a web page by Don Roberson
But there are more than 50 Civil War sites, and I retain a keen interest in seeing many more, so we continue . . .

15-year-old Don looks at the forest at the Wilderness,
not long after the Civil War centennial (photo by B.B. Roberson; June 1967)
Somewhat later, an older Don sees his first re-enactment at the Mansfield sesquicentennial (photo by Rita Carratello, April 2014)
Battery Wagner Charleston
Fort Sumter
National Monument

South Carolina

Battery Wagner was a sand fortification, supported by palmetto logs, on Morris Island that covered the southern approach to Charleston harbor. Its arsenal included 14 cannons, and its land face was protected by a moat, buried land mines, and sharpened stakes. Taking Charleston was a Union objective, so taking the Battery was considered necessary. Two beach assaults were made: 11 July 1863 and a more famous one 18 July, led by the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, composed of black soldiers. Col. Robert Gould Shaw led the charge and was killed. The assaults failed but Battery Wagner was abandoned in Sep 1863, primarily from lack of water. Later, two drunk Union soldiers went exploring the bomb proofs and set off stored gunpowder, killing and injuring another 300 Union soldiers.

Battery Wagner was washed away by the Atlantic long ago, but Morris Island still exists and the approximate site can be viewed across a channel. The movie Glory tells the story most dramatically.

Contemporary painting of the Union attack on Battery Wagner (top);
looking across towards Morris Island today (below; Aug 1997)

Baxter Springs
Baxter Springs Civil War tour route


It was near the outskirts of the little prairie town of Baxter Springs, Kansas, on 4 Oct 1863, that up to 500 Missouri guerillas, led by bushwhacker William Quantrill who had burned Lawrence, Kansas back in August, surprised and overwhelmed a party of ~100 Union troops under Gen. James Blunt. About half were massacred, many while attempting to surrender. Quantrill's official report stated that he "took no prisoners." Women, children, and members of the regimental band were among those killed. Gen. Blunt barely escaped after a wild ride on his horse.

This is about the only site where one can see a locale specific to the vicious guerilla warfare that engulfed Missouri and Kansas during the War. An auto tour with printed pamphlet takes one to various sites, including the massacre field, and the local cemetery with its huge monument to Union dead.

Cemetery & Soldier Monument at Baxter Springs KS (Mar 1997)

Brices Cross Roads
Brices Cross Roads National Battlefield Site


On 10 June 1864, 7800 Union infantry and cavalry under Gen. Samuel Sturgis, sent from Memphis to destroy CSA forces under Nathan Bedford Forrest, were ambushed and routed by Forrest's cavalry at Brices Cross Roads. Not only did Forrest defeat the Union force with less than half as many men, but he captured 16 cannon and all Sturgis's 250 baggage wagons with ammunition and supplies. It was one of the worst Union disasters of the War.

During my 1997 visit, the entire Site was one acre with a sign, a flagpole, a monument, and a couple of cannon. A real estate office glowered over the field, traffic sped by, and power lines ruined every view. From the perspective of the interested visitor, it was pathetic. However, I've read that local citizens formed a commission to preserve battlefield land, and with assistance from the Civil War Preservation Trust have purchased over 800 acres. Plus, I'm told, a Brice's Crossroads Museum is in Baldwyn, just over a mile from the site. So I look forward to a much enhanced visit some day.

A couple of cannons and a flagpole were about the entire
extent of the one-acre site in 1997 (Mar 1997)
Mar 1997

Drewrys Bluff
Richmond National Battlefield


As part of U.S. Grant's overall plan for victory in Virginia in 1864, the Army of the James was created to threaten Richmond from the south. Gen. Benjamin Butler, an important politician, was placed in charge. In a confused series of fights 4-16 May 1864, hampered by fog and rain, his Army was "bottled up" by Confederate forces at Bermuda Hundred, a bend in the James River, and were basically out of the war thereafter. Rebel guns at Drewrys Bluff were important, as they stopped Union gunboats attempting to assist Butler.

The battlefields in this 'side' part of the 1864 campaign were not preserved, excepting Drewrys Bluff itself, where one can view Confederate fortifications and have a fine view over the James River.

View over the James River from Drewrys Bluff
with storm clouds approaching (Aug 1997)

Kellys Ford
Kellys Ford Battlefield


This battle between Union cavalry (under William Averell) and CSA horsemen (under Fitzhugh Lee) took place on March 17, 1863, after newly appointed Union commander Joe Hooker had reorganized Union cavalry. Averell forced a crossing of the Rappahannock at Kelly's Ford and repulsed several counterattacks, forcing the rebel cavalry back several miles. Confederate artillerist John Pelham, more of an observer here without his artillery, was killed aided a southern counterattack. With potential victory at hand, Averell withdrew to Union territory that evening, leaving his major aim -- to crush Lee's cavalry -- unfulfilled.

This site has not been interpreted until very recently. The Civil War Trust recently acquired nearly 1200 acres. During my visit in May 2013, only limited signage was up and much of the newly-acquired land was not yet open. I was able to visit the the memorial to “the Gallant Pelham,” named for his courage at Fredericksburg the preceding winter, along the Rappahannock River Trail on adjacent C.F. Phelps WMA. At the time of this writing, I am not sure what the Trust will do to open and/or interpret this mostly wooded site. It is a nice area for wildlife.

Memorial at site of the death of "the Gallant Pelham," near Kelly's Ford (May 2013)
May 2013

Colonial National Historic Park -- Yorktown Battlefield


The Yorktown Battlefield is where the British army surrendered to the Americans to end the Revolutionary War in Oct 1781. It is primarily preserved and interpreted for its major importance in the 18th Century (and is excellent from that perspective). During the Civil War, Confederate troops were besieged here by Gen. George McClellan during his Peninsular Campaign in Apr 1862. Yorktown was abandoned by the rebels on May 3, 1862. The National Park Service provides signs about its part during the Civil War (below).

Revolutionary War siege line; that's me at age 15
(June 1967; photo by B.B. Roberson)
Aug 1997


51. Battles at Battery Wagner

  • Media: The outstanding 1989 movie Glory, directed by Edward Zwick and starring Matthew Broderick (as Col. Robert Gould Shaw), Denzel Washington, Cary Elwes and Morgan Freeman (as soldiers), tells the story of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, one of the first formal units of the U.S. Army to be made up entirely of African American men, from their recruitment to the attack on Battery Wagner. It won three Academy Awards, including Denzel Washington as best supporting actor. While the lives and characters of individual soldiers are fiction, the details regarding Col. Shaw, the unit's recruitment, training, pay, and experiences, and the attack on Battery Wagner, were historically accurate. A few details were time-compressed or compilations of several units, but this is a great historical movie, not just a great cinematic movie.
  • Books: Stephen R. Wise's (1994) Gate of Hell: Campaign for Charleston Harbor, 1863, is the standard here, with good maps and photos.

52. Baxter Springs massacre

  • Movie: The 1999 movie Ride with the Devil, with Tobey Maguire and directed by Ang Lee, portrays a group of Missouri bushwhackers, including their participation in the burning of Lawrence, Kansas, in Aug 1863. Some of the movie portrays actual historic events, and I felt it handled those events with reasonable accuracy. The movie follows a Confederate, played by Maguire, but is even-handed in its approach to right-or-wrong in the circumstances. I recommend it.
  • Books: Edward Leslie's (1996) The Devil Knows How to Ride: the True Story of William Clarke Quantrill and His Confederate Raiders is a fine history of this sad piece of American history, and includes lengthy accounts of both the Sack of Lawrence and the Baxter Springs Massacre.

53. Battle of Brices Crossroads

  • Books: Edwin C. Bearss's (1979) Forrest at Brice's Cross Roads must be the standard history. It has good maps and period photos. Yet, Bearss's writing style is nothing like his narrative style for tours (or for the Ken Burns' Civil War series). I found myself bogged down early on in the minutiae of movements of specific units, and quickly lose track of the 'big picture.' The book is heavy to pick up and is written in 'old style' battle histories. It would have been so much better to have the great Ed Bearss recite the highlights on a book-on-tape!

54. Battle of Drewrys Bluff

  • Books: The battles of the Army of the James are very much a side-show to mainstream Civil War history, but William G. Robertson's (1987) Back Door to Richmond: the Bermuda Hundred Campaign, April-June 1864 is excellent, with plenty of maps and photos, and is highly reviewed by many readers. In addition, Edward G. Longacre's (1997) Army of Amateurs: General Benjamin F. Butler and the Army of the James, 1863-1865 covers their campaigns, including a half-dozen pages devoted to Drewrys Bluff.

55. Battle of Kelly's Ford

  • Books: I haven't read a book on this battle.

56. Siege of Yorktown

  • Books: The Civil War siege of Yorktown is covered in Stephen W. Sears' (1992) To the Gates of Richard: the Peninsula Campaign.


Other sites visited

  • Nashville, Tennessee
  • Spring Hill, Tennessee
  • Corinth, Mississippi
  • Tupelo, Mississippi
  • Raymond, Mississippi
  • Picacho Peak, Arizona

Civil War sites not yet visited include the following

  • Westport, Missouri
  • Arkansas Post, Arkansas
  • Fort Jackson & Ft. St. Philip, Louisiana
  • Cane River Crossing, Louisiana
  • Mansura, Louisiana
  • Monet's Ferry, Louisiana
  • Jackson, Mississippi
  • Fort Pillow, Tennessee
  • Richmond, Kentucky
  • Mill Springs, Kentucky
  • Fort Pulaski, Georgia
  • Kennesaw Mt., Georgia
  • Deep Bottom, Virginia
  • Yellow Tavern, Virginia
  • Port Republic, Virginia
  • Cross Keys, Virginia
  • Monocacy, Maryland

For most of these listed, I believe that there is at least something to see -- at least a roadside historic marker, if nothing else -- and others have developed battlefields to visit. We shall aim at seeing some of these in coming trips "back East."

or the choices via links at right:



  page created 21 May 2014  
all text & photos © Don Roberson, except as otherwise indicated; all rights reserved