Monthly Archives: July 2009

New Blog to the Roll

Civil War Traveler’s news email highlighted a new blog associated with their program – Jeff King’s Civil War Travel Blog.  The purpose of the blog is described briefly:

Jeff King shares notes and pictures from his treks — through mountain war sites in eastern Tennessee and Kentucky and also South Carolina….

At first I intended to burn just a few minutes browsing through and bookmark the site for later.  But the photos and discriptions of his Charleston trip(s) got me distracted for well past the intended time.  Lots of out of the way sites documented on Jeff’s blog, making it a good reference for battlefield stompers, marker hunters, or just those interested to see what is out there.

HMDB Civil War Updates – Week of 27 July

Updates are running late this week do to some technical issues on my end.  Past that now and can report. 

Of the 400 or so marker entries at the Historical Marker Database this week, 59 were related to the Civil War.  Once again a good ratio, representing sites in Connecticut, Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.  Here are some highlights:

- The New Milford, Connecticut Civil War Memorial lists members of the community who served in the War.

- In Dahlonega, Georgia, the Old Mustering Grounds served as a rally point for volunteers for the Texas War of Independence, campaigns against the Cherokees, the Mexican-American War, and the Civil War.  Men of White, Dawson, and Floyd Counties met there during the war and helped form five companies. 

- Two markers for Sherman’s March to the Sea this week.  One in Wadley, Georgia marks the passage of the Left Wing of Sherman’s Army.  The other notes the passage of the Right Wing near Wrightsville. 

- A memorial in Baxter Springs, Kansas lists the names of soldiers, and some civilians, buried nearby who were casualties from the Battle of Baxter Springs (October 8, 1863) and other nearby engagements.  The units represented on the inscription include several Kansas infantry and cavalry regiments, a Kansas artillery battery, two Wisconsin infantry regiments, and two U.S.C.T. regiments – the 79th and 83rd.

- A marker in Osawatomie, Kansas provides information about the Battle of Osawatomie, an episode in the “Bleeding Kansas” conflict leading up to the Civil War, fought on August 30, 1856.  John Brown led the anti-slavery forces.

- Before  leaving the Trans-Mississippi, let me mention the “trail head” marker for the battle of Westport tour.  More to follow on the markers interpreting the September 1864 battle near Kansas City.  Nearby is McCoy’s Trading Post, a landmark for the Santa Fe, California, and Oregon Trails, which was used by General Samuel Curtiss during the battle as an observation post. 

- In June 1862, General U.S. Grant maintained a headquarters in Corinth, Mississippi, during the slow motion pursuit of the Confederates after the battle of Shiloh. 

- A marker and a memorial in Florida, New York indicate the birth site of William H. Seward, Lincoln’s Secretary of State.

- A state marker in Cashiers, South Carolina notes the summer home of Confederate General and U.S. Senator Wade Hampton.

- Nineteen entries this week complete a set along the Ruggles’ Batteries trail in Shiloh National Battlefield Park. 

- Two entries this week note the locations where Confederate brigades fought at Murphreesboro, Tennessee during the battle on December 31, 1862.  Chalmers’ and Donelson’s Brigades advanced on the Federal Positions near the Round Forest from points near the markers.  The location is one of the “lost” portions of the field, which has not been preserved.

- A new Civil War Trails marker in Fairfax, Virginia interprets the graffiti left by Union soldiers on Blenheim (Willcoxon Farm). 

- Several new entries this week interpret the Civil War activity in Portsmouth, Virginia.  The USS Merrimack was burned at the US Navy Yard near Craney Island at the start of the war.  The ship, as most recall, was rebuilt by the Confederates and became the CSS Virginia.  Other Civil War Trails markers relate details about the Portsmouth Navy Hospital and the Old Towne with respect to the Civil War. 

- Two marker entries this week trace Lee’s journey after Appomattox back to Richmond.  The first near Buckingham, Virginia indicates where the general camped on April 12-13, 1865.  The second near Cartersville, Virginia indicates Lee stopped the following night near Flannagan’s Mill

- A new Prince William County marker notes the location of Stony Lonesome, General Richard Ewell’s boyhood home. 

- Another marker from the recently reopened armory grounds at Harpers Ferry features a moulding simulating artifacts found on site during recent archaeological excavations.  I owe you a trip report on the newly opened exhibitions there.

- A Civil War Trails marker in Fairmont, West Virginia notes a battle there during the Jones-Imboden Raid of April 1863.  The B&O Railroad Bridge was destroyed by the raiders, but repaired shortly afterwards. 

- And saving a gem for last, eleven markers interpret the Civil War Preservation Trust’s Slaughter Pen Farm section of the Fredericksburg Battlefield.  The trail there is roughly 1 3/4 mile, and offers views of the Federal side of the battle we just didn’t get a good appreciation for, in my opinion, due to the park boundaries.  At the Slaughter Pen, one can see ground contested during the critical phases of the battle, and where five Medals of Honor were earned for heroism.  I’ll post a trip report on this trail shortly.

Bristoe Station Trip Report

Like many Civil War battlefields in Northern Virginia, Bristoe Station is under ever increasing pressure as the Capital Beltway expands.  The heart of this battlefield is now preserved within the Bristoe Station Battlefield Heritage Park, through the efforts of the Civil War Preservation Trust, working with local real estate developers and Prince William County.

Also like many battlefields in Northern Virginia, there are actually multiple Civil War events which occurred on the ground.  The area was a Confederate winter encampment in 1861-62.  Later the following summer on August 27, 1862 as Federal columns in pursuit of Confederate Gen. “Stonewall” Jackson’s force approached Manassas Junction, a rear guard force under Confederate General Richard S. Ewell held a defensive line along nearby Kettle Run.   While the park includes extended walking trails to areas related to those events, the interpretation offered highlights the October 14, 1863 battle fought at the site.

The National Park Service offers a self guided tour to the location, but I’ve found that somewhat dated due to changes in the road infrastructure.  The tour was written before the current park was established, and opened to the public, and as such focuses on sites accessible at that time.   If one is visiting the Manassas Battlefield, the best way to Bristoe Station is by way of Virginia Highway 28, which passes through the town of Manassas.  To the west of the interchange with Virginia Highway 234 is Broad Run, one of the sites mentioned on the NPS self guided tour.  But the state marker mentioned in the tour was relocated during road improvements.  Roughly 2/3 mile past the bridge make a left at a traffic light onto Bristow Road (CR 619).  In about half a mile turn left onto Iron Brigade Unit Avenue.  Follow that drive up to Tenth Alabama Way and enter the parking area for the Heritage Park.

The Battle of Bristoe Station was part of a larger campaign in the fall of 1863, in which Confederate General Robert E. Lee attempted to regain some of the momentum lost in the Gettysburg Campaign earlier in the summer.  In a scenario somewhat similar to the early stages of the 2nd Manassas Campaign the previous year, the Army of Northern Virginia advanced north out of Culpeper in an attempt to get behind the Army of the Potomac.  As the armies maneuvered toward the familiar terrain around Centreville, a series of small and confusing actions occurred around Auburn to the northwest of Bristoe.

Continuing toward Manassas Junction as the lead of the Confederate army, on October 14, 1863 General A.P. Hill’s Corps  encountered what he thought were the trail elements of the Federal army at Broad Run.  After driving off some rear guard forces of the Federal V Corps around 1:30 p.m., Hill’s men, with General Henry Heth’s Division in the lead, came into contact with parts of the Federal II Corps, under General Gouverneur K. Warren, posted along the Orange & Alexandria Railroad at Bristoe Station.  Hill’s hasty deployment of Heth’s Division soon turned into a disaster as Confederate troops were bloodily repulsed.  The repulse bought enough time for the Federal column to resume their march unmolested to Centreville.

The “A.P. Hill’s Folly” Trail (guides available on site or from the County web site – page 1 and page 2)  starts at the parking lot and covers the ground fought over on the afternoon of October 14. The trail is 1.3 miles long and has seven stops including the parking lot kiosk. Stop 2 on the trail is a rise of ground offering a view of the terrain where the opening stages of the battle unfolded.

Looking North from the Battlefield

Looking North from the Battlefield

The forward elements of Heth’s Division deployed in fields that is today the wooded area to the distant right of the houses in the view above, on the other side of Bristow Road, and south of Va. 28.  The North Carolina brigades of Gens. John Cooke and W.W. Kirkland in particular wheeled from that area to the south when Warren’s II Corps was first sighted along the railroad.

Stop 3 of the Trail

Trail Stop 3 - Brave men of North Carolina

The view above looks directly toward the railroad (far distant tree line) where Warren’s men were posted.  Shortly after 2 p.m.  Cooke’s men advanced across this ground toward the Federal position, with Kirkland’s Brigade on the east side of Brentsville Road (modern Bristow Road).  Both brigades suffered heavily.  The tour guide cites the 27th North Carolina in particular losing 290 casualties of 416 engaged, including 33 of 36 officers.  Both Cooke and Kirkland were wounded in the action.

Robertson Cemetery

Robertson Cemetery

Astride Cooke’s line of march is Robertson Cemetery, which was not on the battlefield at the time.  It dates to 1884, and from what I can tell does not include any veterans’ graves.

Tour Stop 4

Trail Stop 4 - Fall of Col. Mallon

Cooke’s and Kirkland’s attack gained only a temporary purchase on the Federal line astride the railroad.  A brigade led by Col. James Mallon held the line directly south (left out of frame of the photo) in this sector.  Mallon counterattacked and pushed back the Confederate infantry, however he was killed near this spot rallying his men.

Orange & Alexandria Railroad

Orange & Alexandria Railroad

The Federal Divisions of Gens. Alexander Webb and Alexander Hays defended along the railroad line, seen here from a point along the trail southwest of stop 4.  Federal artillery posted on the high ground south of the railroad had clear fields of fire to assist the defenders.

Tour Stop 5 - Confederate Reinforcements

Trail Stop 5 - Confederate Reinforcements

Looking north along the trail toward the Confederate lines.  The Brigade of Gen. E.A. Perry advanced toward the camera in this view to cover the right flank of Cooke’s assault.   To the left of frame the Brigade of Gen. Carnot Posy also advanced, only to be checked by the Federals of Hays Division.  Posey was mortally wounded while leading his command.

Looking Toward Stop 6 - Confederate Artillery

Looking Toward Stop 6 - Confederate Artillery

The trail turns back northeast toward the high ground to complete the loop.  This view looks up the slope of the hill overlooking Bristoe Station.  Major David McIntosh placed seven guns on this high ground to counter the Federal artillery on the south side of the railroad.  With the repulse of Cooke’s infantry, Federal forces advanced in pursuit.  In addition to capturing many Confederates, two battle flags, and five of McIntosh’s guns.   The trail stop is at the top of this rise, next to the trees in the distant left center.

Trail Stop 7 - Aftermath and View of the Battlefield

Trail Stop 7 - Aftermath and View of the Battlefield

Looking southeast from the top of the hill.  This view allows the visitor to take in the important points of the field.  The railroad runs across this view in the distant tree line, behind the rusty barn in the far left.  Federal batteries were posted on the high ground beyond the railroad.  Cooke’s Confederates were repulsed after attacking across the ground below this point.  That repulse also turned any options Lee had to bring his adversary into a general engagement.  Once beyond Broad Run, the Federals had secured their links to Washington, D.C.   There would be no 3rd Manassas in 1863.  Was it from this vantage point that Lee censured Hill by saying, “… bury these poor men and let us say no more about it…”?

Soon to Be Visitor Center

Soon to Be Visitor Center

This recent trip in June was my third trip to Bristoe Station.  The trail and trail guides have evolved somewhat since the first visit in 2007.  And more improvements are planned, to include opening the 20th century building atop the hill as a visitor center (as indicated by a sign in the window).  I’ve found the Hill’s Folly trail generally an easy walk with only one or two inclines to worry about.  The trail is part paved, with gravel on the rest.  My “aide-de-camp” was able to use his “push bike” around the loop.  The other two trails – Tragedy in Camp and Kettle Run Expansion – are mostly dirt paths, but do not have the terrain elevations to worry about.  However after any heavy rain, those trails are very muddy.

Battlefield Preservation Threats

Battlefield Preservation Threats

One last note on Bristoe Station.  As seen from the view above from the Kettle Run Expansion trail, developers are busy on their side of the divide.  Certainly many areas related to the Civil War in the nearby area remain unprotected, and I’m just not happy trying to visualize “what was” around three story housing units. While making the most of the preservation that was done, we should acknowledge what additional work remains to protect the culturally and historically significant sites around Bristoe Station.