20 October 2006 by Published in: General musings 11 comments

J. D. Petruzzi has an excellent post about leading tours of obscure places as his first real blog entry. Those of you who know me, or who have been long-time readers of this blog, know that there are few things that I enjoy more than seeing or visiting really obscure places. I love visiting really obscure placs that few if anyone ever visits.

I especially love leading tours of obscure places. Let’s face it: most serious students of the Civil war have seen the site of Pickett’s Charge. I have never found Pickett’s Charge even remotely interesting–in fact, it bores me–and I’ve walked it four or five times in my life. If I never hear of it again, it won’t bother me a bit. It’s not a site I need or want to spend any more time on.

What I enjoy are the sites of the obscure skirmishes–JD’s focus on the brief encounter between the 26th Pennsylvania Emergeny Infantry and Jubal Early’s division on June 26, 1863 is an excellent example of what I mean here. I’d driven by the monument to that encounter more times than I can count, and I had never noticed it. I really love finding those out of the way spots–which often interest nobody but me–and learning about them.

Once I learn about those out of the way spots, few things give me greater pleasure than sharing that knowledge. I REALLY enjoy leading tours. I like giving folks my interpretations of events and showing them those obscure places that I enjoy so much. Perhaps it’s in the hope that others will find them as intriguing as I do. Perhaps it’s a way of indulging my frustrated inner teacher. No matter what, there simply aren’t a lot of things that I enjoy more than leading tours of battlefield sites.

This year, I’ve led tour groups at Monroe’s Crossroads, Gettysburg, Trevilian Station, Yellow Tavern, and Haw’s Shop. With the very notable exception of Gettysburg, these are not spots that typically get much in the way of visitation. I’ve been to Trevilian Station a couple of dozen times over the course of my life, and I have never seen anyone else touring the battlefield on any visit. I’ve never seen anyone else at Haw’s Shop, or at Yellow Tavern.

Monroe’s Crossroads is a completely different story. It’s nestled among the artillery drop zones in the middle of Fort Bragg, and it almost requires an act of Congress to get permission to go out there. If the 82nd Airborne is there–and not on deployment–it’s pretty much impossible to get out there because they’ll be drilling. It’s not much of a surprise, therefore, that I’ve never seen anyone else out there other than guys in camouflage uniforms when I’ve been out to visit the battlefield.

I view it as part of my responsibility to share whatever knowledge I might have with people, and part of that–probably the most enjoyable part of it–is leading people on battlefield tours. If I could make a living doing it, I would do so in a heartbeat. Sadly, though, unless you’re Ed Bearss, it’s generally not possible to make a living that would enable anyone to exist at a standard of living higher that poverty level. Some of the National Park Service historians undoubtedly do better than that, but those jobs are, of course, very few and far between. So, it means that I practice law full time and indulge my Civil War jones as often as I can.

But I will always derive great pleasure from leading battlefield tours, and it will always be something I will want to do whenever possible.

Scridb filter


  1. Mike Nugent
    Fri 20th Oct 2006 at 9:47 pm

    Re: obscure CW sites. I fondly remember trooping through the woods on a hot, humid afternoon with you and J.D. and Mike, being eaten alive by mosquitos, but being perfectly happy having determined the spot where Basil Duke finally surrendered during John Hunt Morgan’s raid into Ohio, and during the same weekend, taking a “detour” of a couple hours to track down the gravesite of John Buford’s wife.

  2. Fri 20th Oct 2006 at 10:54 pm


    That WAS fun, wasn’t it?

    We’ve got to start scheduling the next Cav Fest.


  3. Fri 20th Oct 2006 at 11:37 pm



  4. Mike Peters
    Sat 21st Oct 2006 at 12:16 am

    Eric, JD & Officer Mike:

    That was one great time!

    It was a lot cooler day without humidity, when Eric & I finished “Morgan’s Raid” route a couple of weeks later.


  5. Sat 21st Oct 2006 at 10:13 pm

    I enjoy becoming aware and learning of obscure details of battles and little known clashes. Unfortunately, I have not visited too many of these sites. However, I am striving to remedy this. As you have mentioned several times before Eric, many people become fixated on one particular battle, namely Gettysburg. One reason might be because the more popular areas generally are more decisive to the outcome of the battle/war. Of course, it is best to be well-rounded with both the major events and the obscure events.

    My question is this: Is it more important to visit the more decisive locations on a battlefield or the obscure (not so decisive) points?

  6. Sat 21st Oct 2006 at 10:21 pm


    I think you answered your own question: I think it’s best to be well-rounded and to get the best of each.

    From my perspective, there is no spot too obscure, but that comes, in part, from too many years studying the mainstream places.


  7. Sun 22nd Oct 2006 at 12:33 am

    You have it right, Josh – and I’ll also add that you can’t only not study a battle in a vacuum, you can’t even student one segment of it in a vacuum either. Case in point: East Cavalry Field at Gettysburg. The reason for the fighting there on July 3 can only truly be understood by understanding the fighting at nearby Brinkerhoff’s Ridge on July 2. Brinkerhoff’s is private ground.

    To understand how the first day’s fight develops, you need to study Buford’s early-morning delaying action. 90% of that is on private ground.

    And these are only two examples of just Gettysburg…


  8. Randy Sauls
    Mon 23rd Oct 2006 at 10:28 am

    I know what you mean. I spent all day Saturday working at our local battlefield (Goldsborough Bridge), which we are trying to get ready for a December grand opening. On Sunday I drove up to Chancellorsville/Fredericksburg to scout for a tour I’m leading there in 3 weeks. As much fun as Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg will be, I’m just as excited to take a group to our admittedly more obscure battlfield. The look on the faces of of the people, many of them local, when I explain what happened here is priceless, and the chance to educate is one I always look forward to.


  9. Wade Sokolosky
    Mon 23rd Oct 2006 at 7:30 pm


    My mom’s Great Uncle was killed at Goldsboro along the Neuse River in Dec of ’62. He had just been paroled from his capture at Fort Macon.

    Glad to see the preservation efforts taking place both in Goldsboro and Kinston in trying to preserve the battles there. Hats off to you and the folks working with you!!

    Wade Sokolosky

  10. Randy Sauls
    Tue 24th Oct 2006 at 10:38 am


    Thanks. It has taken me 15 years of research and 10 years of wrangling and planning, but we are finally off the ground and have a wonderful little (32acres and growing) site at Goldsborough. Hope you can come up and visit sometime. I’d love to show you the site. Was your mom’s great uncle with the 51st or 52nd NC by chance? The 3rd NY Artillery really decimated those units; many of them are among the 800 Confederates buried in the mass grave in Goldsboro.


  11. Wade Sokolosky
    Tue 24th Oct 2006 at 5:39 pm


    Pvt. William C. Fulcher, Co. G 1st NC Arty. Pools Battalion, if my memory serves me correctly. He was killed by a shell frag. Former Heavy Artilleryman from Fort Macon.

    Forutnately he is buried in a family plot just north of Beaufort where I grew up. About 10 years ago my grandmother and some other ladies from the church petitioned the VA for a headstone.

    I’ve focused so much on the NC activity in ’65 that I have not completed my study of Foster’s Expedition – a guy name Wittenberg is keeping me busy. :)) I would be grateful to share a day of your time walking the site.

    I saw where an event is scheduled in December to recognize the site. I am interested in attending and would love to assist in whatever capacity I can.

    My email is sokolosky1@aol.com. Shoot me an email at your convience so we can establish comms.

    thanks my friend

    Wade Sokolosky

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