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Tuesday, February 16, 2016
RETRO FILES / GETTYSBURG IN WINTER
WINTER OFFERS A BETTER SIGHT LINES
OF CIVIL WAR BATTLEFIELD
BLOG –By Troy Harman, Ranger/Historian,
Park Service--The winter is a great time to
visit the battlefield from a sight line perspective. Foliage is down allowing
for unbroken views into the wooded slopes of Culp’s Hill, Little Round and Oak
of snow further accentuates terrain by defining defiles, earthworks, burial
pits and old road beds. Most impressive are the view sheds in January, February
and March from original federal signal stations during the three-day battle on
July 1-3, 1863.
from The Blog of Gettysburg National Military Park:
visitors will contend the towers at Culp’s Hill, Oak Hill and Warfield Ridge
provide an equal or better bird’s eye view than original, primary signal
stations located atop Little Round Top, Cemetery Hill and Powers Hill, and they
may be right, but there is a significant difference.
Atop Little Round TopKaren Wood
the signal station hills offer original sight lines available to battle
participants. Reconstructing the battle accurately requires using the
information available at the time, and that is where winter views from primary
signal stations become important. If one knows where to stand, the entire
battle can be explained from these hills in context, with visual reinforcement.
refreshing prominence to interpret from is the recently cleared Powers Hill at
the intersection of Baltimore Pike and Granite School House lane.Looking east from the highest crest through
openings made affordable from felledtrees
and winter barrenness, one can readily see the whole July 2, 1863 battle in
contextual continuity. North Cavalry Field – Hunterstown is marked by a energy
plant’s three smokestacks to the northeast, Brinkerhoff Ridge and East Cavalry
Field is conveniently noticeable beside a green water tower and cell phone
tower to the east.
Hunterstown and Brinkerhoff Ridge represent the primary concentration of
federal cavalry on July 2,that secured the federal right flank and rear. The
same Powers Hill bird’s eye view east reveals Benner’s Hill, Culp’s Hill,
Spangler Meadow, McAllister Ridge and Wolf’s Hill, all key locations for
maneuvering, deployment and combat that covered the Baltimore Pike.
west from Little Round Top in the winter months permits a similar reconstruction
of July 2, 1863 battle maneuvers and combat action.If one knows the second day’s battle, the
whole story is laid-out from above. Breahm’s Hill, where James
Corps maneuvered in the afternoon to assault the federal left is visible
directly west, as are Seminary and Warfield Ridges that concealed his attack-up
the Emmitsburg Road.
the Peach Orchard, Wheatfield, Devils Den and site of Farnsworth’s Charge are
all easy to discern thanks to health cuts and controlled burns. Winter sight
lines only make concordant points that much easier to identify and interpret.
Hill offers the same unhindered sight lines west and east. Looking east from
the Evergreen Cemetery Gatehouse, one can see Benner’s Hill more clearly
defined than anywhere, particularly in the winter. Benner’s Hill constituted
the primary Confederate artillery platform to the east and general location of
two divisions of Southern infantry that assaulted Culp’s and East Cemetery
west from the Soldier’s National Monument, in the National Cemetery, in
January, February of March permits a sight line of the three tiered 11th Corps
defense along Taneytown Road, Steinwehr and Fairview Avenues. Key federal
strongholds such as the 8th Ohio Infantry advanced position on the Emmitsburg
Road, and former Confederate sharpshooter location at the Bliss Farm (burned on
July 3, 1863) are part of the sweeping perspective gained from West Cemetery
Statue of General George Meade facing Little Round Top
a visit to the battlefield in the snow covered winter months is beneficial for
locating old road beds, defiles, burial pits and earthwork foundations. Missing
foliage permits sight lines far down the wooded slopes of Culp’s Hill, Little
Round Top and Oak Hill for those in search of a better perspective of real time
maneuvers, deployment and combat.
importantly, a visit in January, February and March to Little Round, Powers and
Cemetery Hills offers sweeping views of the battlefield close to what battle
participants had and operated from. These three hills in particular allow an
authentic retelling of the Battle of Gettysburg in the snow.