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 Cedar Creek

At dawn on October 19, 1864 the final great battle for the Shenandoah Valley began with a surprise attack out of a dense fog. Twice defeated, badly outnumbered and thought to be finished, Jubal Early's Confederate Army of the Valley made a daring night march around the foot of Massanutton Mountain to outflank and overrun Crook's Eighth Corps. They continued on to defeat the rest of the Union army in detail, and by midmorning the Federals had lost 24 guns and thousands of fugitives were trudging north along the Valley Pike.

 

But as the now disorganized Confederates rested or looted the rich Union camps Federal commander Phil Sheridan reached the field. Returning from a meeting in Washington, he had missed the beginning of the fight but was determined to finish it. By midafternoon he had rallied his men and established a powerful battle line.

 

At four the Union line attacked, the men eager to avenge the morning's rude awakening. After heavy fighting the Confederate line began to crumble, and it became a race between the fleeing Confederates and the powerful Union cavalry. The destruction of a bridge on the Valley Pike south of Strasburg blocked the retreat of anything on wheels, and the captured Union guns and most of the Early's were left behind.

 

It was the end of Early's army and of the Confederate threat from the Shenandoah that had haunted Washington since the days of Stonewall Jackson in 1862. And it was the final boost that gave Lincoln victory in the November election.

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.

Chancellorsville
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.

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