Sunday, October 20, 2013

Civil War Sunday - The Battlefield Without a Park

Arkansas, just west of the Mississippi River, was a Confederate state during the Civil War.

Many think all Civil War battlefields are protected by governments, and exist as parks we can visit to learn about Civil War history.  If you think that, you are sadly mistaken.  Battlefields have been lost to housing developments, to shopping malls, and even to highways. At least one battlefield,  Chantilly (Ox Hill), in Virginia, has been destroyed.  Missionary Ridge, in Tennessee (which I visited briefly in 2006 and have no pictures of) is mainly a residential housing development with pockets ("reservations") where history is preserved. 

We lose our battlefields, our historical heritage, at our risk.  The people of our country (Union and Confederate) paid a heavy price for this war, the war that made our nation a nation, and this must never be forgotten.

When I lived near Canehill, some thirty years ago, I would see a historical marker on my way to and from work. Because I had no children at the time, I have no idea how the local schools (Lincoln school district - an interesting name for a town in a former Confederate State) even taught about the Civil War, which almost destroyed the economy of the area around Cane Hill and Lincoln.  And, no one in the area seemed to ever talk about it.  So it took me thirty years to actually learn the history that was under my feet (so to speak) all those years ago.

These are some facts about Civil War battlefields that may surprise you.

A study indicates there were some 10,500 "conflicts" during the Civil War, ranging from minor skirmishes to major battles with thousands of casualties.  About 384 of these "conflicts" are considered "battles".

Battles are ranked according to a system that assigns them a letter from A to D.

Quoting from the National Park Service website (which is back up as our government has reopened - hurray!):
  • 45 sites (12%) were ranked "A" (having a decisive influence on a campaign and a direct impact on the course of the war);
  • 104 sites (27%) were ranked "B" (having a direct and decisive influence on their campaign);
  • 128 sites (33%) were ranked "C" (having observable influence on the outcome of a campaign);
  • 107 sites (28%) were ranked "D" (having a limited influence on the outcome of their campaign or operation but achieving or affecting important local objectives).
And, of these (again quoting):
  • Four percent (16 battlefields) are owned principally by the Federal government or by other public agencies.
  • Forty-three percent (164 battlefields) are completely in private ownership.
  • An additional forty-nine percent (187) are under some combination of Federal, state, local, or private ownership, although predominantly the latter.
Some 1/3 of battlefields are endangered to some degree. Of the 17 Civil War sites in Arkansas listed by the National Park Service, two are considered lost.

The Cane Hill (November 28, 1862, tactical Confederate victory) battlefield is not easy to learn about.  There is no park.  You can find out about it at a state park for a different battle up the road a few miles, or online.  It is an interesting challenge to learn about the battle, one challenge that my husband and I decided to take this past August.  I encourage you to do this kind of thing at least once during your Civil War journey, just to appreciate the job that people preserving our Civil War Heritage do - oftentimes unappreciated.

Because the development that has consumed so much of Northwest Arkansas in recent years has (mostly) bypassed the Cane Hill area, it is considered "one of the best opportunities in Arkansas for comprehensive preservation of a battlefield landscape", again according to the National Park Service

In my next Civil War Sunday - our experience with our first battlefield without a park.


  1. I love to go visit battle fields. There are so many of them. When we lived in Kansas I visited one in the prairies, and we just went to the beach and visited one there. I also was a nanny for a family and one of the parks we went to was built on a battle field. So it is fun to teach and learn about history. I also love that you get to go back in time and see how it was in the old days.

  2. We visited so many battlefields with the kids. It was quite an education. It still amazes me that we preserve as much as we do in the US. Other countries don't. Thanks for the excellent post!

  3. this is really informative. internet is so great that without going to park, your blog has enriched us. nice post and enjoyed reading.

  4. Alana, one of our favorite vacations in years past was a trip to the East coast, where we visited a lot of Civil War battlefields. I'm so glad that US preserves them, and it saddens me to think that so many are at risk.

  5. I haven't visited many old battle fields, but I have visited a few ancient burial grounds!

  6. As a family we enjoy Civil War history and visiting battlefields. We haven't been out to Kansas, though. Thanks for this interesting post. I'll share it with my family.


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