Charleston. A person on vacation could easily take a day or two to explore these types of sites and in my mind Fort Sumter...the place where it all began, would be a great place to make your first visit.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

kealbo54

Sergeant Major
Joined
Apr 20, 2012
Messages
1,807
Obviously,whatever is closest to home.It somewhat depends on the extent of your knowlege at the time,as well.I would stay away from anything on that confusing Peninsula until I knew all the how when and whys that I could.Mavern Hill is a great stand up battle,and pretty uncomplicated until someone asks you..."yes but why here?"Chronological is always best,but not practical.
Quite honestly 1st Bull Run is as good a place to start as any.I think its simple,easy in scope,and can be done easily in a nice day,including some short side-trips.The field of fighting is pretty pristine,and the vistas are long and beautiful.
 

Mark F. Jenkins

Colonel
Member of the Year
Joined
Mar 31, 2012
Messages
13,124
Location
Central Ohio
Quite honestly 1st Bull Run is as good a place to start as any.I think its simple,easy in scope,and can be done easily in a nice day,including some short side-trips.The field of fighting is pretty pristine,and the vistas are long and beautiful.
That was another candidate discussed, although the person nominating it recommended that the visitor needs to be well gone before the DC afternoon rush hour begins! :laugh:
 

pamc153PA

Major
Forum Host
Joined
Dec 28, 2008
Messages
7,472
Location
Pennsylvania
I would say Antietam, for those exact reasons: less monuments, well-interpreted, and pretty simple to understand as far as battles go. I like Gettysburg best, but it's BIG (in size and its three-day scope), full and hard to grasp. I mean, I'm still working out everything that happened in the Wheatfield, and I've been studying Gettysburg for 15 years, feet on the ground!

I don't think Fredericksburg would be good, simply because so much of the original battlefield is no longer there, and its hard to look over the wall at the Sunken Road and look into someone's backyard and try to imagine Burnside's men coming at you. Fredericksburg was the second battlefield I ever went to once I got hooked on the CW, and I was really disappointed.

Chancellorsville might be good, and someone mentioned First Manassas. Both would be good, but Antietam IMHO is best for beginners.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Nathanb1

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Retired Moderator
Joined
Dec 31, 2009
Messages
33,308
Location
Smack dab in the heart of Texas
I would vote Antietam. Anyone with good pre-knowledge of the battle through reading and maps (or teaching it to 8th graders, lol) should be able to almost do it themselves. Add the visitors center, etc. and you have a winner. I would add especially someone with limited time. One trip to Gettysburg isn't enough to do the first day justice, let alone all three days....

I also have a soft spot for New Market. It's still really rural, nice visitors center, and if you've visited Lexington and VMI, it all falls together for you. :smile: But that's just me.
 

kealbo54

Sergeant Major
Joined
Apr 20, 2012
Messages
1,807
That was another candidate discussed, although the person nominating it recommended that the visitor needs to be well gone before the DC afternoon rush hour begins! :laugh:
Well if traffic is gonna be a huge concern,one might as well go to Glorietta Pass NM.I still insist that first Bull Run is much less complicated than Antietam.Dont get me wrong,Antietam as some here know is my favorite,but,I believe there is a lot more involved.Again,it greatly depends on the scope of what you already know.I guess i cant quite grasp the meaning of "first-timer".
 

ExNavyPilot

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 9, 2010
Messages
2,969
Location
Chesapeake, VA
Chickamauga is a great battlefield--rather pristine, well-preserved and interpreted--but the action was so confused at times that even Bragg and Rosecrans didn't know exactly what was going on. Probably a bit too confusing for the first timer, unless he/she read lots of books from the required reading list and spent some time on the Civil War Animated site. Stones River probably doesn't have enough of the battlefield preserved to make it a worthy first site (though what is preserved is nicely interpreted), and I can't evaluate Shiloh as I haven't been there yet.

Cold Harbor is a nice battlefield, but there's only a small chunk of it preserved so you only get to look at a correspondingly small chunk of the action. The other sites on the Peninsula are also kind of small or only partially preserved, and Petersburg is too unwieldy. [Haven't been to Malvern Hill yet. Guess I'd better fix that real soon.]

The site for the Battle of Hampton Roads today looks remarkably similar to how it looked in March 1862, aside from a couple of bridges and an expanded Craney Island. However, naval battle sites aren't amenable to interpretive signage or monuments, and "walking the field" is a nonstarter. I would love to see a reenactment of that battle with full-scale reproductions... I'd also love to see the "battlefield" for Kearsarge vs Alabama, cuz that'd mean I'm in France. Oo la la!

Oh well, I guess I'd go with Antietam. The three parts of the battle are easy to comprehend and the effects of terrain, especially at the Sunken Road and Burnside Bridge, readily grasped.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

AUG

Major
Retired Moderator
Joined
Nov 20, 2012
Messages
6,991
Location
Texas
I've been to em all but I would say Antietam, Gettysburg, or Shiloh for someone's first battlefield. All are very well known and all are very well preserved. They are also all intact and certain land marks stand out, like you could go to little round top or Culps Hill at Gettysburg or the cornfield, sunken road, and Burnside Bridge at Antietam and get a great view of the landscape.

Shiloh is well preserved but the battlefield is all heavily wooded, which looks similiar to how it did during the battle, but battlefields with a lot of woods, especially if they originally didn't have wooded areas covering the battlefield at the time of the battle, like a lot of Cold Harbor for example, doesn't give you a good view of the landscape and the lay of the land like say Antietam or Gettysburg.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Jantzen

Private
Joined
Oct 2, 2011
Messages
144
If you have multiple days, I'd vote Gettysburg. Despite the commercialism, crowds and encroachment, the drama and sheer volume of vistas/experiences/information can't be beet. My 19 year old still asks when we are going to go back and climb around Devil's Den or look for "orbs" in the triangular field after the park closes (oops, I guess I shouldn't have said that :wink:)
If you only have one day, I'd say Antietam. Pure landscapes, understandable battlefield (really three battles in one) and good monuments and visitor's center. Enjoy wherever you go!
 

Union_Buff

Major
Joined
Oct 14, 2009
Messages
7,519
Location
New Zealand
I would say Antietam - that was the first battlefield I visited when in America on holiday and it was simply amazing!
 

patbold

Private
Joined
Aug 4, 2011
Messages
121
Location
Davenport, Ia
The first battlefield I visited was Gettysburg in 1964 or 1965 when I was 14. The Civil War lore was just starting to get popular then and to be honest I had very little understanding of the battle. The electric map, Cyclorama, observation tower and the wax museum are what I remember the most.

The first battlefield I visited as an adult who had some knowledge and understanding what 1st Manassas. I thought that field excellent in that I could get a sense of the difficulties and obstacles the soldiers faced. I would have to say I was disappointed in Fredricksburg. It has become very urbanized. When you stand in bloody lane and look out over the field it's a little hard to get a sense of the horror the union soldiers must have faced when there's a row of houses a couple of blocks away.

My favorite so far is New Market. It's still pretty rural and open. Hopefully once I retire in a couple of years I can start visiting more battlefields.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

BillO

Captain
Joined
Feb 2, 2010
Messages
6,400
Location
Quinton, VA.
I've found that "newcomers" to the ACW, even people with little interest, really get into it at Pamplin Park just south of Petersburg. It's the location of the breakthrough during the Seige of Petersburg. Very interactive and great for kids and adults. they even have a great movie.
 

ExNavyPilot

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 9, 2010
Messages
2,969
Location
Chesapeake, VA
I've found that "newcomers" to the ACW, even people with little interest, really get into it at Pamplin Park just south of Petersburg. It's the location of the breakthrough during the Seige of Petersburg. Very interactive and great for kids and adults. they even have a great movie.
I have GOT to go there soon. It's only a couple hours from my home, and several of my ancestors were at Petersburg, Bermuda Hundred, etc. No excuses....
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Top