About this blog

Every week the park staff has conversations (sometimes rigorous) about a new photograph, a new source, or a new idea about the historic landscape on and around the four Civil War battlefields within the park–Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Wilderness, and Spotsylvania Court House.  A few of these discussions lead to new understandings or insights.  We will, by virtue of this blog, take some of those conversations and explorations public.  Our purpose is, in part, to share with the public some of the work that makes our jobs so very interesting.  At the same time, we know there are many people out there with lots of knowledge, sources, and additional information that will add to a better understanding of the landscape and resources we manage and interpret.  This blog is an open invitation for you to join in and add to an exploratory process that, we hope, will enhance preservation of the battlefields in and around Fredericksburg.

Much of the material posted here will be provided by the park’s cultural resource managers and historians, Eric Mink, Noel G. Harrison, John Hennessy, and Beth Parnicza.  Comments are welcome.

Bear in mind that while we don’t expect controversy (beyond the historical kind) to be an element of this blog, we are duty bound to point out that all expressions here are unofficial and are not intended to represent the views of the management of the National Park Service.  We are simply trying to engage viewers in what we think are some pretty interesting conversations and debates about matters of history and landscape.

40 thoughts on “About this blog

  1. As the storyboarding and editing worked out, the plug for this blog is the first item in the “History Calendar segment in the May episode of HISTORY SCENE. BTW, Don “One Take” Pfanz did a great job in the “Do You Know Who The Were?” segment of the May show.

  2. I visited the battlefield at Spotyslyvania last week and have a question: What is the deal with all the small trees (oaks?) growing on the Confederate earthworks (except at the angle). It is most noticeable at Doles Salient and the eastern side of the mule shoe. The young trees are so thick it appears that the NPS purposely planted them that way. If they grow to maturity, that’s a great way to ruin the earthworks……permanently. Can you advise? The small trees are large enough that they better bring a heavy duty lawnmower (more like a chainsaw). They obviously haven’t been moved at all this year at best. The trees are thick and large for it to be just a few months growth.


    Kevin Killingsworth
    McCalla, AL

    • From John Hennessy:

      Kevin: Managing vegetation on earthworks within the patterns of forest and fields that characterize a battlefield is one of our greatest conundrums. The NPS has no stipulated method–science just hasn’t produced an approach that everyone agrees is best. But we do know two things: earthworks that reside in the woods tend to do the best (until a tree comes down an throws a root ball); and earthworks covered with grass tend not to do as well. We maintain only a tiny percentage of our earthworks in grass–mostly around the Bloody Angle at Spotsylvania–and we do that largely because the works are simultaneously so important and so subtle, and “reading” them is impossible for visitors if they are covered with scrub. Other works in open areas (like those at Spotsylvania) generally get mowed or cut once a year. We do this to minimize the wear on the works from cutting. That cutting usually occurs in the late summer or fall, and what you are seeing now at Spotsylvania is a year’s worth of growth. But, we have no intention of letting the woody growth emerge fully. It will be cut soon enough–our bush hog can easily handle vegetation of that sort. In the meantime, I know it looks scraggly, but it’s an approach intended to balance the need to leave the works as untouched as possible AND allow them to function within the open fields that surrounds them.

      • I read this blog with great interest because in 1974, as a member of the Youth Conservation Corps, I helped clear small trees from the earthworks on Bloody Angle. It was hard, hot, sweaty work. As part of our education, we discussed the dilemma of clearing the works or leaving them. After all these years, and all that work so long ago, I’m delighted to learn that the Angle has been kept clear and why the decision was made. My time working in the battlefields of Virginia has given me a lifelong interest in the Civil War and the NPS!

      • Even after all these years, there is no real consensus on the best approach to manage earthworks. It remains one of our great conundrums. Most people don’t realize, but most of the park’s efforts and budget are devoted to battling nature–keeping her from taking over, so visitors can see and understand. Thanks for your efforts on history’s behalf.

  3. Hello Mysteries and Conundrums,
    Sorry to pop this in a comment, but I couldn’t find an email address.
    This message is from a group of history educators in Pennsylvania who have developed a Civil War project that is in the process of raising a modest amount of money to build prototypes for gathering additional partners.
    Our project, the Civil War Augmented Reality Project, is intended to enhance the experiences of visitors to Civil War sites. It is also intended to increase attendance and revenue for historic sites by offering both “high” and “low” tech experiences to best reach the majority of the population.
    We feel that our project is fulfilling a need that educators, park workers, technology enthusiasts, and Civil War enthusiasts have discussed in the past: How can historic sites both raise public interest in their institutions though technology, and not alienate the non-technical history fans?
    We have worked hard on the answer, and are interested in promoting our creative solutions.
    We would like to make clear that the project is not intended solely for Pennsylvania. It is our hope that the project will expand to other venues, as we feel that we have the ability to use our ideas to enhance the experiences of all Americans at historic sites.

    If you have a chance, please check out our blog:

    And our fun, Civil-War flavored funding campaign on Kickstarter:

    If you think that our project has merit, we would be delighted if you could help spread the word, and mention it in your blog.

    Here are a few other links of interest regarding our project:

    A recent newspaper article:

    Other recent blog posts:

    Our Facebook page:

    Our Twitter account page:

    Thanks very much for considering us!

    The Civil War Augmented Reality Project
    Jeff Mummert- Hershey High School and York College of Pennsylvania
    Art Titzel- Hershey Middle School
    Jay Vasellas- Red Lion Area High School and York College of Pennsylvania

  4. I love the blog! Thanks for writing it. It has helped me learn new things which in turn help me write my own blog called For God and Country annabishop318.wordpress.com . Thanks again from a thankful high school student!

    • Thanks for your kind comments and for reading us in the first place. We have had a good time putting this together… and it’s positive responses like yours that keep us going.

      John Hennessy

  5. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my ancester Thomas Chetwood and Mary Ball’s grandfather bought the land upon which Sherwood Forest sits in 1667. Found this info in a book, ‘They Called Stafford Home”. My wife Sarah Hampton Massie Cheatwood is a Fitzhugh decendant and I am a decendant of the Gordon’s of Falmouth, but I never knew the Cheatwood/Chetwood family had this important Stafford connection. We have rescued, stabilized and conserved the old Dunbar Kitchen in Falmouth. A new cedar wood shake roof was installed a few years ago and restoration is underway on the ancient chimneys is currently underway.

  6. This is an amazing blog and a great read. By any chance, is there an effort by the NPS or someone within it to produce a similar blog about other battlefields? I would love for people to discuss the details of Petersburg or Cold Harbor or Manassas. Anyway, fantastic job again, this is history at its best!

  7. I have a unpublished picture which I believe was taken in the area of Fredricksburg. Lt William harmon of the 1st Minnesota Infantry is in the picture. By the flag flying in the camp scene, I believe that it is the 2nd Corps headquarters during the Chancellorsville campaign in 1863, but I’m wondering if anyone can identify the topography. How can I submit it for everyone to look at?

  8. John – have you ever done a post on why/how the cemetery has terraced steps?

    or perhaps it’s on the interpretive signage and I don’t remember seeing it….


    • Larry –

      The National Cemetery terraces, which were in existence by October 1868, were installed to help prevent erosion on the hill. Gutters were installed at the base of each terrace to help with drainage.

      – Eric Mink

      • are there any pictures of this area before the terraces were put in an immediately after they were put in?

        Who owned that land and who paid to have the terraces put in?


  9. thank you for preserving our nations past. I enjoyed reading your blog, the pic’s of the fallen soldiers really touched my heart. Good luck in your endeavors..

  10. Thank You so much for this blog. I have been retracing the steps of my gr. grandfather who served with the 19th Indiana Co. E. He was shot in the thigh at Laurel Hill on May 8, 1864, two months before his muster out date. This blog has so much of the paths he walked. I am totally enjoying the stories and photo’s that are being published.

  11. I visited the Garrett Farm and the site where Booth was killed. There is a marker that states: “Let Your Peace Fall Upon the Soul of John Wilkes Booth. The Twenty First Century Confederate Legion.”

    Does anyone know anything about this group and the purpose behind such a marker?

  12. Thank you very much for this site. I have loved history all my life and now, after retirement I am reading everything I can get my hands on, as well as visiting all the sites I can.

  13. I travel to several Civil War battlefields under management of the National Park Service. I think their current trend toward foliage management is spot on. Most units are taking the “restore” approach where they are planting and removing trees to return the field to its 1861-1865 appearance. As a guy who enjoys walking the terrain to understand the military maneuvers that occurred upon it, I appreciate that trend in NPS foliage management.

  14. Can you point me to some older pics of Beauclaire Plantation, in the 70s or so? As a child my great uncle lived there, in the guest house or carriage house I assume. I remember playing in the labrynth of boxwoods around the plantation house w/my cousins and crossing the cow gates at the entrance and seeing the Shoney’s Bigboy billboard way out near the interstate and bathing in the huge clawfoot tub upstairs. Some 35 years later, the smell of lilac and boxwood still takes me back to those childhood funloving days.Some of the best times of my childhood and I haven’t a single picture. I found Beauclaire about 15-20 years ago and was broken hearted that it had been turned into a neighborhood. The house my uncle lived in was one of the most beautiful houses I remember ever being in. Any information would be appreciated. I’m amazed to read what I have learned on google tonight about the plantation house. I don’t remember anyone living there because we were allowed free roam of the property though I don’t think I ever even went onto the steps of the mansion. I do seem to remember horse stables in the rear of the property.
    Much thanx, Melissa

  15. Thanks for the incredible blog! I was wondering if there is anyway to contact your staff via email?


  16. This is an amazing blog. The fact that several people collaborate to gather the material and present it in such a polished and professional manner, it looks like a spin off of American Heritage or the Smithsonian Magazine, except it’s Civil War all the way.

    Wishing you great success with your efforts.

    Sue Facciolli
    Board Member
    The Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc.
    Philadelphia and Yeadon, Pennsylvania

  17. You folks do amazing work. I just became a follower/subscriber but I have been reading for a couple of months. I have a general interest blog and have written some about the 1862 battle and I have twice recommended your site with the highest praise. I lost a relative at Fredericksburg, part of the 133rd Pennsylvania, hence my interest. Congratulations on your terrific site and thank you.

  18. I’m looking for recommendations on a good book or two on the battle of Fredericksburg. There’s a lot out there, so I figured I go right to the experts.

    Keep up the great work on the site.

    Martin Husk
    Cary, NC

    • Martin: There are two excellent books on Fredericksburg, each taking a slightly different approach. George Rable’s Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg! looks at the battle through a broader lens–its impact on civilians, its play in the press, the political implications of the campaign. Nice written–a perfect example fo “new” military history.

      Frank O’Reilly’s excellent book, Fredericksburg: Winter War on the Rappahannock, is a rigorous, extremely well documented history of the battle, embodying a more traditional approach to military history.

      Those are the best I know. I hope this helps. JH

      • Thanks for the recommendations. I’ll order them today. Just wish they’d come in time to help ride out Hurricane Matthew.,

  19. This comment is in reference to an article dated 1 Dec 2016 and titled “Worth Crossing the Atlantic to See”. Specifically it is in reference to the sketch showing a large quantity of tents.

    The artist gave the sketch a title but it is a bit unclear: Does it state “Portion of Creek Hospital” or does it state “Potomac Creek Hospital”?
    If it is the latter, then it is not the Windmill Point complex.
    Can someone there clarify the title of the sketch by studying the original?

    • I just saved the sketch and note that the jpeg is titled Potomac Creek Hospital.
      So my next question is: Was the Potomac Creek Hospital an official part of the Windmill Point Complex even though it was located at another site?
      I ask this because a few years back I was quite interested in locating details of the Potomac Creek Hospital.

      • The sketch reveals few details that would help locate it. But, the documentary evidence is unrelenting: the “Windmill Point” hospital was not on Windmill Point (though it was opposite Windmill Point), but is nonetheless the same place as the Potomac Creek Hospital, which in fact was not on Potomac Creek. The names were used interchangeably at the time…..

  20. Thank you for responding.
    I had always thought, upon reading Dr. Letterman’s Recollections, that the “Potomac Creek Hosp. was located near the point where the RF & P Railroad crosses the Potomac Creek.

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