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7. Surveying Battlefield Resources

Before visiting the battlefields, the study's researchers examined documentary sources to establish a regional context to enable better understanding of how geography and topography influenced the strategies of conflict in the Valley. This research involved an examination of the settlement pattern and transportation network of the mid-nineteenth century. The Valley was a relatively densely settled and highly productive agricultural region. Understanding the historic framework, enabled the field surveyors to better determine the current condition of the battlefields.

Second, a historic or ``campaign'' context was established for each event to determine its relative importance. Primary and secondary source materials were consulted--particularly battle accounts compiled in The War of the Rebellion: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies and historic maps held by the National Archives and the Library of Congress--to identify the location and extent of the battle ``on the ground.'' The regional and campaign context are presented in Part Two of this report. A list of consulted sources may be found in Appendix A. The strategy and historic campaign contexts are presented in Part Two.

For most of the fifteen battlefields studied, useful primary and secondary works exist to guide the researcher. Jackson's 1862 Campaign, for example, was extensively dissected immediately after the war by eminent military historians of the time, such as G.F.R. Henderson, or by actual participants, such as William Allan and Jedediah Hotchkiss. Since then, voluminous studies have been offered to interpret Jackson's triumph. The 1864 battles, on the other hand, although typically larger and more sanguinary than Jackson's affairs, are generally less written about. Two battlefields in particular--Piedmont and Tom's Brook--were found to have received insufficient treatment by secondary sources, and few reliable historic maps or sketches were discovered. For these battlefields, more intensive research was conducted into the primary accounts, such as diaries, memoirs, regimental histories, and local histories. Local guides provided the final word on several areas in question.

Of inestimable value were the maps and sketches produced by Jedediah Hotchkiss, a resident of Staunton who served as the topographic engineer for Confederate generals Thomas J. Jackson, Richard S. Ewell, and Jubal A. Early. Hotchkiss was a participant-observer of almost every major Valley battlefield and left behind an unparalleled cartographic record. Fully half of the Confederate maps contained in the Official Military Atlas of the Civil War were supplied by Hotchkiss. In Spring 1862, Stonewall Jackson asked him to ``make me a map of the Valley.'' The resulting map, measuring three by eight feet, served as a blueprint for Jackson's 1862 campaign and subsequent Confederate operations in the Valley. The Union armies lacked a map of its equal until well into 1864. In addition to basic topography and watershed information, the Valley map traces more than 4,500 road segments, provides 230 historic place names, locates 260 mills, forges, schools, churches, tollhouses and other commercial and industrial structures, and identifies more than 1,000 farms by name of resident. Because of its pivotal importance, the Valley Map of Jedediah Hotchkiss was reduced to computerized format in its entirety. This computerized map will be housed at an appropriate facility in the Valley and made available to historical and genealogical researchers.

To supplement text and map records, every attempt was made to locate a knowledgeable local guide to accompany the research historian in the field. This was typically someone who had studied the battle, who lived in or was familiar with the area, and who had walked the battlefield many times. In the field, the researcher sought access to vantage points from which the ground could be examined and the action interpreted. Where permission was granted from landowners (most sites), the battlefield ground was walked. An evaluation form was completed for each site, breaking down the narrative action of each battle into phases that could be more closely associated with specific blocks of land. An assessment was then made about the condition of each phase area relative to its described or probable appearance at the time of the Civil War. Historic structures were located on USGS maps, along with any survivals, such as field fortifications, old road beds, mill sites, building foundations, burial sites, or monuments. When a site visit was completed, the battlefield was then summarized across phases and rated according to its overall condition and perceived threats to its integrity. These summary forms with accompanying maps and photographs were reviewed for accuracy by Edwin Bearss and Jeffry Wert, the study's two consulting historians. These complete battlefield descriptions are included in Part Three.

Finally, the field maps were turned over to the NPS Interagency Resources Division's Cultural Resources GIS Facility for further analysis. The battlefield areas were entered into the computer along with other data that enabled an examination of land use within the battlefields. A separate, computer-based integrity rating scale was devised to compare the number of undeveloped acres with the amount of built-up land within the study and core areas. This computer evaluation was then used as a check for visual integrity evaluations made in the fields and discussed in Part Four.

GIS technology was used to produce the maps included in this report. The long-term advantage of using GIS is that a data base has now been created that can be updated to reflect future land use changes for the Valley's battlefields. Troop movements and surviving features can be added, along with National Register properties in the vicinity and other points of interest. The data can be married with the digitized Hotchkiss Valley map to show the sites of old homes and mills to guide archeologists and surveyors. Local planners can use the computer to evaluate proposals that may affect the battlefields, such as alternative routes for a new road to determine which will have the least impact on a core's integrity.

Several Valley counties currently have GIS capability, and plans are being developed to house the database developed in this study at a suitable Valley location, where it is accessible to local and regional planning agencies. For example, the GIS center at James Madison University in Harrisonburg has expressed an interest in serving as the repository for the data base. Using GIS to study the battlefields within the context of the Shenandoah Valley as a whole, offers tremendous potential as one tool for guiding future growth and development at the regional and county levels.

Additional information on GIS and GPS battlefield-related activities.


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Creation Date: 3/13/95

Last Update 7/17/95 by VLC