XBrad brought a post over at This ain’t Hell to my attention. The post is right in my wheel-house – touring Civil War battlefields. The author, Zero Ponsdorf, noted two stops in particular:
Gettysburg: Standing on Little Round Top looking down into The Devil’s Den… Surprising! Pictures and maps do NOT make clear the proximity.
Antietam: Looking down at Burnside’s Bridge from the position of the Confederates… Shocking.
I agree. I’ve visited both locations countless times. I always step away in awe of what brave men on both sides did in those battles.
As said in the post, the camera just can’t give you that same sense of proximity at the Devils Den. Even with the zoom on.
This is musket range, perhaps a bit on the high-end, for the time. This view also points out the declination between the two points of ground. Federal cannoneers on Little Round Top had a tough time depressing the tubes to bear on the Confederates advancing up Little Round Top.
To the side of the location where this photo was taken stand four Parrott rifles representing Charles Hazlett’s Battery D, 5th US Artillery. Guns like those could, and did, make life difficult for the Confederates. The Parrotts could range well beyond the Devils Den to the farm houses beyond.
So in one view, you might appreciate at once the compactness and the depth of a Civil War battlefield. And, by the way, Hazlett was among the many Federals who died in the defense of Little Round Top.
Heading over to Antietam. Walking across Burnside’s Bridge, you are walking the footsteps of those who fought in the battle.
Some time back, I wrote at great length about the military particulars of the Burnside Bridge crossing. I really need to update that post with links and map depictions of the referenced movements. But long story short, the passage over this bridge might seem ill-advised, but military necessity required the crossing. There are certainly things the commander could have done better. But regardless, this bridge had to be taken. Because we can indeed walk in their footsteps we can better consider how the men tasked with the crossing accomplished the feat.
My intent here is not to show off photos from my battlefield stompings, rather to point out some of the lessons one might learn walking the ground. Congressional acts set aside both Antietam and Gettysburg as “national military parks” in the 1890s. In part, those acts created memorials to the veterans who fought in America’s Civil War. But the acts also expressly aimed to create “classrooms” for the nation’s military to study the great battles. Some might argue those classrooms are obsolete in the days of high technology and asymmetrical warfare.
Then again, these old classrooms might have a few more lessons to offer.