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4. Study Concepts

The Shenandoah Valley study proceeded in three stages: documentary research; field survey and verification; and mapping.

During the field portion of the study, several problems emerged pertaining to the definition of a battlefield. The extent of a battlefield is not easily defined because there is not always a definite starting or stopping point. A battle is joined through the fluid motion of armies across the landscape, leading to encounter, confrontation, violent interaction, and disengagement.

Before attempting to circumscribe a battlefield, it is essential to understand the size and nature of the opposing forces, the relevant military objectives, the importance of terrain to the direction and outcome of the battle, and to consider the interaction of military actions before, during, and after the battle. Due to these factors, some battles were confined to relatively small geographic areas, while others were large, sprawling affairs with military activities of various kinds directed over a large area.

The field evaluation form that was used, separated each battle into phases and attempted to capture the movements of forces across the landscape, rather than relying on the approach of most forms designed to evaluate a static, historic landscape. Important period features were identified from battle accounts and descriptions and were located on the map when these could be identified. These features, which included terrain features, roads, buildings and structures, and other place names, were referred to as defining features because when mapped they tend to define the extent of the battlefield on the landscape.

In each case, battle was judged to begin when hostile forces began responding to each other's presence and maneuvering to ensure confrontation. For purposes of mapping, a battlefield study area was drawn to encompass all important components of the conflict. These components might include approach routes, areas of troop concentrations, reserve positions, a commander's headquarters, signal stations or other important observation points, picket lines, battle lines, maneuver areas, assault areas, artillery positions, retreat routes, and places where the armies bivouacked before or after the fighting when these are nearby. The study area is viewed as providing a strategic context and geographic setting for understanding the conflict in question.

A core area was then identified for each battlefield. Core areas included those areas of confrontational deployment, heaviest fighting, and most severe casualties. In modern military parlance, this is known frankly as the ``killing zone.'' Occasionally plotted as part of the core were sites which were important in shaping the ebb and flow of battle, even when fighting at these sites was minimal. These satellite areas might include river crossings, crossroads, signal stations, or other features that contributed to the battle's development and outcome.

Outlining study and core areas on the map is a subjective, but necessary, process, if we are to understand where and how these events occurred. In most cases, study and core outlines were drawn to follow the nearest physical feature, such as a road, creek, ravine, woods or ridge line. Further research will undoubtedly refine the study areas, but the adjustments should be slight and involve a reinterpretation of the importance or location of more peripheral battle events. The study team, historians, and other consulted parties are in agreement over the locations of the primary battle activities included in the core areas. As mapped on the USGS quadrants and reproduced in GIS format, each battlefield is contained by its study area and defined more closely by its core.

The study and core area outlines, as used here, do not constitute proposed park ``boundaries.'' Boundaries for battlefield parks, whether national, State, or local, rarely coincide with the actual size of the battles, but rather represent decisions to set aside specific land parcels as parks. Such decisions typically include factors in addition to the historic events, such as the National Park Service criteria for suitability and feasibility (see Part Six). These criteria can cover such considerations as availability of land, funding, management structure, local land use plans, or other priorities. Thus, most National Park System battlefields do not encompass all significant areas associated with a battle. As used here, study and core area outlines are an attempt to display the extent of the battle on the landscape based on historic sources. Management considerations are not addressed.

The 15 battlefields are located to the west of the existing Shenandoah National Park. Front Royal and Port Republic have small portions of their study areas (112 and 85 acres respectively) in existing park ownership. Portions of these two battlefields (215 acres of Front Royal's study area, and 1,098 acres of Port Republic's study and core areas) are within the authorized boundaries of the park. The study areas of Piedmont and Cross Keys are relatively close to the authorized boundaries of the park, but GIS analysis has determined that the boundaries do not intersect. No management recommendations will be made by the National Park Service to include these areas within Shenandoah National Park.


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Creation Date: 3/13/95

Last Update 7/17/95 by VLC