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American Battlefield Protection Program home page
Civil War Battlefields by State
Civil War Battlefields by Campaign

Civil War Sites Advisory Commission
Report on the Nation’s Civil War Battlefields

Technical Volume II: Battle Summaries

Prepared for the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, United States Senate; Committee on Natural Resources, United States House of Representatives; and the Secretary of the Interior

1993 (updated 1997)

Foreword

The Civil War Sites Advisory Commission was established by public lawon November 28, 1990, because of national concern over the increasing loss of Civil War sites. The 15-member Commission, appointed by Congress and by the Secretary of the Interior, was asked to identify the nation’s historically significant Civil War sites; determine their relative importance; determine their condition; assess threats to their integrity; and recommend alternatives for preserving and interpreting them. The Report on the Nation’s Civil War Battlefields presents the Commission’s findings.
 

Acknowledgements

The battle summaries were researched and written by Dale E. Floyd and David W. Lowe, staff members of the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission and historians with the National Park Service. Edwin C. Bearss, Commission member and retired Chief Historian of the National Park Service, served as technical advisor. Editing and publication oversight was provided by Rebecca Shrimpton, Historic Preservation Planner, and Tanya M. Gossett, Historic Preservation Planner, both with the American Battlefield Protection Program (through a cooperative agreement with the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers).

For the development of the report as a whole, the Commission gratefully acknowledges the assistance of hundreds of people and organizations whose contributions of time and information were invaluable. Contributors include the many volunteer field investigators, workshop participants, nonprofit battlefield preservation organizations, National Park staff, State Historic Preservation Officers, state parks staff, local elected officials, Civil War Round Table volunteers, professional and avocational historians, private firms, educators, and property owners.
 

Introduction

This nation’s Civil War heritage is in grave danger. It is disappearing under buildings, parking lots, and highways. Recognizing this as a serious national problem, Congress established the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission in 1991.

The Commission was to identify the significant Civil War sites, determine their condition, assess threats to their integrity, and offer alternatives for their preservation and interpretation. Because of limited time and resources, the Commission concentrated on battlefields as the central focus of the Civil War and of many contemporary historic preservation decisions.

Protecting these battlefields preserves an important educational asset for the nation because:

• Seeing the battlefield is basic to an understanding of military campaigns and battles, while the latter are crucial to comprehending all other aspects of the Civil War.

• To be upon a battlefield is to experience an emotional empathy with the men and, in fact, the women who fought there.

• Clashing convictions and the determination to defend them cost the nation 620,000 lives.

• The values tested and clarified in that great conflict are what continue to bind the nation together today.

Today, more than one-third of all principal Civil War battlefields are either lost or are hanging onto existence by the slenderest of threads. It is not too late to protect the remaining battlefields if the nation acts swiftly. If it does not act now, however, within 10 years we may lose fully two-thirds of the principal battlefields.

The Civil War Sites Advisory Commission has examined this threat to our Civil War battlefields and has made its recommendations for action in the Report on the Nation’s Civil War Battlefields. This Technical Volume to the Commission’s report contains historical summaries of the 384 principal Civil War battles that the Commission studied in preparing its report. Also available is Technical Volume I: Appendixes, which contains support documentation for the Commission’s report.
 

The Battlefield Sites

Some 10,500 armed conflicts occurred during the Civil War ranging from battles to minor skirmishes; 384 conflicts (3.7 percent) were identified as the principal battles and classified according to their historical significance.

Class A and B battlefields represent the principal strategic operations of the war. Class C and D battlefields usually represent operations with limited tactical objectives of enforcement and occupation.

• 45 sites (12%) were ranked “A” (having a decisive influence on a campaign and a direct impact on the course of the war);

• 104 sites (27%) were ranked “B” (having a direct and decisive influence on their campaign);

• 128 sites (33%) were ranked “C” (having observable influence on the outcome of a campaign);

• 107 sites (28%) were ranked “D” (having a limited influence on the outcome of their campaign or operation but achieving or affecting important local objectives).

The 384 principal battles occurred in 26 states. States with fifteen or more include: Virginia (123), Tennessee (38), Missouri (29), Georgia(28), Louisiana (23), North Carolina (20), Arkansas (17), and Mississippi(16).

Some counties, such as Henrico and Dinwiddie counties in Virginia and Charleston County in South Carolina have a great concentration of battlefields. Yet, even in Virginia, where two great armies fought for most of four years, only one third of the counties have any of the principal Civil War battlefields.

Forty three percent of the battlefields are completely in private ownership. An additional 49 percent are under multiple kinds of ownership (e.g., private, state, and Federal). Only 4 percent of the principal battlefields are owned primarily by the Federal, state, or local governments.2

Nineteen percent (71) of the Civil War battlefields are already lost as intact historic landscapes. Half of the 232 principal battlefields that currently are in good or fair condition are now experiencing high or moderate threats. Most of these sites will be lost or seriously fragmented within the coming 10 years, many very soon. Only one third of the principal battlefields currently face low threats.
 

The Battle Summaries

This Technical Volume is meant to serve as a quick reference to the historical context and significance of the 384 principal battlefields that the Commission included in its report to Congress. Until now, no single source provided such a uniform level of information for such a comprehensive grouping of key Civil War battlefields. It is the Commission’s hope that this volume will provide preservationists, historians, planners, and political leaders alike with the rudimentary historical data they need to understandand work toward the preservation of these critical components of our national heritage.

Each summary provides basic statistical data on the location, dates, commanders, size, and casualties of each battle. It also indicates the Commission’s ranking of the battle by military importance and the battlefield’s level of priority for preservation. A one paragraph historical narrative describes the circumstances, action, and outcome of the battle.

The data elements for each battle summary are:

Name
The historic name for the battle, based on scholarly assessment. In some cases, the generally accepted name for the battle, sanctioned by the state historic preservation office, has been used.

CWSAC Reference #
A unique reference number assigned to each site. These were developed to aid computerization, because of the large numbers of battlefields ina few states and the duplication of names. The two letters at the beginning of the reference number signify the state, corresponding to the battlefield’s location. The three digits are the unique and arbitrary number for the site within that state. Some numbers are missing, because sites were added or deleted from the list of 384 principal battlefields as significance was determined.

Other Names
Secondary or commonly used names, such as Elkhorn Tavern (Pea Ridge), Bull Run (Manassas), and Sharpsburg (Antietam).

Preservation Priority
A designation made by the Commission based on the level of historical significance, the integrity of the remaining battlefield features, and the level of threat to the battlefield’s existence. For example, IV.1 (Class D) means that the Commission determined that a particular battlefield site was Priority IV: Fragmented Battlefields, All Military Classes, Poor Integrity. (See Table 7, pages 49-53 in the Report on the Nation’s Civil War Battlefield, for the preservation priority of all the battlefields studied.) Class A, B, C, or D indicates a battle’s (and associated battlefield’s) level of military importance within its campaign and the war. (See page v of this volume for an explanation of each of the four designations.) N/D indicates that no data is currently available to determine the levelof threat to the site.

Location
The present day county or city in which the battlefield is located.

Campaign
The larger military operation with which the battle is associated. A chronological listing of campaigns and the battles associated with them can be found at the end of this volume.

Date(s)
The actual day or days during which the battle occurred. Most of the dates appear as provided in the U.S. War Department’s The War ofthe Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 70 Volumes in 128, Washington, DC: The Government Printing Office, 1880-1901.

Principal Commanders
The rank and names of the military commanders for both sides. When more than one individual commanded during a battle, all names are provided. Most of the principal commanders can be found in the U.S. War Department’s Official Records.

Forces Engaged
In most summaries, the particular company, regiment, brigade, division, corps, army, garrison, detachment, or ship. Some summaries, however, indicate the number of troops involved. In both cases, the purpose is to provide an idea of the size of the engagement. Most of the forces engaged were found in the U.S. War Department’s Official Records.

Estimated Casualties
No source exists, either in print or in manuscript, that provides casualty figures for all Civil War battles or even for the 384 principal battles that the CWSAC studied. Some of the casualty figures for the 384 principal battles are unknown; in some instances reliable figures are available for one of the combatants but not for the other. Few casualty figures are definitive; sources often differ in their figures. A variety of sources, both official and commercial, printed and in manuscript, were consulted. All casualty figures were subjected to historical analysis before inclusion in the summaries.

A partial list of sources follows.

Dyer, Frederick. A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion . .. Des Moines, IA: Dyer Publishing Company, 1908.

Fox, William F. Regimental Losses in the American Civil War 1861-1865: A Treatise on the Extent and Nature of the Mortuary Losses in the United States . . . Albany, NY: Albany Publishing Company,1889.

Johnson, Robert U., and Clarence C. Buell, eds. Battles and Leaders of the Civil War . . . .4 Volumes. New York: The Century Company, 1887-88.

Livermore, Thomas L.Numbers and Losses in the Civil War in America 1861-65. Reprint. Dayton, OH: Morningside House, Inc., 1986.

U.S. Surgeon General’s Office. Chronological Summary of Engagements and Battles [Civil War]. Washington, DC: The Government Printing Office, 1873.

U.S. War Department. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation ofthe Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. 70 Volumes in 128. Washington, DC: The Government Printing Office, 1880-1901.

Description
A historical account or summary of the battle. A variety of sources, both general and specific, published and in manuscript, were consultedin the preparation of these accounts. The general sources consulted include those listed below. More specific published and manuscript sources were also consulted and analyzed.

The Conservation Fund. The Civil War Battlefield Guide. Edited by Frances H. Kennedy. Boston, MA:
Houghton Mifflin Company, 1990.

Great Battles of the Civil War. By the editors of Civil War Times Illustrated. New York: Gallery Books, 1984.

Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War. Edited by Patricia L. Faust. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1986.

Johnson, Robert U., and Clarence C. Buell, eds. Battles and Leaders of the Civil War . . . .4 Volumes. New York: The Century Company, 1887-88.

Long, E.B., compiler. The Civil War Day by Day: An Almanac 1861-1865. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1971.

U.S. National Archives. A Guide-Index to the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Edited and compiled by Dallas Irvine, et al. Washington, DC: The Government Printing Office, 1968-1980.

U.S. Naval History Division. Civil War Naval Chronology, 1861-1865. Washington, DC: The Government Printing Office, 1971.

U.S. Navy Department. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion. Multivolumes. Washington, DC: The Government Printing Office, 1894-1927.

U.S. War Department. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation ofthe Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. 70 Volumes in 128. Washington, DC: The Government Printing Office, 1880-1901.

Result(s)
The victor in the battle, if the outcome was definitive. If the outcome was other than definitive, that information is provided.


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