Return to contents page




Part Four describes the integrity of the fifteen battlefields as determined by both field survey and GIS techniques, discusses the level of threat to each of the sites, and classifies them by categories of risk. Possible preservation and interpretation scenarios are described for the battlefields, and a time frame for preservation action is offered.

1. Field Survey of Battlefield Integrity

The fifteen battlefields were examined by the field surveyor and rated in terms of their perceived similarity to the Civil War landscape. Although time has not stopped at any of these sites, the currently existing features of the rural landscape were used as a baseline. A distinction was made between changes to the landscape wrought by crop cycles; woodland succession or less dense, single family residential growth; and abrupt changes caused by the introduction of a radically non-historic land use practice, such as the construction of new, non-historic roads and high density housing developments, or the recontouring of the ground.

In most cases, farming or new woodland cover preserves all historic ground contours and enables interpretation of the battlefield, even when a specific viewshed might be obscured. Single family dwellings on large lots were usually not deemed intrusive if the balance of surrounding rural land was maintained. The presence of historic structures, ruins, or other survivals, such as earthworks and stone fences, was weighed against the presence of modern structures or other alterations and in many cases boosted the rating of specific battlefield parcels. Historic districts listed in the National Register of Historic Places, such as Winchester and New Market were considered a reinforcement of integrity, since these areas tend to maintain the street grid, scale, and mass of the Civil War era.

With each modern addition to or alteration of the historic landscape, the condition of a battlefield is eroded and the ability to understand and interpret a site is degraded. While a battlefield's study area can absorb some degree of alteration (depending on the site), the loss of core area acreage inhibits the interpretation of essential battlefield events and at some imprecise point prohibits interpretation altogether. Although some level of interpretation can occur on smaller parcels of land, preservation of the land where the battle took place enables a fuller understanding of events.

The ratings derived from the field-survey evaluation forms apply generally to the entire study area of a battlefield. A ``Good'' rating denotes that the appearance of the site is essentially unchanged from the historic period with respect to terrain, land use, road network, and mass and scale of buildings. ``Fair'' describes a site where the primary geographical, topographical, or structural features are largely intact with some changes. ``Poor'' denotes a site where the primary geographical, topographical, or structural features have been altered, as by road construction, or other changes of land use. ``Lost'' denotes a site that has ``changed beyond recognition,'' meaning that a resident of the time returning to the site today presumably would not recognize his surroundings.

A larger study area tended to lower the overall rating of a battlefield because of the greater likelihood of intrusions--visual and physical--even though essential core parcels were substantially intact. With a smaller study area, on the other hand, the effects of land use alterations tended to be amplified and more immediately communicated to the battlefield core.

Only those battlefields with few large-scale additions or alterations in both study and core areas received the highest marks. These were McDowell, Cross Keys, Piedmont, and Port Republic. Battlefields with some alterations or intrusions (most often interstate highways), yet retaining relatively high core integrity were Cool Spring, Fisher's Hill, Tom's Brook, Cedar Creek, and First Kernstown.

Battlefields deemed to have suffered a significant loss of integrity due to alterations, intrusions, and fragmentation were Second Kernstown, Second Winchester, Front Royal, New Market, Opequon, and First Winchester. Of these sites, Front Royal and First Winchester have suffered most, because of the relatively small sizes of the study and core areas. These battlefields have been highly fragmented and essential core areas and defining features lost to the point and where interpretation of the battle events is severely inhibited. Except for a single valley and forested hill, the core area of First Winchester has been assimilated into the City of Winchester, with additional new construction planned.

In spite of integrity loss, important core parcels remain for the battlefields of First and Second Kernstown, Second Winchester, and Opequon. In the case of Opequon, surviving core parcels total more than 900 contiguous acres. Even First Winchester, rated as lost retains several small parcels that would enable commemoration of the battle.

Figure 13 summarizes the findings of the field-survey evaluation forms.


Return to contents page

Creation Date: 3/23/95

Last Update 7/17/95 by VLC