Question of the Week: 11/26-12-2/18

Let’s talk about trenches and earthworks from the Civil War…

Do you have a favorite place to study/see these remnants from the conflict? Have you been involved in any efforts to save these formations of history?

13 Responses to Question of the Week: 11/26-12-2/18

  1. There is a powerful lesson to be learned from two earthworks constructed about a year apart. A hundred yards west of the visitor center at a Stones River National Battlefield is a square trench roughly fifty feet on a side. It was dug by Rosecrans’ innovative Pioneer Corps during the battle. It was the only trenchline dug during the fighting.
    The contrast between the modest work dug during the last days of 1862 & the vast excavations on & surrounding Kennesaw Mountain cannot be exaggerated. Illustrative of that radical change is the line of gun pits dug for the battery that killed General Polk. If memory serves, there are twelve pits with berms on three sides. Nothing like that, let alone the endless miles of trenches, exists at Stones River.
    Is it any wonder that generals such as Hood found it so hard to wrap their brains around the new reality that made the spade the king of battle?

  2. Following the singular Battle of Shiloh (where one would be hard pressed to find a single trench or abatis) the subsequent Corinth Campaign of April/ May 1862 found opposing commanders frantic about defensive works: General Beauregard strengthened and extended rings of earthworks around the strategically important rail center; and Henry Halleck advanced his 100,000 men as little as a few hundred yards in a day, then put them to work digging extensive trenches. In the end, Beauregard surprised Halleck by abandoning Corinth… his Army melting away to the south. And General Halleck gained a hollow victory: empty town, of no consequence.
    All the fruitless work with the pick and spade left Brigadier General John Logan to mutter: “My men will never dig another trench for Halleck except to bury him.”

  3. Pamplin Historical Park, Petersburg. Followed closely by Spotsylvania. As a long time member of “The Trust”, I’ve had a hand (as small as it is) in preserving both sites.

  4. The most impressive earthworks that I have seen were the ones constructed by the Federal and the Confederate forces at Vicksburg Mississippi. They zigged zagged for miles around the entire city of Vicksburg. By the way, kudos to the good people of that city who were able to incorporate many of these relics of the siege into the landscape of this antebellum town.

    1. I agree. I neglected to mention icksburg in my previous post. The earthworks there are most impressive.

  5. The trench lines at North Anna are a must see and worth the trip. Bentonville also has an impressive amount of preserved trenches.

  6. Port Hudson’s earthworks remain quite large, which always surprises me. The battlefield, especially within the Confederate lines, has mostly grown into woods, but they keep the area around the earthworks clear, but still canopied by trees. It’s quite nice.

  7. Whitfield county Georgia is among the places with the most surviving earthworks of anywhere in the US, according to an NPS field survey from a few years back. These works include extensive Union and Confederate entrenchments around Dalton, including multiple lines in Crow Valley and on Rocky Face Ridge. Many of them survive, often in surprising locations, and they provide an amazing field laboratory for the study of ACW prepared defenses. I have raised money to help save battlefield land there. Though some of the works are now on state or county-owned public lands, there is no NPS presence at Dalton, and many segments of surviving works remain on private land.

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