Today my wife and I walked across the battlefield and figured out where the Fourteenth fought. It was an exhilarating experience in part because the battlefield is so well marked and because it was a bright sunny day. The third Winchester field is a project of the Civil War Trust, a nonprofit devoted to the preservation of endangered battlefields, and its partners. These organizations have preserved 575 acres of the battlefield. The many miles of trails through it are well planned and maintained, and the markers along the way chronicle the battle with clarity.
As much as I like the stone monuments at Gettysburg, Antietam and elsewhere, there is something deeply satisfying in seeing a battlefield without postwar adornments. Key points of the Winchester battlefield were called First Woods, Second Woods and Middle Field. These seem vague and unhelpful until you survey them from the rolling farmland where the armies clashed. Among other such useful information, small trail-side plaques tell where the woods actually began in 1864 as opposed to where they begin now.
We also visited the U.S. National Cemetery in Winchester. Tens of men from the Fourteenth New Hampshire lie buried there around a simple obelisk. Others have well-preserved gravestones.
The curious thing about the cemetery is that it is separated by a fence and road from a Confederate cemetery -- a city cemetery where people continue to be buried. The Union soldiers lie to the north, the rebel soldiers to the south. Confederate flags sometimes stand at the graves of the rebel dead.
Stay tuned for a more detailed post, with pictures, telling the story of the Fourteenth at Winchester and our visit to the city. Sept. 19, 1864, was a sad day for New Hampshire, but at least those who died here sacrificed their lives in a victory.