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


2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
May 4, 2015
Boonville, MO.
This is easy, at lease for the first 4 as they all happened locally.

1. First Battle of Boonville, Mo-- June 1861. The Feds vs the MO State Guard. The first battle fought in MO and though small in nature by latter standards, but the outcome of the battle had a huge effect on the state.

2. Second Battle of Boonville, Mo-- Sept 1861. The (Fed.) Home Guard against the MO State Guard. The battle was fought about 500 yards from my house and perhaps was the first time where a slave took up arms in the C.W. to fight his former master.

3.Third Battle of Boonville, Mo--Oct. 1863. This was part of Shelby's raid in MO. and cemented his reputation as a cavalry leader. probably the most famous picture taken of Shelby (seated) was taken in Boonville.

4. Forth Battle of Boonville, Mo--Oct. 1864. The action was part of Price's raid in MO. and decimated the area around the town. Price stayed 3 days here while the Union forces were gathering around him. Price met with Quantrill, Anderson, and Todd here directing them to disrupt Union rail lines.

5. Any action that involved MO guerillas, especially Quantrill, and preferable that it happened in Central MO, such as the battle of Fayette, Centralia Massacre, the fight at Rawlins's Lane, etc. I'm very much fascinated by the guerrillas and their motivations for fighting and their family connections to each other.


Feb 19, 2011
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
I should never type while half asleep. Embarrassing typos 🤦🏻‍♂️


First Sergeant
May 29, 2019
Dublin, Ireland
My favourites to read up on and in no particular chronological order.

1: Gettysburg: As previously said the movie got me interested in the subject as well. I keep on finding new information that keeps you hooked.

2: Petersburg. The type of warfare at Petersburg and the entrenchments are fascinating.

3: Atlanta. It would the campaign as much as the actual battle I get engrossed in. The attitude Sherman shows to war is a bit bit like something from an ancient Roman general.

4: Vicksburg: Again it would the campaign as much as the battle. It was a vital victory for the union, that to a certain degree gets overlooked due to the fact its at the same time as Gettysburg.

5: Franklin: It would be influenced by General Hood and Cleburne. The death of Cleburne of course as he was the highest ranked Irishman in the CSA. Then Hood ,was the campaign a hail Mary, did he have something to prove without his leg and arm.

Andy Cardinal

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Feb 27, 2017
I enjoy reading and studying about all the battles honestly, but there's only so much time....

1. Antietam. I've been reading pretty intensively about Antietam for a couple of years, and the more I read the more I want to know. One of my favorite battlefields to visit. The stories of the men who fought there, what they saw and experienced fascinate me.

2. Gettysburg. Family tradition to visit at least once a year. So many story lines there and I always discover something new.

3. Shiloh. I've always been interested in this battle and will someday figure it out, I hope.

4. Chickamauga. I'd like to figure this one out too, at least somewhat.

5. There are several candidates here, but if I have to choose I'd pick Chancellorsville. One the one hand, maybe Lee's greatest victory; one the other hand, perhaps his most improbable victory.

Georgia Sixth

Sergeant Major
Dec 14, 2011
No. 1, hands down, is Shiloh. An intense microcosm of the entire war. The audacity of the confederates that came so close. The clear-headed grit of Grant. And the intensity of the combat and appalling casualties. Just simply copy and repeat a few times and you have the entire war. Maybe more than any other battle, this one also has so many "what ifs" that really make me pause and wonder.

No. 2, Pea Ridge. The one time an army actually, literally got completely in the rear of the other army, cut off the line of supply, yet still lost. Add the Native American troops, the CSA's continued horrid luck with key officers getting killed in battle (see battle above) and Sigel's troops who spoke Deutsch. All in a region more appropriate for Indian wars than the civil war.

No. 3, Atlanta. The battle of July 22. Hood had a terrific plan, which he rarely gets props for, that, but for a Union brigade that was where it wasn't supposed to be, probably would have worked. Really, this was the last good battle the Army of Tennessee fought. Everything afterwards was futile desperation. Had it worked, it's doubtful Atlanta would have fallen before the 1864 election and Lincoln might well have been voted out of office.

No. 4, Spotsylvania. I can barely bring myself to read about this battle. This was an absolute nightmare of hell. The carnage and the brutality obliterate the imagination. How soldiers on both sides continued after this honestly puzzles me. It seems the armies should have both quickly melted away from desertions. How generals could order their men into assaults after this confounds me. Something inside these human beings must have died to continue to war against each other after this.

And that gloomy observation sets up No. 5, Bentonville. Surely there wasn't a man in either army who realized the war's outcome was already set and that further death and destruction would not, could not, alter that eventuality. Yet they fought a two-day stand up battle. Plenty of bravery on both sides. And plenty of blood, guts and fresh graves the morning after. And all for....?


Oct 20, 2016
I have visited and studied most of the eastern theater battles. Being a native Virginian who's ancestors fought in Virginia regiments and living in close proximity to so many battlefields, I like several of them and don't really have any particular favorites.

Gettysburg is a cool place and I really enjoyed my visit there. It looks exactly how I envisioned it after having read so many different accounts of the battle from multiple perspectives. The position of the union lines offered excellent defensive positions and it would have taken a miracle to successfully carried those lines. Seeing the open ground that had to be crossed during Pickett's charge led me to believe that they were sent to do the impossible.

Sharpsburg is wonderfully preserved IMO. Such a neat place because much of the battlefield has been kept just the way it was in 1862. You can feel the carnage when you walk around that place.

Spotsylvania is similarly preserved and is a wonderful place to visit. The day I visited the salient or Mule Shoe, I was the only person there and I saw a wild turkey feeding along right in front of the CS lines. One of my GGGradfathers served in the 4th VA Inf, Stonewall Brigade and most of his regiment was captured in the initial assault of the Mule Shoe where some of the most horrific close range fighting of the war took place.

1st Manassas is one of my favorites being the first large scale battle of the war. Many of my ancestors were there and this is where my favorite general earned his name and Mighty Stonewall has an imposing statue of sitting on his horse overlooking the field. I remember standing beside the statue looking across the field and could almost see and feel the what happened over 150 years before. I have never before or since had that feeling of being able to visualize history coming alive before my eyes.

Petersburg would be an obvious choice because it was so different than the other battlefields with all the trenchworks plus it is only about 30 miles from my home. Visiting the site of the Crater is fascinating although there isn't much of a crater left after so many years have passed by. This is where my hometown hero, General Mahone of Southampton county, VA, saved the day for the southern army and turned back the federals as they poured into and around the site of the blast.

Lastly, I would pick Saltville because it is just down the road from my family farm in SW VA. The first battle of Saltville was a CS victory as a rag tag group of CS forces beat back a larger union army led by the hated Burbridge.

There are so many places in Virginia to visit and I have been to most of them over the years. The battlefields in the Valley are worth a visit as are other places like Cold Harbor, Malvern Hill, Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg and countless others.


Jul 24, 2016
Really great question!

My relative, Sanford Barnes, served in the 41st Ohio Volunteer Infantry from 1861-1865, achieving the rank of corporal.
Consequently, I have a special interest in any battles the 41st was engaged in. Two individuals that are fairly well known from the 41st are the initial commander, William B. Hazen, and Emerson Opdycke a lieutenant in the unit before later commanding the 125th Ohio.

Consequently any of the Western campaigns and battles the 41st was engaged in are of special interest to me and would more than complete the list of five with many, many more that could be listed.

1. Shiloh - 41st OVI fought here on day 2; also a beautifully preserved national park; walking the ground promotes a desire to
learn more. Controversial battle on so many levels. Several excellent books to increase knowledge.

2. Murfreesboro - 41st OVI fought in the infamous 'round woods'. Walking the grounds most helpful in understanding and
promoting a desire to learn more. A few books to increase knowledge.

3. Chickamauga - 41st OVI fought here; also a beautifully preserved national park; walking the ground promotes a desire to learn
more. Several excellent books to increase knowledge.

4. Antietam - Controversial in many aspects. A beautifully preserved national park; walking the grounds is so beneficial to
understanding how important terrain was here. Many excellent books to increase knowledge.

5. Gettysburg - Closest battlefield to my original home in Ohio so visited several times. A beautifully preserved national park;
walking the grounds very helpful and promotes a desire to know more. Controversy abounds. A veritable mountain
of books to increase knowledge.


Lt. Colonel
Feb 23, 2010
My usual answer to this particular question has been, The Seven Days, for setting the course of the War in the East(Va.). Chancellorsville, it delayed Lees invasion of Pa and disrupted his plan to reorganize the ANV and increased Lees confidence in the ANV to a dangerous degree. Gettysburg and Vicksburg, I usually join a, in the East and the West. Chickamauga, it Brought Sherman and Grant to the commands that would win the War, and, of course, the Wilderness it was the beginning of the end of Lee, the ANV and the War.

P.S. the small battles in Mo. at the very beginnings of the War, are interesting to me, as they secured the Western lynchpin of Lincolns Border State Line, from which the war could be more successfully prosecuted.

James N.

Forum Host
Annual Winner
Featured Book Reviewer
Feb 23, 2013
East Texas
When I posted my original response to the question I was a bit pressed for time, so didn't bother to wax philosophic. I believe the entire concept of favorite battles, like that of favorite performers, sports stars, foods, vacation spots, movies, songs, etc., etc. is a pretty juvenile one, so I naturally tended to think back to my own youth, bolstered by favorable first impressions like those I indicated and that others here have done much the same in so often referencing the movie Gettysburg. I have by now over the past half-century and more read so much about the war and its battles and leaders that I don't know if I truly have "favorites." The ones listed will always command my interest and respect, however, possibly out of a sense of familiarity and personal nostalgia.


Jul 21, 2013
1. Gettysburg: I have visited 3 times and I’m happy to go back when ever I get the chance. Love early morning walks across parts of the battlefield. I’m keen to see Culps Hill now the undergrowth and trees have been cleared to reveal the landscape as it was in 1863.

2. Anywhere connected with the Atlanta Campaign.

3. Shilo: beautifully restored battle field and usually very quiet. A remarkably peaceful place.

4. Franklin: A privately restored battlefield that deserves your support if you are in the area. Such a crushing battle that finally destroyed John Bell Hood’s career and a Confederate army.

5: Vicksburg: Not just the city itself but also those battlefields around the area that led up to the siege. More privately preserved fields as well as the NPS site. Another place for lovely early morning walks.


1st Lieutenant
Apr 6, 2011
Pittsburgh, Pa.
In no particular order:
Gettysburg: because it is several battles in one; it is close to me (3 1/2 hour drive), it covers a large area with several different types of fighting involved (field, woods, town, artillery, cavalry, infantry).
Antietam: again proximity helps as I can get there a few times a year; the battlefield is relatively unscathed from the time of the battle so it is easier to picture in the mind the battle playing out before you; and because for the most part, it is a very uncrowded battlefield, there aren't busses full of kids climbing on monuments, traffic jams, etc.
I count the next four as one as they are very close to each other:
There was a great series in Blue and Gray Magazine a while back that covered so much of the battle, that it was actually fun to study, while much of the battlefield has been lost to development, there was enough still in place to appreciate it all, plus the second battle of Federicksburg ties into Chancellorsville
Chancellorsville: a relatively small battle but one of great importance to further developments in the war; except for the highway bisecting it it is in pretty decent shape; if you're motivated you can travel the route of Jackson's Flank March as well.
The Wilderness: An unspoiled battlefield; original earthworks still visible; and with a little imagination you can picture just how thick the woods were, or even the carnage at Saunder's Field; it also leads directly to Spotsylvania
Spotsylvania: Mostly unspoiled and well kept; original earthworks; walking Upton's Charge you can imagine the assault on the Muleshoe Salient and what they went through; from the Confederate position at The Bloody Angle, you can put yourself in the the position of the men who defended that trench, imagining the carnage as the fighting devolved to hand to hand combat.

And since I kind of already cheated:
The Seven Day's Battles;
in particular Gaines Mill and Malvern Hill. Gaines Mill is fairly compact and is easy to take in; Malvern Hill you can put yourself in the position of either the Union or Confederates and visualize the battle clearly unfolding before you, also the approach on the Union Artillery chosen by Lee, is similar to what happened a year later at Gettysburg with Pickett's Charge.

Dave Hull

Sergeant Major
Jul 28, 2011
Northern Virginia
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.
Little Big Horn is one of the most desolete battlefields I have visited. Would have been a lonely place to die and standing on the ground shows why the Cav troopers were unaware of the placement of the Indian forces. Literally 10-15' away from any spot, a grown man could vanish in the sage.
Jun 27, 2017
It is not often that you put your foot in your mouth and chew much less twice in one day. G'burg did that to me.

On my first trip to G'burg I was wandering around on my own and saw a Park Ranger and asked him where the Peach Orchard was? He responded you're standing in the middle of it. He gestured to all the trees around me and said these are peach trees and visitors often pick peaches from them in season. I was flaberasted given that I was from Ga and almost every year we are on alert in the early spring that cold weather might destroy this years peach crop. I had assumed that way up north in Penn they would not have real peach trees. There must be some other reason for for giving it the name.

On the same visit, I took the bus tour on the first day. On day two I rode around in my car to different places. ON the last day I decide to get up early enough to take the bus tour again at 8AM before I left to go home. When we got on the bus it was me, a newly married couple (and it was obvious that the husband had dragged his bride with him.), the guide and me. As a result we got the $1.98 tour not the $.50 tour. When we got to almost the end on Cemetery Ridge and the guide was discussing Pickett's charge. I kept noticing an area a short distance away, a rectangle of bare earth about 5' by 10', with posts at the corners, and tape preventing access to the bare dirt. Finally I asked the guide what the @%[email protected]#$#@$% was that rectangle. He grinned and shook his head in dismay...asking me how I, a true son of the South could ask such a stupid question. When I looked back in total incomprehension. He said that that was the high water mark of the Confederacy. That that was where Gen Lew Armistead fell mortally wounded. His body marked the highwater mark of Pickett's charge and also the Confederacy's greatest advance against the Union. I asked him back what does that have to do with a rectangle of absolutely bare dirt inside the rectangle? He grinned and said that they had to periodically resod the grass because all the southern visitory would pluck blades of grass to take home as a souvenir of their visit.
Jun 27, 2017
I of course love G'burg and Antietam because they are so isolated that you can essentially see the battlefield as a whole, as it was during the war. Unlike Chickamauga, Shiloh, and Stones River which to me are fascinating but are difficult to envision because they are so spread out that it is difficult to envision what your are looking at and reconciling it with a map in a book.

But if I could spend months going over a battlefield, I'd like to study Chancellorsville (and by extension The Wilderness). I would really like to go over Jackson's famous flank march and attack and discuss with the experts the possible consequences of making his famous attack in column instead of line. Also at the Wilderness what would have been the effect of Lee ordering his cavalry to deliberately move to the area between the Orange Plank Rd and the Orange Turnpike and also west of the Orange Turnpike deliberately setting the woods on fire. Could fire do what the ANV could not--destroy the AoP?

James N.

Forum Host
Annual Winner
Featured Book Reviewer
Feb 23, 2013
East Texas
Taking the literal approach
1-The Peninsula War in Spain and Portugal
2-Battle of Thermopylae
5-Battles of Gergovia and Alesia-Caesar vs Vercingetorix
Had I taken your approach there would've been several other possibilities for me as well: Austerlitz, Jena, Friedland, Borodino, and
Waterloo for example. (Not too fond of the Peninsular War though - it's too Wellington-centric to suit me!)

Rio Bravo

First Sergeant
Oct 6, 2013
Suffolk, U.K.
1. 1st Bull Run- To see how close the CSA were to capturing Washington & the reason they failed.
2. Antietam - To actually see the contours of the battlefield & understand how it affected the outcome.
3. Gettysburg - To climb LRT & Culp’s Hill & view the battleground from the high ground.” If Practicable”
4. Franklin - To Take in the whole panarama of those 5 Tragic Hours.
5. Spotsylvania - To feel the utter desperation of this costly battle, & the crazy idea of defending the Mule Shoe Salient.