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 [graphic] National Register Bulletin Guidelines for Identifying, Evaluating, and Registering America's Historic Battlefields

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U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service



The following sections offer guidance to State historic preservation offices, Federal agencies, local governments, preservation professionals, and interested individuals in preparing nominations to the National Register of Historic Places for historic battlefields. The National Register process involves the identification, evaluation, and registration of historic properties, and is most efficiently undertaken in the following sequence:


. Defining the historic context

. Conducting historic research

. Surveying the battlefield


. Defining significance

. Apply the National Register criteria

. Select Areas of Significance

. Define Period of Significance

. Assessing integrity

. Apply qualities of integrity

. Classify contributing and noncon-

tributing resources

. Evaluate overall integrity

. Selecting defensible boundaries

. Where to draw the boundary

. Discontiguous boundary


. Completing National Register form

. Following registration procedures

in 36 CFR Part 60.

[graphic] Battle of Moores Creek
Battlefields can remind us of the sometimes painful choices that divided our country. The Battle of Moores Creek, in Pender County, North Carolina, was an important action in the opening phases of the American Revolution. Here on February 27, 1776, Patriot forces clashed with and defeated a larger force of Scottish Loyalists. This battlefield commemorates the deeply divided loyalties in the American colonies between those who supported independence and those who remained loyal to their King. (Photo by North Carolina Division of Archives and History)


Defining the Historic Context

The significance of a battlefield can only be understood when the battle is considered within its historic context. The historic context of a battlefield is the chronological period, the geographic area, and the series of events which account for its occurrence and help explain its significance. Many individual battles were part of a larger military campaign that may need to be described to place a battle in context. To qualify for listing in the National Register, battlefields can be significant at the local, the State, or the national level. To be significant at the local level, a battle must have been associated with military events important in the history of a town, city, county, cultural area, or region. Battlefields are significant in a statewide context when they are associated with an aspect of military history important to the State as a whole. Battlefields significant in a national context are those associated with a facet of military history that had an important impact on the entire nation.

The significance of battles cannot be understood in a vacuum. For example, the importance of the Union victory at the Battle of Antietam in 1862 is best understood by knowing that in the late summer of that year the Confederacy had launched a coordinated invasion in the West and the East, that at the time President Abraham Lincoln was desperately waiting for a Northern victory to issue his Emancipation Proclamation, and that the European powers were closely watching the military situation while considering whether to offer to mediate the conflict (which implied recognizing the Confederacy as an independent nation). An awareness of the crucial nature of the outcome of the Battle of Antietam puts into perspective, or context, the staggering losses of 23,000 casualties during the bloodiest day in American history. The geographic component of the context for this battle is the campaign in Northern Virginia/Western Maryland, and the time frame for understanding the battle is the early fall of 1862.

Sometimes the significance of a battle is readily apparent, such as the victory of the American and allied forces over the British at Yorktown, Virginia, during the American Revolution, which led to peace talks and the recognition by Great Britain of America's independence. Other battles are important not so much for the events that occurred on the day of the battle, but rather for what they set in motion. For example, Balls Bluff Battlefield in Loudoun County, Virginia, was the scene of a Civil War battle which accounted for a small number of casualties. Yet this event had a profound impact on the later course of the war. The bungling of the Union commanders during that 1861 battle led radical Republicans in Congress to create a Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War. This committee undertook the first exercise of congressional authority to oversee and investigate operations of the Executive Branch of the Federal government. Had there not been this political response to the Battle of Balls Bluff, the battlefield today would only be remembered as the site of a minor engagement, rather than being recognized as a National Historic Landmark.

The National Register does not require a lengthy explanation of a battle's context. The context statement can be direct and to the point, as long as it provides a perspective from which to evaluate the relative importance of the battle. For battles that are significant for what they set in motion, the later important events should be briefly and generally described.

Conducting Historical Research

In order to develop the historic context to evaluate a battlefield, the history of the military action must be thoroughly understood. Information should be gathered on the factors - military, social, economic, diplomatic - that account for the battle. The last section of this bulletin contains an extensive bibliography on American military history. It lists bibliographies on military history, general surveys of military history and organizations, specific studies of military action grouped chronologically, battlefield guides, military atlases, and special studies. The bibliography is a general list and is designed to lead the researcher to additional sources of information.

In addition to the general sources included in the bibliography, primary and secondary source materials on American military affairs are voluminous. General histories of American wars, official records of campaigns, studies of specific campaigns, biographies of leading participants, regimental histories, military books and manuals, historical military atlases, guide books to battlefields, journals of military history, and diaries and reminiscences of individual soldiers are generally available at libraries. A wide variety of sources should be consulted in conducting historical research on a battlefield.

A variety of manuscript primary sources can be found in numerous repositories throughout the country. The National Archives and Records Service in Washington, D.C., has custody of the official records of the United States Government. These records include military and other agency documents, such as reports, correspondence, maps and photographs, relating to battles. Many States and local governments maintain archives that also include pertinent documents. Hundreds of additional repositories, both public and private, include personal papers and other manuscript collections that may contain useful documents. Two guides to these archives and manuscript repositories are cited in the bibliography section of this bulletin.

Other valuable sources of information on specific battlefields might include books and periodicals on State, county, and local history, historic maps, period photographs, contemporary newspaper accounts, and local family records. Historic maps may include the location of farms, property lines, road networks, mills, bridges, churches, cemeteries, and inns. These features may have played an important role in the battle such as a headquarters, hospital, or defensive position.

It is important to consult the State historic preservation office for information related to the site or to the events with which it is associated.

Once the general historic context of the battle is understood, the battlefield itself should be surveyed.

Surveying the Battlefield

[graphic] Battle of Moores Creek
Battlefields can remind us of the sometimes painful choices that divided our country. The Battle of Moores Creek, in Pender County, North Carolina, was an important action in the opening phases of the American Revolution. Here on February 27, 1776, Patriot forces clashed with and defeated a larger force of Scottish Loyalists. This battlefield commemorates the deeply divided loyalties in the American colonies between those who supported independence and those who remained loyal to their King. (Photo by North Carolina Division of Archives and History)

Prior to preparing a National Register nomination, it is essential to make an on-site inspection of the battlefield in order to evaluate its integrity and to determine boundaries. Many battlefields are in private ownership and the surveyor should be sensitive to private property rights and receive the owner's permission prior to inspecting the land. While buried soldiers on many battlefields were later disinterred for reburial elsewhere, the surveyor should still be particularly alert to evidence of human graves on the battlefield and should be aware that a variety of Federal, and State laws relate to the discovery of human remains. Documentary evidence locating field hospitals on battlefields might indicate the possibility of burial sites existing on the battlefield. If a suspected burial site is observed it should be noted, but not disturbed. Any potential burial site should be reported to the State historic preservation office and examined by an archeologist.

With the knowledge gained through historic research, the surveyor should have an understanding of what features were present during the battle and how the topography or historic land use patterns affected the flow or outcome of the military action. The features present on the battlefield should be recorded through inventory forms and photographs and located on a battlefield site map. Changes in the historic pattern of land use should be noted. For detailed information on undertaking a survey see National Register Bulletin 24: Guidelines for Local Surveys: A Basis for Preservation Planning.

In surveying a battlefield, a basic issue is where do battlefields start and end? Some battles were confined to relatively small geographic areas while others were fluid affairs with military activity extending over large regions. In many instances military groups traveled long distances before meeting in battle. Some battlefield sites today appear simply as an undifferentiated series of woodlots and fields. Before attempting to draw a boundary for the battlefield it is vital to understand the nature of the opposing forces, the importance of the terrain to the direction and outcome of the battle, and the series of military actions before, during, and after the battle. Understanding the component parts of the battle will assist in explaining the significance of the battlefield, in defining a boundary, and in determining the relative importance of features found on the battlefield. These are features and locations where opposing forces, either before, during, or after the battle, took actions based on their assumption of being in the presence of the enemy. Refer to section 7 for guidance on where to draw the boundary for a battlefield.

The following is a partial list of battlefield components:


. The immediate approaches to the


. Flanking movements during the


. Retrogrades or withdrawals from

   the battle

. Attack movements during the



. Picket lines

. Battlelines

. Skirmish lines

. Artillery positions


. Engagement areas

. Areas of troop concentrations

. Areas where reserve troops were


. Staging areas

. Bivouac areas

. Areas where rearguard actions

took place

Other Locations

. Commander's observation points

   and their viewsheds

. Signal stations and their viewsheds

. Battle hospital sites

. Burial sites

. Command posts (also called


. Aspects of the historic landscape

   such as:

. farmhouses and outbuildings

. fencelines and hedgerows

. stone walls

. roads

. fords

. fields

. orchards

. woodlots

. watercourses

. railroad lines

. bridges

. sources of water

Not all of these components are important in every battle, and there may be others not included in the list that are particularly important to a given battle. Once these aspects of the battlefield have been located and documented, the battlefield can be evaluated.

Fort Pulaski
Battlefields can be important under National Register Criterion A if they are associated with significant advances in weaponry tactics. Fort Pulaski, a Confederate stronghold in Chataham County, Georgia, was bombarded into submission by Federal artillery on April 10-11, 1862. The massive damage inflicted on Fort Pulaski conclusively demonstrated the ineffectiveness of old-style masonry fortifications against the newly-developed rifled artillery (Photo by National Park Service).


Evaluating a battlefield involves considering its historic significance, determining the physical integrity of the battlefield, and defining appropriate boundaries. National Register Bulletin: How to Apply the National Register Criteria for Evaluation, and National Register Bulletin: Guidelines for Completing National Register of Historic Places Forms should be consulted for detailed guidance on defining significance and evaluating integrity.

Defining Significance

Applying the National Register Criteria for Evaluation

To qualify for the National Register, a property must meet one or more of the National Register Criteria for Evaluation. Battlefields may qualify for the National Register by meeting any of the National Register Criteria for Evaluation. They may be associated with events, (for example, military, diplomatic, or economic), that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history (Criterion A), or they may be associated with the lives of individuals significant in our past (Criterion B), or they may contain significant works of architecture or engineering (Criterion C), or they may have yielded, or may be likely to yield, information important in our history (Criterion D). In considering the importance of battlefields, they should be evaluated against all of the National Register Criteria. A battlefield will be listed in the National Register if it is demonstrated to meet at least one of the National Register Criteria.

Criterion A applies to battlefields that are associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history. These could be important military events, such as the August 20, 1794, Battle of Fallen Timbers, in northwest Ohio, which ended Indian resistance in the area and secured the Northwest frontier for the new American republic. Battles may also be associated with events important in social history, such as the Civil War battle at Port Hudson, Louisiana where African-American soldiers fighting for the Union made important contributions, or the 1771 battle in Alamance, North Carolina between the State milita and the Regulators, which reflected the deep social divisions between the settled coastal areas and the Piedmont frontier. Battles can also be associated with events far removed from the scene of military action. The American victory over British Lt. Gen. John Burgoyne at the Battle of Saratoga in 1777, for example, led the King of France to recognize the independence of the American colonies.

Criterion B applies to battlefields that are associated with the lives of persons important in our past. Criterion B will apply to a battlefield when the battle was an important aspect of the person's life or career. For instance, the 1880 fight at Tinaja De Las Palmas, Texas, between the U.S. Army and the Mescalaro Apaches, one of the last major event in the Indian Wars in Texas, is associated with the noted Apache leader Victoria, and the 1811 Battle of Tippecanoe was a milestone in the life of Gen. (and future President) William Henry Harrison. For military leaders, the battle should be considered in light of the person's entire military career to determine if Criterion B applies to the particular battlefield. For detailed guidance on applying Criterion B see National Register Bulletin: Guidelines for Evaluating and Documenting Properties Associated with Significant Persons.

Criterion C applies to significant works of architecture or engineering. On battlefields may be found buildings that are important examples of architectural styles, methods of construction, or significant works of engineering such as the trench systems found in battles involving siege situations. In these instances Criterion C applies to the battlefield.

Criterion D applies to properties that have yielded or are likely to yield, information important to prehistory or history. Historic battlefields may contain historic archeological properties associated with the battle. Battlefield archeology should have a specific purpose and be based on scholarship and justifiable research needs. The archeological study of human remains and historic artifacts on the battlefield may provide information that is not available elsewhere. An archeological study may help confirm or disprove the accuracy of earlier accounts of the battle. For example, the study of distribution patterns of military hardware, especially bullets and shrapnel on the battlefield, will add to our understanding of how the battle was fought. An archeological examination at Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in Montana revealed that the Indians possessed a far greater amount of firepower than was previously known. The distribution pattern of bullets found on the battlefield greatly added to our knowledge of the progress of the fight at the Little Big Horn. For many battlefields the likelihood exists of buried human remains at certain locations on the battlefield.

Some military engagements had naval operations conducted in association with the land battle. The river systems played a particularly important role in the Civil War. Battlefields may have associated archeological remains related to these naval operations which it may be appropriate to include within the boundary. In these instances, National Register Bulletin: Nominating Historic Vessels and Shipwrecks to the National Register of Historic Places should be consulted.

Selecting Areas of Significance

For each National Register Criterion that applies to a battlefield, an appropriate Area of Significance should be selected. While military is the most common Area of Significance, others may apply. For battlefields associated with an important aspect of minority history ethnic heritage may apply. For battlefields important for their association with later memorialization efforts art or social history may be appropriate. If Criterion C applies to a battlefield, then architecture or engineering should be selected as an Area of Significance. For battlefields significant under Criterion D for important information that can be derived from an archeological study, archeology is appropriate. See National Register Bulletin: Guidelines for Completing National Register of Historic Places Forms for a complete list of Areas of Significance.

Defining Periods of Significance

Some battlefields are significant solely for the military event that occurred on the site. In these instances the Period of Significance should be defined to include the time of the battle and any time period immediately before or after the battle that is considered significant to the area's military history. The significance of other battlefields may encompass a longer time span, particularly for those battlefields where there were important later events to memorialize the battle and its participants. In such cases the Period of Significance for the site should be extended to include these important later developments if the memorialization effort followed soon after the battle (or two distinct Periods of Significance should be defined if there was a longer intervening span between the battle and the memorialization effort) and the features at the site that contribute to this later significance should be identified. These might include statues, monuments, tablets marking troop positions or movements, or roads established for touring the battlefield. As with all National Register properties, if the Period of Significance is defined as extending to within the past fifty years, the property must be demonstrated to have exceptional importance.

Assessing Integrity

Battle of Horseshoe Bend
In addition to being significant as the site of important military events, battlefields may be important under National Register Criterion B for their association with the lives of noted military leaders. The battle should be considered in the context of the person's entire military career to determine if Criterion B applies to the battlefield. The Battle at Horseshoe Bend in Tallapoosa County, Alabama, fought in 1814, not only ended the Creek War and opened much of Alabama and Georgia to settlement by whites, but also established the national reputation of the victor, Gen. Andrew Jackson, as a military leader and Indian fighter (Photo by Horseshoe Bend National Military Park).

Applying the Qualities of Integrity

Integrity is the ability of a property to convey its significance. Within the concept of integrity, the National Register criteria recognize seven qualities, or aspects, that in various combinations, define integrity. Determining which of these aspects are most important for a particular property to convey its significance requires knowing why, where, and when the property is significant. The seven aspects of integrity are: location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association. The basic guidance on evaluating integrity is found in National Register Bulletin: How to Apply the National Register Criteria for Evaluation, pp. 44-49 and should be consulted before attempting to evaluate the integrity of a battlefield.

A property, such as a battlefield, important for its association with a historic event or persons ideally might retain some features of all seven aspects of integrity. Integrity of design and workmanship, however, might not be as important to the significance and would not be relevant to the battlefield. A basic test of integrity for a battlefield important for its association with a historic event or person is whether a participant in the battle would recognize the property as it exists today. Generally, the most important aspects of integrity for battlefields are location, setting, feeling, and association.

For a battlefield, location is the place where the historic military event occurred. This aspect of integrity is present if the area defined as the battlefield is the place where the battle occurred. The location should be documented using primary and secondary sources and onsite inspection. The location of a property, complemented by its setting, is particularly important in recapturing the sense of historic events.

Setting is the physical environment of a historic property. Whereas location refers to the specific place where the battle occurred, setting refers to the character of the place in which the property played its historic role. It involves how, not just where, the property is situated and its relationship to surrounding features and open space.

The physical features of a battlefield that make up its setting can be natural and manmade. They include topographic features (the physical geography of the battlefield), vegetation (the pattern of fields and woodlands), manmade features (stonewalls, or fences), and the relationship between buildings and open space.

Feeling is a battlefields's expression of the historic sense of a particular period of time. It results from the presence of physical features that, taken together, convey the property's historic character. If a battle occurred in a rural district, then the presence of farm roads, agricultural buildings, and field systems combine to convey the feeling of the area at the time of the battle.

Association is the direct link between the important historic event or person and a historic property. A property retains association if it is the place where the event occurred.

Design, materials, and workmanship refer to qualities associated with manmade properties. If a historic battlefield contains architecturally significant properties, then these qualities of integrity may apply. See National Register Bulletin: How to Apply the National Register Criteria for Evaluation for more information.

Identifying Contributing and Noncontributing Resources

Ninety Six National Historic Site
Battlefields may be significant under National Register Criterion C for the presence of important examples of military fortifications. Shown here are the ruins of the British Star Fort and Patriot siege lines laid out by the brilliant Polish military engineer, Thaddeus Kosciuszko, at Ninety Six in Greenwood County, South Carolina. These are rare surviving examples of 18th century military constructions (Photo by Ninety Six National Historic Site).

If a battlefield contains a variety of contributing resources (buildings, structures, objects, or sites) and includes extensive acreage, it should be classified as a district. Otherwise, the battlefield should be classified as a site. The battlefield will usually include within its boundary numerous features that should be classified as either contributing or noncontributing to the significance of the battlefield. To contribute to the significance of the battlefield, a property (either a building, structure, site, or object) must date from the battlefield's Period of Significance, which usually means that the property must have been present at the time of the battle. Properties post-dating the battle may have significance in their own right (for example, an architecturally important house built after the war), but they cannot be considered as contributing to the event that occurred before they were constructed. If later events are considered historically significant (such as a post-battle memorialization of the battlefield) then the Period of Significance can be extended to include this period and its important resources, or two distinct Periods of Significance can be selected (one for the battle, and a second period for the era of the memorialization).

Contributing resources may include all buildings extant at the time of the battle (including buildings that served as headquarters, hospitals, or defensive positions); structures such as the original road network on the battlefield; stone walls or earthworks used as defensive positions, or bridges over important waterways, sites such as burial sites, or objects such as statues and markers.

Assessing Overall Integrity

Battlefields cannot be frozen in time. The cataclysmic event that gave the sites their significance created a highly unstable landscape of destruction. Even where efforts to preserve the battlefield were initiated almost immediately, as at Gettysburg, it proved impossible to perpetuate the scene in the exact form and condition it presented during the battle. Instead, Gettysburg presents several layers of history, including its post-battle memorialization.

The best-preserved battlefields appear much as they would have at the time of battle, making it easy to understand how strategy and results were shaped by the terrain. All properties, however, change over time and nearly all battlefields will contain noncontributing properties. The impact of noncontributing properties on a battlefield as a whole depends not only on their number, but also on their nature and location and the size and topography of the battlefield. While this is a subjective judgement there are some general principles for assessing integrity. If the type of noncontributing property reflects a continuing later development of traditional landuse, then the impact of these properties may not be as great as that of modern properties that do not reflect the historic use of the land. For example, in battlefields located in rural or agricultural areas, the presence of farm related buildings dating from outside the Period of Significance generally will not destroy the battlefield's integrity. It is important that the land retain its rural or agricultural identity in order for it to convey its Period of Significance. (See following paragraphs on the impact of reforestation). The impact of modern properties on the historic battlefield is also lessened if these properties are located in a dispersed pattern. If a battlefield is characterized by rolling topography, the impact of later noncontributing properties may also be lessened. Frequently, one of the greatest changes to the historic landscape is the development of modern roadways. The changes in the roadway circulation pattern on battlefields should be evaluated for the impact on the battlefield's integrity.

Battle of Shiloh
The best-preserved battlefields appear much as they did at the time of the battle, making it easy to understand how strategy and results were shaped by terrain. Participants in the Battle of Shiloh (April 6-7, 1862) would undoubtedly recognize the Sunken Road and the Hornet's Nest depicted here. This was the site of ferocious fighting as Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's men desperately held this position for six hours against eleven Confederate attacks (Photo by National Park Service).

The issue of changing forestation on a battlefield is complicated by the fact that forest cover during the historic period may have changed dramatically in areas of intense extended fighting. In wooded areas, armies could use extensive amounts of wood for cooking, creating shelter, and in constructing defensive works. In areas where battles took place in cultivated fields, the abandonment of farms could be followed quickly by forestation.

As noted earlier, location, setting, feeling, and association are usually the most important aspects of integrity for battlefields. While forestation of a battlefield that was open land at the time of fighting may have an impact on its setting, it will not necessarily destroy the battlefield's overall integrity. The covering of former open fields with trees is a natural and reversible alteration to the landscape. In some instances the abandonment of fields and the coverage of the battlefield with trees preserves manmade features associated with the battle, such as trenches, rifle-pits, or artillery positions. The presence of natural and manmade features associated with the battle is an important factor in the battlefield retaining its integrity of feeling and association. If it can be demonstrated that, despite the forestation of an area, the battle took place in that particular spot, then the battlefield retains integrity of location. The impact of forestation on the battlefield's historic setting must be weighed against its retention of the other aspects of overall integrity. Other battles were fought in areas with heavy tree coverage which has since been lost. While the loss of historic forest covering does have an impact on the battlefield's historic setting, it will not necessarily destroy the battlefield's overall integrity.

In assessing the integrity of battlefields significant under Criterion D, if significant archeological features are present, integrity of setting and feeling may not be required. Intact archeological deposits, and/or human remains might lie beneath more recent fill or modern construction and integrity of setting and feeling may not be necessary for the property to retain its ability to convey important information.

Selecting Defensible Boundaries

Where to Draw the Boundary

While the decision of where to draw the boundary will differ for each battlefield, there are some general guidelines. The boundary should encompass, but not exceed, the full extent of the battlefield. Included within the boundary should be the location of the battle and an appropriate setting to convey its significance. The inclusion of the setting around where the events occurred is justified as important to understanding what the participants experienced and in explaining how the geographic setting may have determined or influenced the action. It is not necessary to demonstrate that soldiers fought on every square foot of the battlefield. For example, where a battle was fought in a valley formed by two ridgelines, it may be appropriate to draw the boundary at the ridgelines because the topography determined the course of the action.

A basic principle is to include within the boundary all of the locations where opposing forces, either before, during, or after the battle, took actions based on their assumption of being in the presence of the enemy. Boundaries should include the areas where there was hostile action between opposing forces or areas where there was an action or reaction generated by an opposing force while in immediate proximity to the enemy. For instance, boundaries should be drawn to include areas where a march of one enemy force encounters an opposing picket line, or where a bivouac is attacked by the enemy, or a bivouac is established opposite an enemy picket line as prelude to fighting, or a retreating force establishes a holding line along its retreat route and is attacked.

Generally, boundaries should not be drawn to include the portion of the route taken to the battlefield where there were no encounters. Although the route may be important in understanding the tactics of the overall campaign, it is not necessary to defining the particular battlefield. Boundaries should not be drawn to include retreat routes where there was no pursuit. The boundary also should not include features, such as a bivouac area, located away from the fighting and not established because of the enemy's position.

In some situations, archeological study may help determine the boundaries of a battlefield, particularly for battlefields of lesser known or documented conflicts.

Discontiguous Boundaries

Connor Battlefield
Battlefield boundaries should encompass, but not exceed, the full extent of area in which fighting took place. In some instances this will include large land areas; in instances where the fighting was restricted to a small area, the battlefield may be no more than several acres. The latter situation occurs at Connor Battlefield (Tongue River Battlefield) in Sublette County, Wyoming, which in 1865 was the site of the most important engagement of the Power River Indian Expedition, a punitive military campaign to stop Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho attacks on immigrant trails. The battlefield encompasses the site, along a bend of the Tonuge River, of Arapaho Chief Black Bear's village, which was destroyed in the battle. (Photo by Wyoming Recreation Commission).

In some instances it is appropriate to draw boundaries that define the battlefield into two or more discrete or discontiguous parcels. A discontiguous boundary is appropriate when significant action in a battle occurred in separated areas, and the land between the areas is not important in defining the battlefield. For example, two military forces meet in battle and the main action is concentrated in one area. One of the forces sends a smaller group to try to flank the enemy. This smaller group removes itself from the battlefield, takes a circuitous route around the enemy, and while crossing at a river ford to attack the enemy from the rear, meets an enemy force holding the ford. This encounter leads to a brisk fight that halts the invading force and prevents it from attacking the main enemy concentration - an important factor in the outcome of the battle. In this instance it may be appropriate to define the battlefield by drawing the boundary into two parcels - a large area encompassing the scene of major fighting and a smaller parcel defining the fight at the river ford.

Another instance where it may be appropriate to draw a discontiguous boundary is where there are important sites associated with the battle, but geographically not connected to the battlefield. In some cases, headquarters sites or the sites of military hospitals were located apart from the battlefield. When this occurs it is acceptable to draw a separate boundary for these important sites.




A battlefield may be: (1) nominated and listed individually using National Register of Historic Places Registration Form (NPS 10-900), or (2) as part of a group of properties nominated in a multiple property format using National Register of Historic Places Multiple Property Documentation Form (NPS-10-900-b). The Multiple Property Documentation Form is a cover document and not a nomination in its own right; it serves as a basis for evaluating the National Register eligibility of related properties. On it, the themes, trends, and patterns of history shared by the properties are organized into historic contexts and property types representing those contexts. The nomination of each building, site, district, structure, or object included within the thematic group is made on National Register Registration Forms. Refer to National Register Bulletin: Guidelines for Completing National Register of Historic Places Mutliple Property Documentation Form for guidance on preparing a Multiple Property Documentation Form. A Multiple Property Documentation Form can be used to submit nominations for a number of sites associated with a single battle, or it can be used to nominate all eligible sites associated with a military campaign in a defined geographic area.

Nominations are processed according to the regulations set forth in 36 CFR Part 60, and are submitted to the National Park Service by the appropriate State or Federal Historic Preservation Officer.

The following guidance supplements National Register Bulletin: Guidelines for Completing National Register of Historic Places Forms and National Register Bulletin: Guidelines for Completing National Register of Historic Places Mutliple Property Documentation Form and is organized according to the section name of the registration form.

Name of Property

The historic name of the battlefield will be used to identify it in the National Register files, the comprehensive National Register Information System (NRIS), and any publications. Battles were frequently called different names by the opposing forces, but usually an accepted historic name emerges over time. For a battlefield, list the generally accepted historic name of the battle (example, Perryville Battlefield). If there is more than one historic name, enter the name that most closely connotes the significance of the property; enter other historic names under "other names."


The battlefield should be classified as either a district or a site. If the battlefield contains a variety of contributing resources (buildings, structures, objects, or sites) and extensive acreage, it should be classified as a district. Otherwise, the battlefield should be classified as a site.

In completing National Register forms, the term "resource" refers to the elements comprising a documented property. Use the definition of "Category of Property" found in National Register Bulletin: Guidelines for Completing National Register of Historic Places Forms to determine whether the resources comprising the property are buildings, structures, objects, or sites. Then use the following definitions to classify component resources as "contributing" or "noncontributing."

. A contributing building, site, structure, or object adds to the historic architectural qualities, historic associations, or archeological values for which a property is significant because (a) it was present during the Period of Significance and possesses historic integrity reflecting its character at that time, or is capable of yielding important information about the period, or (b) it independently meets the National Register criteria.

. A noncontributing building, site, structure, or object does not add to the historic architectural qualities, historic associations, or archeological values for which a property is significant because (a) it was not present during the Period of Significance, (b) due to alterations, disturbances, additions, or other changes, it no longer possesses historic integrity reflecting its character at that time or is incapable of yielding important information about the period, or (c) it does not independently meet the National Register criteria.

In cases where a resource contributes on the basis of significance unrelated to the battlefield, Section 8 of the nomination form should explain how the resource independently meets the National Register criteria. For example, a battlefield might contain a prehistoric archeological site that is significant in its own right, or an architecturally significant building constructed after the battlefield's defined Period of Significance. The form should explain how this site qualifies on its own under the criteria. Other resources which date from this earlier Period of Significance, but which are not associated with a defined Area of Significance (for example, the memorialization effort) should be counted as noncontributing.

Guidelines for Counting Resources on a Battlefield

Contributing and noncontributing resources are counted according to the guidance found in National Register Bulletin: Guidelines for Completing National Register of Historic Places Forms . The acreage composing the battlefield, including the forests, fields, orchards, etc., counts as one contributing site. Buildings, structures, objects, and sites substantial in size and scale or that are specifically discussed in the text are counted separately.

The following example of counting resources is for a battlefield that is classified as a district because it contains a number of contributing buildings, structures, and objects: a battlefield consisting of the battle site, a trench system, eight farm buildings present during the battle, 12 monuments constructed by veterans of the battle, fourteen modern residences, and a modern visitors' center, counts as one contributing site, one contributing structure (the trench system), eight contributing buildings, twelve contributing objects (if the Period of Significance extends to the battlefield's commemoration period), and fifteen noncontributing buildings.

A battlefield containing no buildings, objects, or structures counts as one site.


National Register Bulletin: Guidelines for Completing National Register of Historic Places Forms includes a list of historic and current functions that should be consulted to define both the past and present uses of the battlefield. Only the most predominant functions of the property should be listed. Functions that may apply to battlefields could include: domestic; commerce/trade; social; agricultural; industry/processing/extraction; defense; monument/marker; and/or landscape.


In this section provide a narrative describing the current and historic physical appearance and condition of the battlefield including the setting, major buildings, structures, objects, or sites, and features of the landscape. The narrative should begin with a summary paragraph that briefly describes the battlefield, noting its major physical characteristics and assessing its overall integrity. Additional paragraphs describing the battlefield should support the summary paragraph.

Guidelines for Describing a Battlefield

. Describe the appearance of the battlefield at the time of the conflict.

. Describe the present condition of the site and its environment.

. Describe the natural features (if any) that contributed to the selection of the site as a place of battle, such as a series of hills used as a defensive system.

. Describe other natural features that characterized the site at the time of the battle, such as vegetation (fields, woodlots, orchards, etc.), topography, bodies of water, etc.

. Describe any manmade features associated with the battle, for example campsites, or trenches. See list on pages 6 and 7 for features typically found on battlefields.

. Describe the type and degree of alterations to the above features since the battle, and their impact on the historic integrity of the site.

. Provide an explanation of how the current physical environment and remains of the battlefield reflect the Period of Significance and associations for which the site is significant.

Statement of Significance

The Statement of Significance is a narrative that describes why the battle was important by explaining how the battlefield directly relates to its historic context, National Register criteria, and areas and periods of significance. The important events and persons associated with the battle are discussed in relationship to the specific features identified on the battlefield. The Statement of Significance should begin with a summary paragraph describing the overall importance of the battlefield and should be followed with additional paragraphs supporting the significance of the battlefield, the event, and important persons associated with that event.

Guidelines for Describing the Significance of Battlefields

. How does the battlefield meet any or all of the National Register criteria?

. How does the event that occurred there reflect the broad patterns of American history and why is it significant?

. How does the battlefield meet any of the National Register criteria considerations?

. Describe the Areas of Significance with which the battlefield is associated.

. Define and justify the Period of Significance.

. Describe the major participants and their role in the battle.


The Battle of Rosebud Site
For some battlefields, an appropriate boundary is not readily apparent. In defining boundaries for battles fought in large open areas where no geographic features contained the battle and define the boundary, careful consideration should be given to original accounts of participants and secondary sources, and these descriptions should be evaluated during onsite visits. The view of the Battle of Rosebud Site in Big Horn County, Montana, illustrates the necessity of carefully researching boundaries. The battle was a major engagement in the 1876-1877 Siouz War, and took place of over an extensive area of rolling, dry hills and breaks, interspersed with gullies and dry creeks. (Photo by John Popovich).


The boundary of the battlefield should be delineated as accurately as possible using a measured description, legal descriptions, tax parcel numbers, lines and sections on USGS maps, or a sketch map drawn to a scale preferably no smaller than 1" equals 200 feet.


A sketch map should be provided for the battlefield indicating its boundaries and the relationship of all important features. Buildings, objects, structures, and sites should be marked on the map, as well as road networks, major land uses, and troop positions and movements. Each resource that is substantial in size and scale should be labeled by name or number.

For properties with large acreage, several maps drawn to different scales may be used in place of one sketch map. A small-scale map, such as a USGS topographic map in the 1:24,000 series, can be used to delineate the overall property and may be used to show boundaries, circulation networks, important natural features, isolated resources, and clusters of resources. Maps drawn to a larger scale, for example, 1" equals 200 feet, can then be used to show the individual resources located within each cluster. A series of maps can be provided to show the flow of action during the course of the battle.

Copies of historic maps showing the land at the time of the battle, or maps drawn for histories of the campaign are significant records of battlefields, and should be included with the nomination if available. Historic maps should be reviewed carefully for accuracy of scale, and location of features and troop movements. Refer to the Bibliography section of this bulletin under "Historical Atlases" for sources of maps. Guidebooks to battlefields frequently contain maps that are useful in understanding the relationship between the natural and manmade features found on the battlefield and the flow of military action.

Mapping the Battlefield

There are many different approaches to mapping battlefields, but to assist in understanding the action that occurred at these sites battlefield mapping should include the movements, positions, areas, and other locations important in explaining the battlefield.

Battlefield at Droop Mountain
Historic maps can be a valuable source of information in identifying features and locations of events on battlefields. Historic maps contain information on roads, railroads, waterways, troop positions, locations of headquarters, artillery positions, entrenchments, and hospitals. They may indicate troop movements during the battle, the location of home sites (with the owner's name), and local landmarks (mills, etc.). To ensure accuracy, historic maps should be checked and verified against written accounts. Shown here is a map of the Battlefield at Droop Mountain, West Virginia (November 6, 1863), prepared by Henry Topping, an assistant to engineers accompanying the Union army. (Photo by West Virginia Antiquities Commission).

Movements identify the maneuvers of troops throughout the battle. They may include the following:

. Approaches to the battlefield

. Retreats or withdrawals from the battlefield

. Flanking movements during the battle

. Attack movements during the battle

. Pursuit movements during or after the battle

Positions identify where battle lines were drawn. They are stationary points from which the various types of movements occurred. They may include:

. Picket lines

. Skirmish lines

. Battle lines

. Regrouping positions

. Artillery positions

. Entrenched positions

. Unentrenched troop


Areas define the places within the battlefield where military activity occurred. They may include:

. Staging areas

. Engagement areas

. Skirmish areas

. Holding action areas

. Bivouac areas

. Troop reserve areas

Other locations are sites that played a role before, during, or after the battle, but are too small to be defined as an area. They may include:

. Command posts (also

called headquarters)

. Signal stations

. Hospitals

. Observation posts

Geographic Information Systems Mapping

Second Kernstown Battlefield
Computerized mapping can aid in evaluating the integrity of battlefields. This digitized map of New Market Battlefield (New Market, Virginia, May 15, 1864) shows areas retaining integrity from the time of the battle (light shaded areas) and areas which have lost integrity since the battle (dark shaded areas). The map overlays information taken from Landsat photographs on current land use, patterns of road networks, and steam formations. (Map by Cultural Resources Geographic Information Systems Facility, National Park Service).

One important way to study battlefields is to make extensive use of maps. Maps can show relationships between battlefields and land use change. They can provide a regional picture or context for individual battlefields. Maps convey important information in easy to understand graphic images.

There is a vast amount of map information about battlefields and modern land use change. For example, there are more than 2,300 cartographic items pertaining to the Civil War housed in the Library of Congress. The National Archives has approximately 8,000 Civil War maps in its collection. Doubtless, a significant number of historic maps exist in State and local repositories. Even more map information exists today with respect to land use change. Census data on population and other demographic characteristics, data on roads, rivers, streams, elevation, landuse and landcover, zoning, public land boundaries, conservation easements, sensitive habitats, and boundaries of National Register properties are but a few of the items that appear on maps.

The challenge in protecting battlefields is to bring all this data together in a coherent and orderly manner. Often historic maps are not at the same size or scale. Maps frequently vary in the detail and accuracy of features. These pose problems in overlaying or comparing maps to each other.

Fortunately, computer mapping programs known collectively as Geographic Information Systems (GIS) can help. GIS programs can accept maps of different sizes or scales, store them for future use, retrieve them for analyses, create new maps from the analyses, and print maps on paper, slides, transparencies, and computer tapes. The analytical power of GIS, however, is its real value with respect to documenting battlefields. GIS can rescale historic maps to be compatible with other historic maps as well as with modern maps. GIS can assist in assessing the coincidence between current land use and the area encompassed by the battlefield, noting those uses that have reduced or preserved the integrity of the site. GIS can calculate statistics such as acreage of land parcels within battlefields, as well as identify the owners of these parcels. GIS can map what can be seen from within a battlefield, which in turn helps identify areas outside the battlefield that could have a visual impact on the battlefield setting. GIS can assist in defining the boundaries of battlefields by creating a composite map of battlefield movements, troop positions, engagement areas, and sites.

When GIS is used in conjunction with Global Positioning Systems (GPS), a direct link can be made between field survey and computer maps. GPS is a field survey instrument that can store the locational coordinates of features (such as an entrenchment line) as they are discovered in the field. The stored data can then be loaded into the GIS to yield a map of the feature. In addition to being highly accurate (within 5 meters), the resulting map can then be compared to historic military maps showing the same features.

Finally, GIS enables one to focus not only on a particular battlefield, but also the larger regional picture. The latter ability is especially significant because in order to understand the importance of a particular battle, it must often be seen in its larger regional context or frame of reference usually associated with a particular campaign.

While it is not required in the preparation of a nomination, GIS is an effective tool for documenting battlefields because of its flexibility in integrating map information of various scales and details and because it has the analytical power to highlight relationships among data, which in the absence of GIS, would be difficult or impossible to accomplish. Most States and a growing number of local governments are creating GIS databases. Participating in the exchange of spatial data among these entities not only cuts the cost of acquiring data but it also serves to integrate battlefield information into these governmental databases. For further information on GIS, contact the State historic preservation office.



Representative photographs of contributing and noncontributing resources found on the battlefield must be provided with the nomination. Copies of historic photographs, engravings, and illustrations are important documentation for battlefields and should be provided if available.


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