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American Battlefields of Our Ancestors

civil warWith the Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War, many researchers are learning more about their relatives who served either for the Confederacy or the Union during this war on home territory.  Because the fighting spread from Pennsylvania, to Florida, to Kentucky and out west to Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas; there are numerous locations of small and large battles within the United States.

Once a researcher has determined their ancestor served in the military and in which regiment and company, they need to look up the places that military company was stationed and which battles they were part.  All that is information has been well documented over the decades. A list of all regiments is online with Civil War Unit File.

The most interesting aspect is learning about the actual location of where these battles took place. The greatest opportunity is to actually visit the battlefield, but if that is not possible, the Civil War Trust Battlefields web site is the next best thing.

Why examine and learn about the battlefields?  Well, this is the very ground that the ancestor had to do combat and whether they were injured physically or killed, their life and their family’s lives were permanently and deeply affected.  Remember, not just the soldier, but the residents of the area certainly were affected by thousands of soldiers doing battle in their own backyard, since many conflicts were on private property.

On the web site, there is a large map with labeled states where battles took place. Click on state, such as Virginia (which was the scene of 123 major battles).  The names of forty-six battles in Virginia are listed. The Civil War Trust does not have every battle or engagement listed.  There were 384 major battles and 10,500 engagements across the country throughout the war.

On a separate site, the CWSAC – Battle Summaries is a summary of all the battles listed by states and then the name of the battle with details.  Some of the lessen known ones include ‘Sand Creek’ battle in Colorado and ‘Yankee Outrage’ a battle in Tampa, FL.

On the Civil War Trust Battlefield site after selecting the state, select a battle, such as ‘Cold Harbor.’  There will be photos of what the place looks like now.   Information on the dates of the battle and which regiments were involved is written up.  Figures of the number of Union and Confederate forces and the casualties is provided. Additional historical articles and resources are linked to further learn about that specific battlefield.

Another aspect are the maps of the battlefield. In detail, with an explanation key, are all the units, their commanders and their movements marked on the map. There is even the naming of the placements of certain units such as the Union 8th Ohio Infantry and the Union 145th PA Infantry as they faced the Confederate 48th North Carolina Infantry and the Confederate 27th VA Infantry at ‘Cold Harbor‘ on June 23, 1864. The maps can also be downloaded into PDF format for the researcher’s files.

This can be a most intriguing and meaningful investigation into locations which directly affected our ancestors 150 years ago.

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