Question of the Week: What was your first Civil War battlefield?

With summer upon us, now is a good time for many to visit Civil War battlegrounds. In that spirit, what was the first Civil War battle site that you ever visited?

38 Responses to Question of the Week: What was your first Civil War battlefield?

  1. Antietam in June 1993. Listened to a ranger outside the visitor center describe the battle for a half hour. Went home and bought a $5.95 paperback version of Landscape Turned Red. Hooked for life.

  2. My first battlefield to visit was Port Hudson. My mom took me on a day trip there one summer and I was hooked. Every summer after that through high school and college I went to visit more across the country.

    1. Port Hudson was my first state or federal battleground site as well. Drove by it every day of school and also through what would be the Battle of Baton Rouge battlefield, which is urbanized now.

  3. It was Gettysburg during the summer of 1962. I was just shy of 11 years old, and was totally captivated with the Centennial of the Civil War.

  4. Shiloh in the spring of 1965. It was an annual family event and my great grandfather showed us where his father, who was in the 27th Tennessee, had fought. Years later I learned two of my grandmother’s grandfathers were there too, with the 5th Tennessee.

  5. My Boy Scout troop (238) had a scoutmaster who was a history buff, so about every two years we would take a long journey to an important history site. We sold candy, etc. for over two years to raise funds because this would be a big trip. The troop had just gone to Valley Forge, so we ha about two years to raise money for Gettysburg. Unfortunately I became severely ill and missed the trip, but my parents realized how disappointed I was and took me to Gettysburg later. I will always remember their kindness and thoughtfulness. Going to Gettysburg set a bit of a false expectation because I expected every battlefield to be so well-preserved, documented, and have plenty of monuments, which we all know it is far from the truth.

    As a young man I also got a Blue & Gray boardgame which emphasized the importance of railroads and the numerical advantages of northern armies. The key thing about the game that I remember most and influenced my life, was my great-grandfather occasionally discussed growing up in Texas with Confederate veterans and I noticed there wasn’t much of Texas on on the boardgame map… Now, I work as a historian and focus on the Trans-Mississippi theater…

  6. Gettysburg during my junior yearr of HS. It was achool trip for qualfying American History student. I did not appricale at the time what a great school I attended.

  7. Cold Harbor. I believe my wife and I visited Williamsburg during a vacation and we stopped at Cold Harbor along the way. That visit rekindled my interest in the Civil War long dormant since the centennial.

  8. I grew up a little over half a mile from Battery Robinette in Corinth, MS. It was not nearly as developed at that time as it is today. Living only 22 miles from Shiloh that would have been my favorite early battlefield visit.

  9. Gettysburg back in 1968. A family vacation. I was just shy of ten years old and it started my interest in the war.

  10. Petersburg. Went there in elementary school. We had some fantastic field trips back then. Yorktown, Williamsburg, Richmond, Charlottesville and a few others. But Petersburg was the only Civil War battlefield we toured.

  11. First Manassas. At the time, I didn’t even know that there was a Second. Only spent a couple hours walking the area around Henry Hill and the Stonewall monument. Wasn’t much, but it was a start. I’m up to 54 now, but still haven’t seen Second Manassas.

  12. Yellow Tavern. When I was 10-11 years old, my family had friends who lived in a post-WWII subdivision that had been build on the battlefield area. I knew that some battle had occurred there, but of course, didn’t understand the details. Much open land there then. All gone now. Too bad.

  13. On a family vacation in 1963 we visited in order Gettysburg, Antietam, and Harper’s Fetry.

  14. I’m sure I’m with many who note the first battlefield visited was Gettysburg. But…as far as sites go, I must note it was Ft. Bayard, one of the protective forts around DC, just 4 blocks from my childhood home in Washington – not knowing when I was young its history OR its spelling!

  15. Sharpsburg, May 1970. It was a short side trip on our way to DC, dad drove, never got to thinking of asking my WWII vet dad his opinion.

  16. It was Gettysburg. 1969. School trip over Memorial Day weekend. Flew from Chicago to DC area and saw many places.

  17. I grew up in and lived in Virginia for years, so I’d say I probably LIVED on a battle site, as almost every square yard of ground in northern and southeast Virginia was fought over at some point. But as an adult, the Chesapeake Bay at Hampton Roads– the site of the battle between the Monitor and the Merrimack. In 2001, when I was stationed near there.

  18. In the summer of 1960, before I started 8th grade, my parents took me on a road trip from Wisconsin to Washington DC. They stopped at Gettysburg and hired a guide to ride in our car and explain all the sites. I was bored stiff, until we got to Devils Den. I climbed over every boulder there. We went to the visitor center and saw the battle displayed with blue and gray lights. From that I got a very good understanding of the battle. I wasn’t bored anymore. I was hooked.

  19. Gettysburg, October 1990, weeks after Ken Burns’ The Civil War aired. That was the spark for me. Thirty four years later, my interest is at an all time high.

  20. Gettysburg in the summer of ’82. My boyfriend (now husband) wanted to show me the places he had visited years before on a middle school trip, so we visited Gettysburg and Williamsburg. I’ve been hooked on Civil War history ever since.

  21. Getysburg in the ’50s when I was still in grade school. We lived just outside of Hershey. My father was a member of a deer camp located in the mountains between Shippensburg and Gettysburg where we vacationed for a week each summer when the deer were safe (hunting season was in December). My father knew of my budding interest in the Civil War, and one day while vacationing at the deer camp he took the family to Gettysburg. However, it was raining quite hard, and we never left the car. I could only see the sights through rain streaked auto glass, but he decided the trip was a bust and we left. I was broken hearted and decided when I go by myself I will see EVERYTHING – battlefield, monuments, museums, bookstores and tourist traps. In 1961 my best friend in high school had an uncle in Washington, D.C., and his father took us all to see the first centennial reenactment at Manassas. I saw a canon pulled across the fiels, unlimbered and FIRED! was THRILLED. IN 1962, my friend’s family took us to the actual battle reenactment at Antietam, and remember the firing sounding like popcorn. By 1963 I got my driver’s license and went back to Gettysburg for the centennial celebration. I decided then and there that if I live long enough and have money enough, I will participate in tas many of he sesquicentennial reenactments. I did and attended no less than two a year. The real tearjerker was the surrender at Appomattox when the Confederate reenactors marched by us and stacked their arms for the final time.

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