Having lived in Gettysburg from May to December, I had a number of opportunities to visit the battlefields of the Eastern Theater. Since the Gettysburg Semester briefly visits a few of the more famous sites such as Manassas and Chancellorsville, I decided to visit a number of ignored or less popular battlefields. They may seem minor to many visitors but the fighting that occurred there was no small matter to the soldiers who fought and died there. These are actually some of the most rewarding battlefields to visit.
Crampton's Gap: The Crampton's Gap Battlefield includes the scenic and remote town of Burkittsville, Maryland and the Gathland State Park. Not far west of Burkittsville is the actual battlefield itself. The Mountain Church Road runs generally north and south and marks the initial Confederate line on that part of the field. The Gapland and Arnoldstown roads intersect the Mountain Church road to form a triangle with the apex at Crampton's Cap. Parham's, Cobb's, Semmes', and Robertson's Brigades attempted to hold off two divisions of the VI Corps under William Franklin. Paul Semmes had incorrectly placed his brigade too far south at the Brownsville Pass and was unable to directly engage in the fighting. The Confederates, now overrun, ran up the Gapland Road toward the pass and attempted to make a last stand at the intersection. It failed. Cobb's Brigade suffered fifty-two percent casualties when it was nearly surrounded by the New Jersey Brigade.
|Kelly's Ford: On March 17th, 1863, William Averell fought at spirited fight against Fitz Lee and his cavalry in retaliation for the Hartwood Church Raid. Encamped at Culpepper, Lee moved his cavalry out toward Kelly's Ford to block Averell's advance. Averell's cavalry was delayed by abatis on the northern side of the river but finally forced the Confederates back. When he finally got across the river, he moved north along the road to Brandy Station and took position behind a stone wall. Confederate cavalry charged in column of fours against the Union position. When the cavalry realized that it could not jump the wall it turned left toward the river and tried to find a way inside. They found a gate and charged into the fray. Accompanying the cavalry was Major John Pelham who had distinguished himself at Prospect Hill. Unfortunately, he was mortally wounded and the Confederates were driven back. Lee was able to stave off defeat and forced Averell back across the river. The battlefield is not visited at all really. Off the Kelly's Ford Road, there is a gravel parking lot and a small wildlife trail. This trail parallels the stone wall that Averell held during the fight. Along the trail is the monument to Major Pelham at the site where he was wounded.|
Fisher's Hill: After his defeat at III Winchester, Jubal Early fell back to what was termed as "The Gibraltar of the Valley." Fisher's Hill, Virginia was and still is nothing more than an isolated hamlet in the northern Shenandoah Valley. However, the hills from Massanutten Mountain on his right to Little North Mountain on his left were some of the most imposing terrain in the area. Early's weak spot was on his left at a spot termed "Ramseur's Hill." On September 21st and 22nd, 1864, Phil Sheridan and William Crook united their commands to flush Jubal Early out of the Valley. On the 21st, the Federals pushed back a number of skirmishers and achieved some important high ground. The climax came on the next day when Lomax's cavalry was driven off by Crook who had suddenly appeared on the Confederates' left flank. Ramseur's division gave stout resistance but was compelled to fall back. This defeat forced Early to fall back to Waynesboro and leave much of the Valley in Sheridan's possession. The battlefield is remote and one of the best preserved. "Ramseur's Hill" is part of a 194 acre preserved lot off of Rte. 601 northwest of Rte. 11. Farmers can be seen mowing the ground but they are actually quite friendly if you run in to them. From the top of the hill, one can get an excellent view of the battlefield all the way to Massanutten Mountain. And if you look closely, you can see the faint traces of Ramseur's earthworks.