No NPS? No Problem!—Other Places You Can Go to Get Your Civil War Battlefield Fix

ParkClosed-MoosePrelude to a series

My high school history teacher was notoriously passionate about the Civil War. He’d stand at the front of the room amidst a cloud of chalk dust, the blackboard behind him covered with names like “McClellan” and “Gettysburg” scrawled in his excitable chalk-script. He was the first true Civil War buff I’d ever known.

Earlier today, two days into the Federal government shut-down, his daughter—an old friend of mine—posted an alarming note on her Facebook page: “Not one Civil War battlefield is open in the entire country ’til a budget gets passed. They are trying to kill my father.”

Well, I could hardly allow my favorite history teacher to meet the premature sound of “Taps.” After all, there are plenty of places he—and YOU—can still go to get a Civil War fix even though the government shutdown has closed all National Park Service facilities (although one semi-reliable NPS source tells me they’re still trying to get the giant tarp pulled over the Grand Canyon.)

Sure, the NPS oversees most of the big battlefields, but as any hardcore battlefielder knows, there’s plenty more out there than that: state and county parks, Civil War Trust properties, sites run by private foundations and nonprofit groups, roadside markers, and more.

So, I’ve asked my colleagues here at ECW to come up with a list of their favorite non-NPS Civil War sites. In the spirit of civic duty, ECW will feature one such site each weekday of the government shutdown. Hopefully you’ll see something here that’ll pique your interest, perhaps surprise you, and certainly stave off any battlefield withdrawal symptoms you might otherwise experience.

10 Responses to No NPS? No Problem!—Other Places You Can Go to Get Your Civil War Battlefield Fix

  1. The St. Albans Historical Museum in Vermont, sometimes called the high water mark of the Confederacy, is a really different kind of Civil War site. It does a good job of interpreting the St. Albans Raid. It will be open for another few days, until October 6, and hopefully the shutdown will be done by then. Info here:

  2. Could not a person still walk a Park, i.e. Gettysburg or Antietam? It is not gated. Could you still walk across the street from the Pike Restaurant and explore Culps Hill on your own? I am unsure on the concept of “closure”. Is it total non-access, ala trespassing, or does it merely mean that no park rangers are policing the grounds? Am supposed to go to Gettysburg for the 150th of the Address and hope they have this mess finished by then…

    1. I don’t know, Dave, except that enforcement is likely to vary from place to place. So many battlefields are open access from public highways, trails, etc., but others have gated roads with limited/restricted access. I’ve spent many a time walking battlefields after official business hours, so it’s certainly possible to visit the landscapes without the visitor centers being open. With the shutdown, I don’t know if rangers will be discouraging use of the properties or not.

    2. During the government shutdown, NPS land is closed. That means accessing NPS land is considered trespassing under the closure, which carries a maximum fine of $500 and up to six month in jail. You can view NPS lands from county or state roads that run through the battlefields. Trails are closed. At Gettysburg, the visitor center is open, because it is run by a foundation, not by the NPS. Also, Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guides are still offering their tour service, but from adjacent battlefield land not owned by the NPS.

      No NPS is a problem for many visitors. Without staff to monitor, maintain and interpret, the best way to protect NPS battlefields and lands is to deny access during the government shutdown. Here’s an excellent explanation.

      – Eric Mink

      1. Thanks, Eric. Excellent explanation.

        And folks, Eric might not “out” himself here, but I’d like to point out that he’s an NPS employee–one who, I know from experience, cares deeply about what he does. He cares enough that, even though on temporary furlough because of the shutdown, he’s still trying to protect and promote the resource (as evidenced by the fact that he’s willing to take time to offer an explanation). Our thanks, Eric, for this and for your ongoing good work.

      2. Thank you for posting this, Eric. I have heard of several “Occupy”-style protests that are planned for the western parks. These actions would regrettably just paint the NPS as the villain when rangers are obligated to kick them out. No one is getting off on a power trip by denying visitors from the resources both parties love.

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