The Great Battles

Lesser-known Fights and Other Sites

Stone Sentinels

Civil War History As Told by Battlefield Monuments and Historical Markers

From 1861 to 1865 great armies fought in a terrible Civil War for competing visions of America. The places they clashed - Gettysburg, Antietam, The Wilderness - are written in blood in our nation's history. Today the armies are long gone, but they left behind sentinels that guard their memory, messages carved in stone for future generations.


Stone Sentinels tours the battlefield monuments and historical markers that tell of America's Civil War in the East. Photographs, text of the inscriptions, maps and background information put them into context and help fill in the story.

150 years ago this month

The Battle of Opequon, or Third Battle of Winchester & The Battle of Fisher's Hill

On September 19, 1864 the largest and deadliest battle ever fought in the Shenandoah Valley began on the Berryville Pike east of Winchester, Virginia. Jubal Early's Army of the Valley had been ordered to draw Union forces away from Robert E. Lee on the Richmond-Petersburg front. He succeeded, and now those forces, the Army of the Shenandoah under Philip Sheridan, had been ordered to destroy him. The battle saw the death of Confederate General Robert Rodes and Union General David Russel, the largest cavalry charge of the Civil War, and more casualties in one day than were lost in Stonewall Jackson's entire 1862 Valley Campaign. Early was forced to abandon Winchester for the last time in the war and withdraw to a strong defensive position at Fisher's Hill.


Three days later George Crook's flank march and surprise attack routed Early's army at Fisher's Hill. Twice beaten, his numbers depleted and men demoralized, Early pulled back to the Upper Valley, helpless to do little more than watch as Sheridan put the Shenandoah to the torch.

State of Maryland monument at Antietam
State of Virginia monument at Gettysburg

Antietam, or Sharpsburg
Over 300 monuments and markers commemorate the single deadliest day of American military history.

Robert E. Lee's greatest victory and Stonewall Jackson's last fight, it was the deadliest battle of the war until two months later at Gettysburg.

Over 1,200 monuments and markers remember the bloodiest battle of the Civil War and one of the turning points of history.

Battle of the Wilderness monument

Spotsylvania Court House sign
Harpers Ferry from Maryland Heights

The Wilderness

The opening battle of Grant's 1864 campaign was a confused stalemate. But Grant refused to admit defeat and kept pushing on to Richmond.

Spotsylvania Court House

Grant's 1864 campaign continued with what may have been the most violent clash of th Civil War.

Harpers Ferry
Its siege and capture by 'Stonewall' Jackson was the largest surrender of U.S. troops until World War II.

State of Virginia monument at Gettysburg

North Carolina monument at South Mountain

Massanutton Mountain in th Shenandoah Valley

Brandy Station
The largest cavalry battle of the war marked the beginning of the Gettysburg campaign.

South Mountain
The prelude to Antietam took place in three strategic passes through Maryland's South Mountain.

Shenandoah Valley
A beautiful region of mountains, farms and streams, it was also a battleground at Front Royal, Winchester, New Market Fisher's Hill and Cedar Creek.

About the Author • ©2007-2014 Steve Hawks