150th Anniversary of First Winchester—Now Where is the Battlefield?

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the First Battle of Winchester. Instead of following the format of the last few 150th posts on battles in the Shenandoah Valley, I thought I would try something new for this battle anniversary.

The thought came to me while researching the battle and as I came across a site by the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields, which is part of the Shenandoah at War National Historic District. Here is the link:

What struck me from this site was the following paragraph:

One of the Valley’s few urban battlefields, the landscape and terrain have been altered beyond recognition since the period of significance. However, terrain features such as Bowers Hill (now the site of Handley High School) and Abrams Creek remain and provide modest interpretive opportunities.

Bower’s Hill as it looked in the 1860s
(courtesy of PictureHistory.com)
John Handley H.S. & Bower’s Hill today

Now, I am a realist and understand that not everything can be preserved. But at the same time I cannot help but think about what is lost when battlefields or other historical sites are built over, bulldozed, and/or lost. It’s like a piece of every American is gone forever. All the blood spilled on a battlefield is lost to history; all the toil and hard work of a family to farm the land and build a house on the frontier lost to a subdivision with a fancy name like “Frontier Retreat.”

So, another anniversary of a Civil War battle is upon us, and as we approach the Memorial Day Weekend, let us remember the sacrifices of all those who served and continue to serve—even the ones who sacrificed their lives 150 years ago for a cause, whether North or South, that they believed in enough to die for.

One of the best replies of a soldier to an officer’s attempt to rally his troops on a battlefied comes to us from First Winchester. As Union General Nathaniel Banks tried to rally his troops as they retreated from the battlefield, he tried to play on their patriotism. He shouted a plea: “My God, don’t you love your country?” The answer? “Yes, and I’m trying to get back to it as fast as I can.”

A Happy and Safe Memorial Day to all—especially to our armed forces (thank you!).

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