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April, 2008

Rea Andrew Redd gave our One Continuous Fight: The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, July 4-14, 1863 a great plug on his blog yesterday, which we really appreciate. Thanks, Rea.

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Here’s a blog for Philadelphia sports fans. The name sums it all up: City of Pain. It’s been 25 years since any Philadelphia professional sports team won a championship (the 1983 76’ers, to be precise), and there’s no end in sight to the suffering.

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Food for another blog entry – “Top ten visitors centers for a battlefield.”

So wrote Craig Swain in a comment to the last post. “What a great idea,” I thought to myself. So, here goes….

One note of caution. I’m not a Western Theater guy. I’ve been to Vicksburg once, and while I’m sure I was in the VC, I have absolutely no recollection of it whatsoever. I’ve never been to Stones River. I’ve been to Chickamauga and Shiloh once each and have only the vaguest of memories of the visitor centers there. Consequently, you’re not going to find any major Western Theater VC’s on this list.

1. Gettysburg. It’s the granddaddy of them all. Old, dumpy, dingy, dark, and in a place it never should have been built, the old VC at Gettysburg was my first visitor center. Maybe it was the unique electric map. Maybe it was the amazing collection of artifacts. Maybe it was the Cyclorama. Whatever it was, the place has always resonated with me, crummy as it may be. It gets my vote as the sentimental favorite.

2. Tredegar Works, Richmond. Sentimentality aside, Tredegar is THE state of the art. As a general statement, it just doesn’t get any better than this. There are two excellent museums. There are two excellent book stores. There are lots of great things to see in historic structures that helped to arm the Confederacy. The fact that it’s located right on the banks of the James River at Belle Isle only helps, as it brings the misery of the POW’s kept on Belle Isle to life.

3. Monocacy. The new VC at Monocacy is really cool. I especially like the fiber optic troop movement map. It looks like a barn and is quite unobtrusive, but it houses a great collection, some nice exhibits, and a nifty little store.

4. Fort Fisher. The VC at Fort Fisher sits just beyond the piece of the fort that remains intact. It has THE best fiber optic troop movement map I’ve ever seen. This is a North Carolina state park, not a national park.

5. Antietam. This is another example of a VC that never, ever should have been placed where it was, but it’s awfully hard to argue with the vista of South Mountain and the whole battlefield from the upstairs observation deck. The store is tiny and very cramped. I understand it’s next for a new VC.

6. Bentonville. This VC features another spectacular fiber optic troop movement map drawn by Mark Moore (who did the one at Fort Fisher, too). There are some really good exhibits there, and a decent little book store. Like Fort Fisher, this is a North Carolina state park.

7. Averasboro. Averasboro is owned by a private foundation. The VC is a house that’s been converted. It’s got a small museum with a nice little gift shop with a pretty good selection of books. Averasboro is a model for how to preserve, mark, and interpret a battlefield using private dollars.

8. Belle Grove/Cedar Creek. Belle Grove is one of my very favorite antebellum houses. I just love the place. It drips with history.

9. Harpers Ferry. Harpers Ferry combines a pre-war town with a battlefield. The VC is remote from the town, and you have to take a shuttle to get to Bolivar Heights or to the town proper, but the store has a great selection, and there are some fabulous exhibits at the VC.

10. Ball’s Bluff. I couldn’t resist including this one. The VC at Ball’s Bluff is a porta-potty in the parking lot. Gotta love it. 🙂

Distinctly missing from this list is Pamplin Park. That’s a private venture which has had tens of million dollars thrown at it, and it simply is an unfair comparison to any of these other places.

I’d like to invite my readers to include your lists in the comments.

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