Discussion Unit placements for Civil War battlefields.

bankerpapaw

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My wife and I were at Chickamauga battlefield the other day. She posed a question that I've never thought about before about unit markers. She asked how did they know where to put the markers? I've been in combat and it can be extremely confusing and scary. With all the confusion, smoke and destruction, how did veterans of a battle remember what section of the woods they had been in. Especially a forested battlefield like Chickamauga. Or the exact spot where General so-and-so get killed?
 

Taylin

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Veterans would come back to these grounds years later to mark out where they were. Even if every unit didn't do this, if enough of them did we could use After Battle Reports and other documents that typically reference the placement of one's regiment in relation to another.

In the case of Chickamauga, as in the case for all of the first 5 National Military Parks, there were plenty of veterans alive to pull from so that the Parks could have accurate placements of markers and monuments. In fact, a great deal but certainly not all of the monuments were paid for and placed by the veterans themselves.

In terms of how they could remember their semi-exact placement in the middle of furious combat in the dense woods of Chickamauga, there were and are a number of fields, slopes, hills and roads on the Chickamauga Battlefield that would be used as reference.

I was at a marker for the 38th Indiana at Chickamauga where they had engaged in combat in the early morning, sat at the Northwestern corner of Winfrey field. I had with me a book on the regiment, reading quotes from men who were in the same spot as I was, describing the same field I was in, etc., etc.
 
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Lubliner

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Where the unit was launched from would be easier to remember than where it ended, maybe. But between those two points is the height of the battle. Some of those things such as the first and last spot might be difficult to forget.
Lubliner.
 

speedylee

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My wife and I were at Chickamauga battlefield the other day. She posed a question that I've never thought about before about unit markers. She asked how did they know where to put the markers? I've been in combat and it can be extremely confusing and scary. With all the confusion, smoke and destruction, how did veterans of a battle remember what section of the woods they had been in. Especially a forested battlefield like Chickamauga. Or the exact spot where General so-and-so get killed?
At Chickamauga, veterans of both sides were invited to the area and participated in the discussions about which outfits were where. Some areas were easier to determine than others because a farm house or other obvious landmark made it easier. The areas that are forested have denser tree stands now than they did during the era when the battle took place and the battle felled trees as well. It was easier to see back when the park was under development. Even so, there is some disagreement now about the placement of a small number of regimental markers at Chickamauga.

At Gettysburg, the John Batchelder papers show the extent of the research and that work began shortly after the battle was completed, when things were still fresh in the minds of the survivors. Despite that wonderful effort, there are markers in two locations on Little Round Top noting where the same officer died.

For me, determining when something happened has been much harder than figuring where it happened and that is for the same reason you bring up. In the smoke and confusion, with all the noise about you and the immediate concern about where the next threat to your life might come from, the very few soldiers who had watches probably did not look at them. Instead, they depended upon where they thought the sun was in the sky when they tried to recall when an event might have occurred.
 

James N.

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I've posted these before, but to illustrate just one example, that of the Confederate brigade commanded by Brig. Gen. S. A. M. Wood in the division of Pat Cleburne, there were originally placed no less than FIVE separate tablets that recorded their steady east-to-west advance across the Chickamauga Battlefield. (One apparently disappeared many, many years ago and was never replaced.) The first one above isn't far from the Reed's Bridge crossing of Chickamauga Creek where they entered the battlefield.

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Another is in Winfrey Field where they advanced against Union forces on the first day of the battle. Yet another below is alongside Lafayette Road, and as you can see it's for the second day; somehow I missed the fourth one during my visit, but I understand it was near the Alabama State Monument. All of these were essentially in a straight line along the length of the brigade's advance during the battle.

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Of course fluid field battles like Chickamauga were extended affairs and other than possibly in fairly static situations like at Vicksburg, rarely were units in one place any length of time, usually moving in one direction or another along with the flow of the action. The veterans and the War Department who created these original battlefields should certainly be commended for the depth of dedication and research they put in to bequeath this legacy to us, their posterity!
 
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