Over the years I’ve been fortunate to visit a reasonable number of battlefields in Europe and more recently the United States. I find it rewarding walking these fields armed with a selection of maps, the odd book and of course a camera. But make sure you stop and consider the events that unfolded here previously. I particularly enjoy reading first hand accounts at selected points of my tours as well as some of the historical descriptions in the books or extracts I’m carrying.
My first battlefield tours found me using a 35mm camera meaning the numbers of photos were limited. The introduction of digital cameras has made recording these visits much easier. Most of the photos here have been taken with an i-Phone which has also served as my navigation tool to locate many of these sites. The photos have generally been uploaded on the day of the visit. In addition I do take even more photos with a digital SLR.
I have been more disciplined in recent years when it comes to note taking. That said my notes are just that, reminders as much for myself as any visitor. Usually taken on the day, they attempt to capture my thoughts on the specific day and are not intended as a full article. Anyway, I trust you find my notes and photos of some interest.
Seven Years War
Just a short drive from Prague this well preserved battlefield was in pristine condition and provided an extremely rewarding visit. I found a good map and historical description essential for my visit. You can see a summary here.
American Civil War
A significant number of Civil War battlefields are well maintained and are a pleasure to visit. Always start at the visitor centre where excellent park maps outlining the driving tour routes are available. Many of the battlefields are supported by a Battlefield App which I highly recommend. They provide excellent additional information for the visitor including videos by rangers and commentary. These run on your smartphone and can run off line if downloaded before your visit. These are useful especially when combined with your reading notes and maps. You can find them here, or of course in your App Store.
Most National Military Parks are based around a driving route where you drive to various points. Once you arrive at each point park your car and start exploring. There are some great trails to follow and most are very rewarding. They of course require time. Therefore I would encourage you to allow plenty of time to visit these battlefields. I found that despite allocating a reasonable amount of time for my visits there were several battlefields where I needed longer.
Much has been written about Gettysburg. It was the first Civil War battlefield visited and I struggle to find words to describe it. I was fortunate to spend two and a half days walking the fields and taking notes in 2015. As it was I still didn’t have enough time! I divided my visit generally along the historical timeline starting with the first day. The next day I continued the driving tour which generally follows events as the battle historical unfolded, though with some exceptions of course. My photos of my second day can be found here. Finally, my last day on the battlefield focussed on the third day of the historic battle before finally returning to the park visitor centre.
A short drive from Gettysburg the battlefield of Antietam must be on every American Civil War enthusiasts list of “must visit” battlefields. I had a day here and I needed longer. A selection of photos can be found here.
A most enjoyable battlefield to visit, and one where you are rewarded with two battlefields for the price of one. A little confusing in parts, and separated by a busy road, be well armed with your notes so you understand how each portion of the battlefields relates to which battle. I spent a reasonable part of an afternoon looking at the key areas of 1st Manassas on my first day and all of the second day looking at the wider area with more of a focus on 2nd Manassas.
I have always been fascinated by the battle of Fredericksburg and was looking forward to my visit, though I was equally aware my time was short. Much of the battlefield has been built over by the ever growing town of Fredericksburg, yet even here aspects are rewarding. Fortunately the the Rebel right is well preserved. Combined, the battlefield still has much to offer the visitor. You can find my summary of my visit here.
Like Fredericksburg I was told there isn’t much to see at Chancellorsville. I disagree. I thoroughly enjoyable the visit, especially retracing Jackson’s flanking movement. Join me as I retrace Jackson’s march against the Union right wing, you will find my summary here.
Grant began his Overland Campaign which would take the Army of the Potomac from the Rappahannok to the gates of Richmond. Travelling north to south I was fortunate enough to visit four of the major battlefields in sequence. Here are a few photos of my visit to the first battle of the campaign and can be found here .
My first battlefield of the Peninsula Campaign was that of Gaines’ Mill. Only a small part of the battlefield is preserved but that part is well worth a visit. A summary of my visit can be found here.
The final battle of the Seven Days Campaign was Malvern Hill. Again only a portion is preserved but what is very rewarding to visit. A description and photos of my visit to Malvern Hill can be found here.
My visit to Petersburg effectively completed my 2015 Civil War tour. Fitting really as this National Military Park also marked the culmination to Grant’s Overland Campaign. You can find a summary of the visit to Petersburg here .