ECW Weekender: Winter at the Battlefields

We get it. If it’s snowing outside, we’d probably all prefer to huddle inside. But…it doesn’t snow all the time where many of the Civil War battlefields are located. In fact, at some of the battlefields, it doesn’t snow at all!

Winter’s non-snowy days can be one of the best times to get out and explore hallowed ground. Why? Let’s list a few reasons:

  • No (or less) foliage on the trees offers clearer views in the woods
  • Earthworks are often easier to see and other land features
  • No snakes! (most likely)
  • Fewer bugs (most likely)
  • It’s not blazing hot (most likely)
A light dusting of snow and no foliage on the trees offers a different perspective in the area of Spotsylvania’s Bloody Angle.

Now, of course, there are some drawback to winter exploring too:

  • Mud (potentially)
  • Ice (particularly early in the mornings; be careful)
  • The cold requires heavier jackets and other proper gear if you’re walking
  • Seeing the battlefield in a way most Civil War soldiers probably did not (unless you’re at an area where there was actually winter fighting. Stone’s River? Fredericksburg?)

Hey, we always encourage “safety first” but if you’re prepared and able to get out to a battlefield this winter, you’ll see it in a new way. In fact, some of the ECW team was just discussing this: “I never knew there were earthworks back there.” It’s amazing what you might see while nature’s stripped away the green leaves.

Do you go battlefielding during the winter? If so, do you have a favorite location or a place that you’ll see things in winter that are hard to see or understand in the summer?

P.S. A word from the ECW photographer team… You’ll get prettier pictures in the other three seasons…unless it’s actually snowing. Then it’s debatable. 😉

3 Responses to ECW Weekender: Winter at the Battlefields

  1. We’ve visited Vicksburg in November, which wasn’t bad at all. For most of the hike around the park, I didn’t have to wear a jacket. We’ve also seen Port Hudson in early winter and YES, earthworks galore! More than I had ever thought there would be! We just recently came back from a trip to Stones River and I regret not wearing gloves. There was some ice and mud, but no snow (thank goodness!) but it does give that extra depth to know the soldiers experienced the same (or similar) weather conditions. Visiting any coastal fort (Morgan, Gaines, Pickens, etc.) makes for a windy and chilly walk, but there are less tourists in the winter in places like Pensacola and Mobile. There’s never a bad time to see battlefields, in my humble opinion.

  2. My son and I visited Gettysburg last March and I saw Malvern Hill, Cold Harbor, Yorktown, Petersburg, and Gaines Mill in November of 2004. As was stated in the posting, it’s a great time if you want to dodge the crowds and bugs and see some earthworks. Word of advice, bring your Muck boots and you’ll be a-ok as far as any mud goes. That being said though, if you live up north of the Mason Dixon like myself, many battlefields or forts (non civil war era) are closed down until spring, so be sure and check online before making any trips.

  3. I visited several sites this winter: I and around Gettysburg, Harrisburg, Penn., parts of the Shenandoah, Gen. Hunter’s rain on Lynchburg, Va., Cumberland, Md., the Imboden’s Raid “Eastern Panagle,” Martinsburg and Shepherdstown, W. Va., and several more between November 2019 and January 2020. You see more of the battlefield, you can take your time exploring to study and photograph a site without bothering other visitors. You have to keep safety in mind: especially weather and travel conditions to, from and on the battlefields.

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