Discussion Name the top five battles you like to study and why.

LCYingling3rd

Private
Joined
Apr 25, 2021
I am a newbie here and am sure you have had this question a zillion times, however, I don't see it on any of the forums, so, maybe it has been a while. It is a fun way for me to get to know you all, so lets just have some fun; I think it is too difficult to ask everyone what their one favorite battle to study is, so I ask what your top five are. And I would like at least a brief explanation about why you like studying each battle. I have to admit that my interest is primarily personal more than strategic or tactical.

1. Gettysburg - Do I really need to say anything, it's Gettysburg! Okay, I was born in Carroll County Maryland, grew up northwest of Baltimore, and moved to Pennsylvania in 1976; so proximity to my life is one thing. Besides that, I have two ancestors that fought at the battle (2nd VA Inf. and 7th VA Cav.) and five that fought in the campaign (87th PA - 2nd Winchester). I do think it is one of the most pivotal battles in world history. Nuf said...

2. Cedar Creek - Yes, weird. I am obsessed with Cedar Creek because it is the only battle of the war that my great grandfather (87th PA Inf.) fought my great, great grandfather (7th VA Cav.). It is the battle that I had the highest odds of dying at! Besides that, I do think it is a fascinating battle to study. I believe it has the greatest surprise attack of the war and quite possibly effected the outcome of the 1864 Presidential election? It also led to one of the most interesting post-war, old soldier debates ever. I could go on; like I said, I am obsessed.

3. Antietam/Sharpsburg - (I have to use both names or my great aunts will haunt me...kidding, okay! I think; LOL) The born in Maryland thing. My parents took me to the centennial celebrations and reenactment in 1962 when I was like, four; and I swear I have memories of it. My mother is from Martinsburg, WV and we literally drove through the battlefield every time we went to visit my grandparents while I was growing up. It was the bloodiest single day in US history and is a fascinating battle to study anyway. My mother, her mother and aunts all went to Shepherd College. And my late wife's great, great, grandfather fought in the Miller Cornfield (7th PA Res.). Another one I could go on and on about...

4. Vicksburg - Look, I'm an old head, and up until the 1980's, maybe even 1990's, historians focused on the Eastern theater; everything was Bruce Catton and Douglas Southall Freeman when I was growing up; so sue me if I am Eastern theater biased...(again, just joking...having fun...which we American's are still allowed to do!) I am fascinated with the Vicksburg campaign. Again, historians were focused on the Eastern theater and all I ever heard was that Chancellorsville was the greatest tactical battle ever fought. I think the Vicksburg campaign is better. (I know, I know, but let's not debate that here!) I do believe it is a very important and interesting battle both strategically and tactically. And I really enjoyed visiting the town and the battlefield in 2006. The ironclad "Cairo" museum/exhibit and the Old Courthouse museum were splendid. Again, I could go on and on. In the 1990's I did start getting interested in Western theater battles, but this the most interesting one for me. I loved touring Chickamauga and Chattanooga and I would love to tour Shiloh...and...well...more...

5. Monocacy - Yes, yes, another head scratcher...The Maryland thing, the trips to Martinsburg thing, and the ancestors that fought against one another thing (2nd VA Inf./87th PA Inf.). Most importantly though, my great grandfather was in the 87th PA Infantry and Monocacy was a huge battle for them. Rickett's first brigade was on the Union left and at one point the 87th PA and the 14th NJ were ordered to take the Thomas house. They charged down the house's driveway (yes, it was probably called a "lane," I know), engaged in a brief, yet bloody hand-to-hand fight and gained control of the house until Gordon's troops started the rout of the Union army. I just think it is another fascinating and somewhat important lesser battle. (Actually, I like a lot of lesser battles, but I am only allowed to list five...who's idea was that!?!)

Okay....your turn...and have fun!!!!!
 

Lubliner

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Location
Chattanooga, Tennessee
That was a very good selection, and an excellent question.
1. First Bull Run, because of it's significance as being the initial major engagement. I am a Taurus, and some proclivity of magnetic attraction as the moon has with the tides.
2. Perryville, due to the major upheaval in Union leadership. Also this battle produced a commission to investigate and gather a huge load of intelligence data.
3. Gettysburg due to the magnificent knowledge shared by members here on this forum.
4. Ocean Pond, or Olustee because of it's character, cause and failure of it's political and tactical nature.
5. McClellan's Campaign on the Peninsula because I grew up in Newport News very close to the James River.
Lubliner.
 
Joined
Aug 7, 2019
As @Lubliner said, this is an excellent (and very entertaining) question.
From my French view, and considering the small amount of knowledge that I've acquired since I was twelve, I would mainly place the year 1862 on the top of my selection. As a teenager, the reading of the battles fought during that year really made me love the study of this conflict, with a large selection of new generals or events I enjoyed to discover :

1) Shiloh / Pittsburgh Landing (April 6-7, 1862)
- In my opinion, the outcome of Shiloh had perhaps the greatest impact on the southern strategy concerning the West. While previous actions (such as Fort Donelson or Pea Ridge) could have prevent such a confederate defeat, the battle itself can be considered as a turning point as it was the only chance for the Rebels to keep the initiative and check the Union advance into West Tennessee and Mississippi, at least delaying Grant's advance towards Vicksburg.

2) Seven Days, and particularly Mechanicsville, Gaines Mill, Glendale and Malvern Hill (June 25 - July 1, 1862)
- Because Lee fought McClellan with a (temporary) slight numerical advantage around the Chickahominy, the numbers involved in these battles are much larger than before. Many prominent commanders were present, both on Union and Confederate side : my favorite being Fitz-John Porter, whose overconfidence to contain the confederate assaults inflicted nonetheless terrible losses to the Army of Northern Virginia. Lee never commanded such a number of men again after the battles (from 100-90,000, the peak was reduced to 75-60,000 for the remaining of the conflict).

3) 2nd Bull Run / 2nd Manassas (August 28 - 30, 1862) + Northern Virginia Campaign (July 19 - September 1, 1862)
- This battle is a big mystery for me, as it was one of the first I learned about but one that I forgot to notice several times, when discussing about the Civil War with my friends, who are at worst "neophytes" and at best "amateurs". The misfortune of the Army of Virginia is nonetheless a good example of the confederate military superiority at that time, both tactically and strategically. Lee and his subordinates confronted a Union command torn by rivalry and dissensions, which acted without cohesion or coordinated efforts. I also think that the inaction of Porter may have turned the federal defeat into a major tactical blow instead of a complete destruction of Pope's command.

4) Antietam / Sharpsburg (September 17, 1862) + Maryland Campaign (September 4 - 20, 1862)
- The last major battle that McClellan conducted at the head of the Army of the Potomac. Because of its heterogenous components, the Union troops weren't used at their best but weren't as numerous as some can imagine : @67th Tigers and @Saphroneth have exposed this "number problem" in many other threads (with effectives, Present For Duty, Aggregate Present, etc.). Also the last battle of many officers and men, including Maj-Gens. Joseph K. F. Mansfield and Israel B. Richardson, this last commander being a top subordinate officer with the possibility to become an able corps leader later. Previously, at South Mountain - Boonsborough, Jesse Lee Reno had also been mortally wounded.

5) Stones River / Murfreesboro (December 31, 1862 - January 2, 1863)
- The first official battle between the Army of the Cumberland and the Army of Tennessee, which allowed the Union to keep control of Middle Tennessee. The absence of Bragg's Third Corps, under Kirby Smith, deprived the Confederates of available extra troops, which could have possibly give Bragg potential numerical superiority during the battle.
 
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LCYingling3rd

Private
Joined
Apr 25, 2021
That was a very good selection, and an excellent question.
1. First Bull Run, because of it's significance as being the initial major engagement. I am a Taurus, and some proclivity of magnetic attraction as the moon has with the tides.
2. Perryville, due to the major upheaval in Union leadership. Also this battle produced a commission to investigate and gather a huge load of intelligence data.
3. Gettysburg due to the magnificent knowledge shared by members here on this forum.
4. Ocean Pond, or Olustee because of it's character, cause and failure of it's political and tactical nature.
5. McClellan's Campaign on the Peninsula because I grew up in Newport News very close to the James River.
Lubliner.
Thank you for your response. Excellent choices and explanations. Interestingly, years ago I picked up a CDV of an unidentified Union officer at a local auction. Subsequent research showed that it was Col. Charles Fribley. He was originally a teacher from the Pennsylvania County where I live and he commanded the 8th USCT at Olustee. He was KIA during the dreadful fighting and his body has been lost to time and the sandy soils beneath the pines there.
 

LCYingling3rd

Private
Joined
Apr 25, 2021
As @Lubliner said, this is an excellent (and very entertaining) question.
From my French view, and considering the small amount of knowledge that I've acquired since I was twelve, I would mainly place the year 1862 on the top of my selection. As a teenager, the reading of the battles fought during that year really made me love the study of this conflict, with a large selection of new generals or events I enjoyed to discover :

1) Shiloh / Pittsburgh Landing (April 6-7, 1862)
- In my opinion, the outcome of Shiloh had perhaps the greatest impact on the southern strategy concerning the West. While previous actions (such as Fort Donelson or Pea Ridge) could have prevent such a confederate defeat, the battle itself can be considered as a turning point as it was the only chance for the Rebels to keep the initiative and check the Union advance into West Tennessee and Mississippi, at least delaying Grant's advance towards Vicksburg.

2) Seven Days, and particularly Mechanicsville, Gaines Mill, Glendale and Malvern Hill (June 25 - July 1, 1862)
- Because Lee fought McClellan with a (temporary) slight numerical advantage around the Chickahominy, the numbers involved in these battles are much larger than before. Many prominent commanders were present, both of Union and Confederate side : my favorite being Fitz-John Porter, whose overconfidence to contain the confederate assaults inflicted nonetheless terrible losses to the Army of Northern Virginia. Lee never commanded such a number of men again after the battles (from 100-90,000, the peak was reduced to 75-60,000 for the remaining of the conflict).

3) 2nd Bull Run / 2nd Manassas (August 28 - 30, 1862) + Northern Virginia Campaign (July 19 - September 1, 1862)
- This battle is a big mystery for me, as it was one of the first I learned about but one that I forgot to notice several times, when discussing about the Civil War with my friends, who are at worst "neophytes" and at best "amateurs". The misfortune of the Army of Virginia is nonetheless a good example of the confederate military superiority at that time, both tactically and strategically. Lee and his subordinates confronted a Union command torn by rivalry and dissensions, which acted without cohesion or coordinated efforts. I also think that the inaction of Porter may have turned the federal defeat into a major tactical blow instead of a complete destruction of Pope's command.

4) Antietam / Sharpsburg (September 17, 1862) + Maryland Campaign (September 4 - 20, 1862)
- The last major battle that McClellan conducted at the head of the Army of the Potomac. Because of its heterogenous components, the Union troops weren't used at their best but weren't as numerous as some can imagine : @67th Tigers and @Saphroneth have exosed this "number problem" in many other threads (with effectives, Present For Duty, Aggregate Present, etc.). Also the last battle of many officers and men, including Maj-Gens. Joseph K. F. Mansfield and Israel B. Richardson, this last commander being a top subordinate officer with the possibility to become an able corps leader later. Previously, at South Mountain - Boonsborough, Jesse Lee Reno had also been mortally wounded.

5) Stones River / Murfreesboro (December 31, 1862 - January 2, 1863)
- The first official battle between the Army of the Cumberland and the Army of Tennessee, which allowed the Union to keep control of Middle Tennessee. The absence of Bragg's Third Corps, under Kirby Smith, deprived the Confederates of available extra troops, which could have possibly give Bragg potential numerical superiority during the battle.
Thank you for your response and extremely astute, thought provoking explanations. I have an ancestor from the 2nd VA Infantry that was mortally wounded in action at 2nd Manassas. And my late wife's ancestor in the 7th PA Reserves survived not only the Seven Days, but also the Miller Cornfield at Antietam.
 

Joshism

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Joined
Apr 30, 2012
Location
Jupiter, FL
Hmmmm. This is a hard one for me to answer. There are many battlefields I have visited, but none extensively and/or repeatedly. There aren't any I have an ancestor connection to nor that I have read about more extensively than others. I have more of a broad interest in the war.

Gettysburg is my top pick. Not because it's famous or the turning point of the war. Rather, it's a large multiday battle over a wide area with lots of questions and details and what-ifs. The campaign as a whole is pretty interesting too. The TNT movie also helped spark my interest in the war.

After that probably Shiloh. It's the one on which I have probably read the most books, albeit not deliberately. A large area with a lot to discuss.

I'm reading Jeffrey William Hunt's series on Meade and Lee for the latter half of 1863 because I've long been really curious about the period.

As time goes by I've been less interested in tactical narratives, especially at the regimental level, and more interested in larger issues: leadership, logistics, strategy, maneuvering. All the factors and decisions that dictated when, where, why, and how the battles were or weren't fought. For many campaigns I find an afternoon of charges and countercharges far less interesting than the week or month that lead to that slugfest. It also fits better with my tendency to read wide rather than deep.
 

LCYingling3rd

Private
Joined
Apr 25, 2021
Hmmmm. This is a hard one for me to answer. There are many battlefields I have visited, but none extensively and/or repeatedly. There aren't any I have an ancestor connection to nor that I have read about more extensively than others. I have more of a broad interest in the war.

Gettysburg is my top pick. Not because it's famous or the turning point of the war. Rather, it's a large multiday battle over a wide area with lots of questions and details and what-ifs. The campaign as a whole is pretty interesting too. The TNT movie also helped spark my interest in the war.

After that probably Shiloh. It's the one on which I have probably read the most books, albeit not deliberately. A large area with a lot to discuss.

I'm reading Jeffrey William Hunt's series on Meade and Lee for the latter half of 1863 because I've long been really curious about the period.

As time goes by I've been less interested in tactical narratives, especially at the regimental level, and more interested in larger issues: leadership, logistics, strategy, maneuvering. All the factors and decisions that dictated when, where, why, and how the battles were or weren't fought. For many campaigns I find an afternoon of charges and countercharges far less interesting than the week or month that lead to that slugfest. It also fits better with my tendency to read wide rather than deep.
Thank you for your response. I appreciate your perspective. When I take friends and family on battlefield tours some people want to know where specific units or even individuals fought, however, I find that many are not interested in the minute details but do want to grasp the bigger picture. I really like that about the study of history, especially the Civil War; there are so many ways to approach it. One person may want to know what individual soldiers carried, what was in their haversacks, or what they wore, another may only be interested in political ramifications. I think it is wonderful to see how there is a wide spectrum of interests.
 

Cavalier

First Sergeant
Joined
Jul 20, 2019
My picks involve kinds of combat or my favorite characters or both.

Gettysburg: All of the three arms involved, lots of great characters.
Brandy Station: Cavalry vs. Cavalry and Cavalry vs. Artillery. Stuart
3rd. Winchester: Cavalry vs. Infantry.
Antietam: General Richardson and General Sumner, 2 Corps.
Seven Days: Sumner, Richardson, Hancock, Kearney, and Hooker.

Difficult choices to make though. Like a kid in a toy store. Hated to leave out Minty.

John
 

Pat Answer

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Location
“...somewhere between NY and PA”
Like @Joshism I am more interested in how campaigns influenced and determined the course of the war as a whole. But I remain fascinated, appalled, and awed by the chaos, carnage, and courage of the major slugfests - not least because these tend to make excellent battle game topics. Since I have to pick five I'll go with Shiloh, Antietam, Murfreesboro, Gettysburg, & Chickamauga but basically if David Greenspan covered it in a map painting for American Heritage (smile if you know my reference :D) I will gladly read up on it.
 

NedBaldwin

Major
Joined
Feb 19, 2011
Location
California
1. Chattanooga. So much drama. Im obsessed with the action around Tunnel Hill and believe that most people get it wrong. I have half written essays on it.

2. Shiloh. Still trying to make sense of it

3. Antietam. I visited it about 25 years ago and stood by the sunken road on a foggy morning. He a booger effect on me than any other battlefield I have visited.

4. Irish Bend. A small, obscure battle but I find it one of the most thrilling

5... still thinking ... several I wish I knew more about like Prairie Grove and the battles around Petersburg
 

Rebelsoul

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Location
Alabamian living in Montana
Gettysburg, Sharpsburg, Monocacy because because I lived very close to all three and Spotsylvania ! The drama and intensity of these battles was incredible especially Spotsylvania. What those men went through at the last one was totally mind blowing ! Oh, almost forgot my very favorite one, South mountain cuz I lived on Reno monument rd just down from Fox's gap for about 5 years. Very spooky place in the evening twilight !
 
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CSA Today

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Dec 3, 2011
Location
Laurinburg NC
That was a very good selection, and an excellent question.
1. First Bull Run, because of it's significance as being the initial major engagement. I am a Taurus, and some proclivity of magnetic attraction as the moon has with the tides.
2. Perryville, due to the major upheaval in Union leadership. Also this battle produced a commission to investigate and gather a huge load of intelligence data.
3. Gettysburg due to the magnificent knowledge shared by members here on this forum.
4. Ocean Pond, or Olustee because of it's character, cause and failure of it's political and tactical nature.
5. McClellan's Campaign on the Peninsula because I grew up in Newport News very close to the James River.
Lubliner.
I've always been interested in the Battle of Olustee, as a little fellow many years ago I knew an old lady who had as a young girl witnessed part of the battle fought in the fields and woods around her house. The stories Mrs. Gibson told.
 

29thWisCoG

Private
Joined
Apr 12, 2021
First three because my gg-grandfather fought in them as part of the 13th Corps:

[1] Champion Hill, some say the most decisive battle to determine the outcome of the war, a very bloody battle with casualties rates among the highest in the entire war

[2] Siege of Vicksburg, and how the Union had to use ancient siege warfare tactics to prevail

[3] Magnolia Church, first real battle by ancestor was tested in, short but feisty battle to kickoff the fighting at Vicksburg

[4] Gettysburg, I know not original but the battle fascinates me on Lee's determination to see it through

[5] Antietam, I'm a Gn. TJ Jackson fan and the politics of it all from Lee's perspective on why he invaded the first time
 

James N.

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1. Gettysburg - Like everyone else here and well before the movie - The subject of the very first Civil War book I ever received, 'way back in 1956!

2. Shiloh - The very first CW battlefield I ever visited (1958), and one for which I've had a "soft spot" ever since.

3. Antietam - Ever since reading about it and Little Mac in Bruce Catton's Mr. Lincoln's Army back in Jr. High School ca.1960.

4. Chancellorsville - Ultimate victory of my favorite CW "character" Stonewall Jackson.

5. Little Big Horn - Obviously not CW strictly speaking but the ultimate battle of another of my perennial favorites, George Custer!

In all of these I've thought back to long-time favorites, not necessarily those studied more recently and thoughtfully.
 
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