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2. GIS Analysis of Battlefield Integrity

The field survey form rated battlefield integrity through the eyes of the survey team. While these observations are valuable in terms of how the battlefield landscapes are perceived subjectively, for the purposes of this study it was deemed important to find a more objective measure of the loss or retention of integrity. For this we turned to the Cultural Resources GIS Facility for a computer analysis of land use within the battlefield study and core areas. Computer mapping and analysis software, collectively known as Geographic Information Systems (GIS) were used in this study to create a mosaic map by combining many different modern and historic maps; to document study and core areas, to assess current land uses within defined areas; and to calculate statistics for land parcels.

The battlefield study and core areas were reduced to a computer format to enable various comparisons. The average size of study areas of the fifteen battlefields was 5,727 acres, ranging from 3,082 acres at Front Royal to 22,274 acres at Second Winchester. The size of the Front Royal study area accurately reflects the smaller numbers of troops engaged and their restricted deployment along the main roads. Second Winchester, on the other hand, involved a larger force, a network of Union entrenchments, two sweeping flank marches by Confederate forces that literally encircled the town of Winchester, and three days of fighting and maneuvering. The study areas of the Valley's two major battles (in terms of forces engaged and casualties) at Opequon and Cedar Creek were 11,670 acres and 15,607 acres respectively.

Because the study areas of several battlefields overlap, the total acreage for the study areas of the fifteen battlefields was 85,909 acres, 3.4 percent of the area of the Shenandoah Valley under consideration. Battlefield core areas ranged in size from 944 acres at Front Royal to 6,252 acres at Cedar Creek. The mean size of the core areas was 2,415 acres. Total acreage included in the battlefield core areas was 33,844 acres, 1.4 percent of the Valley's land area.

Figure 14 presents the integrity of the battlefields as determined by the GIS analysis. The percentage of built-up lands was computed for the battlefield study and core areas, using available 1973 land use data. These figures were then updated by on-site field inspections. In general, built-up lands, new roads, and quarries were subtracted from study and core area acreage, to achieve an integrity rating. One exception was built-up areas that were residential at the time of the Civil War and that still retain a similar scale and density, such as the old towns of Winchester, New Market, and McDowell. These districts were felt to support battlefield integrity. Retention of 75-100 percent natural and agricultural lands rated ``Good,'' 50-74 percent rated ``Fair,'' 25-49 percent rated ``Poor,'' and less than 25 percent rated ``Lost.'' As presented, the GIS analysis reflects the relative integrity of the battlefields as of 1991.

Figure 15 compares the findings of the field survey with the GIS integrity assessment. The field surveyors were more critical of visual intrusions, particularly of highways, bridges, powerlines, and construction within the battlefield cores. Four battlefields ranked good by GIS were ranked fair by the field survey team: Cedar Creek, Fisher's Hill, Cool Spring, and Tom's Brook. Four battlefields ranked fair by the GIS methodology, were ranked poor by the field survey: Second Winchester, Second Kernstown, and New Market. Both methods agreed on the goodintegrity of McDowell, Cross Keys, Piedmont, and Port Republic, on the fair integrity of First Kernstown, on the poor integrity of Opequon and Front Royal, and the lost condition of First Winchester. Although the integrity ranking derived through GIS differed in these instances from the field survey rating, both methods cluster the battlefields similarly toward the top and bottom of the scale.

The GIS method generates a gross ratio between land of high and low integrity and does not measure many visual intrusions that are apparent in the field. A minor intrusion in terms of acreage might appear as a major visual intrusion, depending on the location and setting. In this sense, the computer is more forgiving than the critical observer. This reference data is crucial, however, for obtaining a more objective view of the current status of the battlefields. Where the GIS rating is considerably higher than the field survey rating, perhaps, visual intrusions could be removed or masked to improve integrity. The GIS assessment will provide a reference point for monitoring further loss of integrity.

Several interesting facts emerged from a regional analysis of the battlefield study areas. The study areas contain a higher proportion of agricultural land (63 percent) than is the case for the Valley as a whole (37 percent). Due to this, changes in agricultural patterns or loss of agricultural land tend to have a higher impact on the battlefields than on the overall Valley landscape. Forests make up more than 56 percent of the Valley's acreage but only about 21 percent of battlefield acreage. This is accounted for by the fact that the Valley's forests are more concentrated in the higher elevations, while battles typically were fought on lower, flatter ground. In addition, built-up lands are more concentrated in the battlefield study areas (14 percent) than in the Valley as a whole (6 percent), reflecting the location of battlefields on or near important towns and transportation nodes. A relatively high level of existing residential development within a battlefield study area indicates that further development in the vicinity is probable due to current zoning and continued growth. Figure 5 shows the pattern of agricultural land use in the Shenandoah Valley.


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Creation Date: 3/10/95

Last Update 7/17/95 by VLC