01 October 2006 by Published in: General musings 8 comments

We regularly run polls on the Civil War Discussion Group. We probably don’t change them often enough, but we come up with some interesting and sometimes unexpected results. Other results are precisely what I expect. What makes these unscientific polls interesting is seeing the results that come in and the comparing them wtih my expectations. Some are easier to predict than others.

The current poll, which has now been up for about a month, is completely unscientific. The question is a simple one: what’s your favorite Civil War battlefield. There are a number of specific choices, and there is also one that says “other”. Anyone wanting to respond to the poll simply has to click the button and the vote registers. To date, we’ve had 68 votes, which is actually significantly less than what I would expected when we posted the poll. Here are the results to date:

Antietam 10.29% (7)
Chancellorsville 1.47% (1)
Chickamauga 8.82% (6)
Fredericksburg 2.94% (2)
Gettysburg 61.76% (42)
Petersburg 1.47% (1)
Richmond 0.00% (0)
Shiloh 2.94% (2)
Vicksburg 2.94% (2)
Other–tell us what! 7.35% (5)

42 of the 68 votes cast to date have been for Gettysburg. Nothing else even remotely comes close. The next highest number of votes is 7. I fully expected Gettysburg to come out on top, but I didn’t expect it to be quite so lopsided. I was the vote for Chancellorsville, by the way.

So, even though it’s an informal poll, it still substantiates what I’ve always know, which is that Gettysburg seems to occupy a disproportionate place in the hearts and minds of Civil War afficionados. I have always believed that the emphasis of Gettysburg is misdirected, and that there were other battles that were just as important, if not more so. However, few seem capture the public’s attention with anything even remotely resembling the fascination with which people hold Gettysburg.

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  1. Sun 01st Oct 2006 at 9:45 pm

    I was one of the (reluctant) Fredericksburg votes Eric and I very glad to see that one of our other local grounds (Chancellorsville) was worthy of your vote. As one who lives by 4 major BFs, and who recently returned to Gettysburg for the first time in decades, I have to say that the sheer scale of the “open” battlefield area and monuments in G’burg rates beyond anyone else. Every other battlefield has suffered some kind of urban sprawl. It really is the fault of all the other towns that they cannot compete. If they would have made a more concerted effort (back in the day) to preserve more, post more monuments, and develop more attractions, they may be worthy of being judged on the same scale.

  2. Steve Basic
    Mon 02nd Oct 2006 at 1:13 am

    I was one of those who voted for Antietam. I know I travel a lot to Gettysburg, and have spent a vast amount of time there, but contrary to what many folks think, in terms of time spent reading about Gettysburg, it ain’t the case here in the Garden State. I am all over the place reading about other battlefields; and reading about folks who were not at Gettysburg.

    Don’t get me wrong, as I have a lot of respect for Gettysburg, but the battle fought there is a mere chapter of the entire war,

    Regards from the Garden State,

    Steve Basic

  3. Dave Powell
    Mon 02nd Oct 2006 at 9:29 am

    Not every other battlefield suffers from urban sprawl. Chickamauga and Shiloh are both in very good shape – Chattanooga less so, of course. At either Chickamauga or Shiloh, however, you can wander all day, studying the field, and not feel modern intrusions pushing in. If you want marking and monumentation, then Chickamauga beats Gettysburg in that category too…

    Gettysburg, however, holds a fascination that seems unique. Why did the public embrace micro detail on that field, while ignoring so many others? I am not sure, but I suspect it is at least in part a self-fulfilling prophecy. Writing about a battle tends to engender more writing in response, at least over time. While not every field has enough interested consumers to buy books at the rate that Gettysburg books appear, there is room for more than are currently being published. They won’t sell as fast, but they will sell over time, and subseqent releases of will help move old stock, as well.

    Oh well. Back to Chickamauga…

    Dave Powell

  4. Mon 02nd Oct 2006 at 12:30 pm

    I’ve not yet been to Gettysburg and Antietam (hopefully next Spring), but I’ve made my views on this subject clear before. I think Gettysburg is WAY overstudied at the expense of other worthy battles, many of them located in the west. I visited Shiloh and Vicksburg several years ago and enjoyed them both greatly. As Dave says, Shiloh is literally out in the middle of nowhere. I need to plan a trip soon to Chickamauga, Chattanooga, and the battlefields of the Atlanta Campaign, though I realize those of the Atlanta Campaign aren’t as well-preserved as some of the major battlefields.

    Brett S.

  5. Paul Whitmore
    Mon 02nd Oct 2006 at 12:51 pm

    Gettysburg was the first CW site I ever went to, that being in 1981. The expansive grounds, the monuments, the detailed markers, the ability to see so much of the battlefield from one spot, all led to excitement for an 8 year old. Gettysburg will always hold a special place in my mind because it has been covered so much.

    That being said, Gettysburg has been severely impacted in my mind by the urban sprawl and commercialism more due Disney than hallowed grounds. But at least it’s improving with the destruction of the Ford dealership, Home Sweet Home, and the terrain modifications.

    As I’ve matured as a CW student and reenactor, I find myself liking the open fields and forested lands of the lesser known, but significant fields of honor, not impacted by sprawl or monuments every 10 feet. Antietam, Shiloh, Chickamauga come to mind.

    As a VMI grad, I prefer the tiny battlefield at New Market.

  6. Michael Aubrecht
    Mon 02nd Oct 2006 at 2:05 pm

    Good one Paul. New Market is GREAT. One of the best museum presentations (Hall of Valor) and great grounds. Take a walk up the hill always to the river overlooks – it is breath-taking and beyond words.

    That is my favorite – not on the list though so I had to stick up for the local underdog.

  7. Brooks D. Simpson
    Mon 02nd Oct 2006 at 7:04 pm

    It all depends on what you mean by favorite. Having had folks from both sides fight at Gettysburg, one on LRT, the other captured during the PPT Charge (as we call it here), Gettysburg is in many ways my favorite Civil War site as a totality. It’s not my favorite battle, and I like other areas of terrain as much (although I do love LRT). The Wilderness and Cold Harbor come to mind as places that can send chills up your spine, and out west I’ve liked Shiloh and Vicksburg. Lookout Mountain is beautiful in the fall., and there is a stillness at Appomattox if you approach the McLean House as Grant did.

  8. Dave Powell
    Tue 03rd Oct 2006 at 7:21 am

    Hi Paul,

    VMI 83 here. Yes, New Market is a fine place. I got to do living history on the field while I was at the I, and loved it.

    People connect more easily to places where they can envision what happened there, IMO. We can see what happened at LRT in our mind’s eye (or retrace an ancestor’s footsteps, like Brooks) when we have a good grasp of the action. I think the plethora of information on Gettysburg makes it far easier for more people to do that there than at any other ACW site.

    I confess I am a little bit different. I love Gettysburg in large part because of that detail. When I study a field, I want to know all I can about it. I am primarily interested in the tactics, and the micro-history on GB makes that more possible. By contrast, at Chickamauga, it took me years to assemble the primary source material so as to recreate that level of study on that field…

    Dave Powell

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