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

Lubliner

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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?
That veil of trees and patches of clearing in places like Chickamauga are telling a story of their own. The difficulty of moving through these woodlands and undergrowth give me a sense of guerilla warfare, tree to tree sniping, clouds of smoke so dense nothing can be seen 25 feet to the fore. Looking at the wilderness, imagine that lonely dirt road leading through an almost impenetrable underbrush with scraggly trees, triproots, and sudden lowlying spots of water. The back on that lonely road you have blue uniforms of compact soldiery shoulder to shoulder across that clearing trying to move and advance. Gettysburg has it high ground, low ground, rocks and rills, streams and creeks, as well as thick woodland and sparsely planted trees. It is these scenes and sounds that give us visions and dreams.
Lubliner.
 

Jamieva

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1. Chancellorsville. So many ways this one can turn for either side multiple times, with eventually an army outnumbered 2 to 1 pushes the bigger one all way across the Rappahannock. The apex moment of the Lee/Jackson team. Hooker with a great overall strategy but it just falls apart due to multiple turning points.

2. Spotsylvania. This is terrible to say but for the pure brutality. Nothing before or after in the war matches Spotsylvania and specifically the 24 hour Mule Shoe fight. The first hand accounts just make you sick at times and wonder how someone could keep going in the midst of that.

3. Not 1 battle but the Bermuda Hundred campaign. it is where I grew up. If Butler acts more decisively could he have taken Petersburg or Richmond a year before they actually fell. Could he have prompted Lee to have to run back to Richmond sooner and not fight Grant the entire way. What if someone competent had been in Butler's spot. Also have to admire the work Beauregard did in this campaign, it was his finest work of the war.

4. Chickamauga. Mostly because i have a hard time following it. The battle is so big and being a eastern theater person, I am much less familiar with the forces engaged. Even in victory you still can see all the fractures of the AoT.

5. Again not one battle but the 1862 Valley Campaign. A masterpiece. Just to sit back and fully appreciate what Jackson accomplishes. He does it throughout with being so secretive even with his highest subordinates and he tried to resign right before the campaign really gets going. Talk about a true what if moment.
 

Lubliner

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1. Chancellorsville. So many ways this one can turn for either side multiple times, with eventually an army outnumbered 2 to 1 pushes the bigger one all way across the Rappahannock. The apex moment of the Lee/Jackson team. Hooker with a great overall strategy but it just falls apart due to multiple turning points.

2. Spotsylvania. This is terrible to say but for the pure brutality. Nothing before or after in the war matches Spotsylvania and specifically the 24 hour Mule Shoe fight. The first hand accounts just make you sick at times and wonder how someone could keep going in the midst of that.

3. Not 1 battle but the Bermuda Hundred campaign. it is where I grew up. If Butler acts more decisively could he have taken Petersburg or Richmond a year before they actually fell. Could he have prompted Lee to have to run back to Richmond sooner and not fight Grant the entire way. What if someone competent had been in Butler's spot. Also have to admire the work Beauregard did in this campaign, it was his finest work of the war.

4. Chickamauga. Mostly because i have a hard time following it. The battle is so big and being a eastern theater person, I am much less familiar with the forces engaged. Even in victory you still can see all the fractures of the AoT.

5. Again not one battle but the 1862 Valley Campaign. A masterpiece. Just to sit back and fully appreciate what Jackson accomplishes. He does it throughout with being so secretive even with his highest subordinates and he tried to resign right before the campaign really gets going. Talk about a true what if moment.
I still believe General Gilmore was the crooked stick in command at Bermuda Hundred that proved Butler's plans a failure.
Lubliner.
 
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1. Chancellorsville. So many ways this one can turn for either side multiple times, with eventually an army outnumbered 2 to 1 pushes the bigger one all way across the Rappahannock. The apex moment of the Lee/Jackson team. Hooker with a great overall strategy but it just falls apart due to multiple turning points.

2. Spotsylvania. This is terrible to say but for the pure brutality. Nothing before or after in the war matches Spotsylvania and specifically the 24 hour Mule Shoe fight. The first hand accounts just make you sick at times and wonder how someone could keep going in the midst of that.

3. Not 1 battle but the Bermuda Hundred campaign. it is where I grew up. If Butler acts more decisively could he have taken Petersburg or Richmond a year before they actually fell. Could he have prompted Lee to have to run back to Richmond sooner and not fight Grant the entire way. What if someone competent had been in Butler's spot. Also have to admire the work Beauregard did in this campaign, it was his finest work of the war.

4. Chickamauga. Mostly because i have a hard time following it. The battle is so big and being a eastern theater person, I am much less familiar with the forces engaged. Even in victory you still can see all the fractures of the AoT.

5. Again not one battle but the 1862 Valley Campaign. A masterpiece. Just to sit back and fully appreciate what Jackson accomplishes. He does it throughout with being so secretive even with his highest subordinates and he tried to resign right before the campaign really gets going. Talk about a true what if moment.
Unlike many of the Eastern battles Chickamauga as well as Shiloh are hard to follow. 50 years ago I read what was touted as the finest account of Shiloh, yet I could not picture the battle looking at the maps. Years later when I visited the field it was hard to keep a cohesive picture in my mind of events even looking at the maps. The eastern battlefields are all much easier to envision because of their compactness.
 

James N.

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If were going Napoleonic:
Wagram
Aspern-Essling
Eylau
Borodino
Austerlitz

I usually avoid the Penninsula too.

John
I don't care as much for most of those - except for the last one they don't exactly show the Emperor at his best!
 

James N.

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Unlike many of the Eastern battles Chickamauga as well as Shiloh are hard to follow. 50 years ago I read what was touted as the finest account of Shiloh, yet I could not picture the battle looking at the maps. Years later when I visited the field it was hard to keep a cohesive picture in my mind of events even looking at the maps. The eastern battlefields are all much easier to envision because of their compactness.
This *might* (should) help; I've since also read O. E. Cunningham's Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862 and it's very good as well:

https://civilwartalk.com/threads/sh...anged-the-civil-war-by-larry-j-daniel.144272/
 

Dave Hull

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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!)
I would like to do that (the Peninsular) as a walking or horseback tour, as much for the scenery as the campaign. Double treat to see some of the sites of some of Rodrigo Díaz's most important battles (El Cid)
 
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1. Perryville - because no one has correctly related the battle as it happened yet.
2. Nashville - because so much happened in the two weeks preceding and two days of.
3. Franklin - because there was never a more desperate battle
4. Spring Hill - because it was the cause of Franklin
5. Battle of Atlanta - because it has been so underexplained.
 

Cycom

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1. Fredericksburg - the first CW battle that really intrigued me. What fascinated me was the decision by Burnside to send wave after wave of men to be slaughtered at the Heights.

2. The recapture of Galveston - One word: devious. Captured the port back for the Confederacy with an impromptu navy and minimal casualties.

3. Capture of New Orleans & Memphis - Texbook use of overwhelming force. Yes, I know both are separate, but they are also similar. Union captured both with almost nonexistent casualties.

4. 2nd Manassas - Because the first one didn’t go poorly enough for the Federals, here was round two. Wouldn’t you know, it went even worse for them. A big lesson for the North, one of many until the war machine kicked into high gear.

5. Battles of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson - Big wins for the Union, opening up the Cumberland to them. Grant became a big name here.

These are the battles I’ve studied so far. I’m sure I will have different favorites as I keep reading the narrative of the Civil War.
 

gjpratt

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Cycom

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1. Fredericksburg - the first CW battle that really intrigued me. What fascinated me was the decision by Burnside to send wave after wave of men to be slaughtered at the Heights.

2. The recapture of Galveston - One word: devious. Captured the port back for the Confederacy with an impromptu navy and minimal casualties.

3. Capture of New Orleans & Memphis - Texbook use of overwhelming force. Yes, I know both are separate, but they are also similar. Union captured both with almost nonexistent casualties.

4. 2nd Manassas - Because the first one didn’t go poorly enough for the Federals, here was round two. Wouldn’t you know, it went even worse for them. A big lesson for the North, one of many until the war machine kicked into high gear.

5. Battles of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson - Big wins for the Union, opening up the Cumberland to them. Grant became a big name here.

These are the battles I’ve studied so far. I’m sure I will have different favorites as I keep reading the narrative of the Civil War.
Fredericksburg was one of the first CW battlefields I visited. Since the field itself has been developed it is hard to see the battle as a whole. But once I found a position where I could see Lee's defensive position on Marye's Hill AND simultaneously see the slant of the hill where the Union attacks took place, I almost fainted I gasped so strongly. Superman, Batman and the Hulk could not have taken that position.
 

jstarnes

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Yes, five is really, really difficult. I find them all very interesting over my 30 years of touring.

Not in any particular order of importance to me:

1. Shiloh - almost every major leader in the west and some from the east were there and the battlefield is just like it was in April, 1862, out away from urban sprawl.

2. Franklin - last desperate charge of the war in the west. A much more participated frontal assault than Pickett's charge. 20,000 versus 8,000. There is a major ongoing reclamation project (BOFT.org) in Franklin. So much had been lost. Six generals from the South perished including Cleburne and Granbury. Both of these generals were buried for years in Tennessee until they were reinterred in Helena, Ar. and Granbury, Tx. General Granbury was kept in a bank vault at the Fort Worth National Bank by his former officer and then bank president, K.M. Van Zandt for a few days until a funeral could be planned. Then, a 30 mile train trip to a town renamed in his honor and reinterred where thousands attended. It is now a beautiful city and county seat of ironically, Hood county. The city of Cleburne is just 30 miles away. Texans are very proud of their confederate heroes. 41 towns and 36 counties and many schools are named after their heroes. Thousands of CW veterans are buried in Texas.

3. Grand Gulf, Port Gibson, Raymond, Jackson, Champion Hill, Vicksburg campaign. As a result, V'burg was then cut off from troops and supplies from Texas and the west. And, perhaps the largest wide scale suffering of civilians in the war. Mississippians are still not completely over it!

4. Sharpsburg - The war could have - would have - should have been over right there in September, 1862. Instead, lasted almost three more years. A hesitant McClellan and a defiant Lee. I visited only once in 1997 but I still get get fired up when studying about the cornfield and the 1st Texas and Hood's Texas Brigade. Maybe the bravest and most significant charge of the war against an entire division with 83% casualties that saved General Lee's army. Yes, the Georgians holding off an entire division at Burnside's bridge was also significant, but the Texas Brigade plugged a major gap in the line that surely would have destroyed the ANV. A.P. Hill's timely arrival gets honorable mention and likely contributed to McClellan's hesitancy to resume battle the next day.

5. Gettysburg - every list should include the granddaddy of them all. So much to see in three day epic battle. General Lee never again attempted an offensive. I will never understand why Lee charged the middle of the line on day three. But, he and Jeff Davis kept them in it for another two years. The overwhelming odds of the North against the South has been compared to the U.S. coalition against Iraq in the Gulf War. It was thought to have been a casual stroll to Virginia for a one day battle. The D.C. crowd took wagons filled with food and wine because they thought it was going to be like watching a large croquet match. Strolled out to the match but raced back in terror!!

As was prevalent throughout the war, the north constantly underestimated the south's resolve much like the British.
 

Rank and File

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All of the battles of the Peninsula Campaign. Gaines Mill and Malvern Hill especially. To me, the War should have ended right then if McClellan had not chickened out, and thousands of casualties would have been averted. The topography of the area (swamps, creeks) made troop movement almost impossible, and created confusion on both sides. Plus, Johnston's wounding enabled Lee to take over and the War went on for almost 3 more years.
 
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