In Part 1 of this post (found here), NPS Historian T. Sutton Jett proposed the reconstruction of earthworks in a 1935 concept plan he wrote for FRSP. He identified the following areas where he believed interpretive reconsturctions should be built on three of the four battlefields:
“Fredericksburg Battlefield – The restoration of one of the gun pits on Walker’s Artillery position near Hamilton’s Crossing, and of another gun pit on Lee’s Hill.
Chancellorsville Battlefield – The restoration of a one-hundred-foot stretch of the line occupied by the XII and III Federal Corps on the morning of May 3. The program also calls for the restoration of a gun position at Fairview.
Wilderness Battlefield – The restoration of an infantry work on Ewell’s line near the Contact Station on the Orange Turnpike, and of a hastily constructed log barricade on the Hancock line near the Plank-Brock Road intersection.” – T. Sutton Jett, “The 1935 Trench Restoration,” copy in FRSP CRM office
Jett included Spotsylvania Court House in his memo, but noted that the reconstructions there had already been built.
The idea was endorsed by FRSP management, as some of the proposed reconstructions appear on the park’s 1940 Master Plan maps. These maps provide us with specific locations for the trench reconstructions.
At the Wilderness Battlefield, a portion of reconstructed earthworks was planned, and built, directly behind the Contact Station (see discussion of these structures here) on the north side of State Route 20, and across from its intersection with Hill-Ewell Drive.
In addition to the trench, the park also reconstructed a gun pit to the rear of the infantry earthworks. Whether this was an existing gun pit, or merely an interpretive construction, is unknown. Its location on the downward slope to the rear of the infantry trench suggests it was likely not the location of a wartime lunette.
A visit to the location shows that the battlefield, and time, has reclaimed the trenches and gun pit. Unless one knows what he or she is looking at, it would be nearly impossible to find much noticeable difference between the reconstructed trecnhes and the remains of adjacent wartime earthworks. Likewise, the gun pit could easily be mistaken for a tree throw.
There is no evidence that the park followed through on Jett’s suggestion to reconstruct a section of trench near the Brock Road-Orange Plank Road intersection. Such a reconstruction does not appear on the 1940 Master Plan map of the Wilderness Battlefield, nor have any photographs been found to suggest its existence.
At Chancellorsville, Jett’s suggestion to reconstruct one of the lunettes at Fairview was implemented almost immediately. A photo from 1936 shows park and/or CCC staff digging out the inside of a Union gun pit.
Like the Wilderness trench and gun pit, the reconstructed Fairview lunette has been reclaimed by the battlefield. No visible evidence of the reconstruction exists today.
Details from the 1940 Master Plan map for the Chancellorsville Battlefield show the Fairview reconstruction, as well as a proposed “restoration” of Union trenches west of Fairview. These are undoubtedly the trenches Jett suggested for reconstruction, but like the Brock Road-Orange Plank Road trenches in the Wilderness, there is no evidence that they were developed.
Finally, Jett called for reconstructions of gun pits at Prospect Hill and Lee’s Hill on the Fredericksburg Battlefield. The 1940 Master Plan map for the Fredericksburg Battlefield does include a detail for the proposed work at Prospect Hill.
Note, however, that a large “X” was drawn through the detail. Perhaps this means that park management chose not to puruse this reconstruction. That may be the case, as there is no evidence that the lunettes at Prospect Hill or Lee’s Hill were ever reconstructed.
It is obvious that some of Jett’s 1935 proposal was implemented, but that not all of his interpretive reconstructions were developed. At what time the decision was made to abandon the trenches remains elusive. Only one of Jett’s trenches remains as an interpretive display, but that is only because the NPS has reconstructed the reconstruction.
Part three of this discussion can be found here.
Eric J. Mink