Telling Civil War Battlefield Stories With GIS

COL Gary K. “Doc” Rogers, PE, PhD
Mia Cunicelli & Alexandria A Gagnon
CE 208 Introduction to Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
Past Time, Past Place, GIS for History, Edited by Anne Kelly Knowles, ESRI Press, 2002
T:\Civil Engineering\CE 208\CE 208 Case Histories\ War of Northern Aggression\Telling Civil
War Battlefield Stories with GIS.pdf
Introduction to GIS technology, tools, software, and capabilities through study of applicable case
Case History Assignment: Telling Civil War Battlefield Stories With GIS by David Lowe
T:\Civil Engineering\CE 208X\3 Non-Text Assignments\5 War of Northern Aggression\Telling
Civil War Battlefield Stories with GIS (02 15 14).doc
Key Words: Mission of National Park Service, Cultural Resources, Natural Resources, GPS, GIS, scavenger
hunt, cartographer, pixel, digital image, inventory, coordinate, overlaying, map scales, land use,
polygons, lines, points, historical ecologist, warfare altering landscape, accuracy of old maps,
antebellum structure, zoning, lunette, curtain wall, contour line, battlefield resources, database,
spatial data, USGS Quadrangles, georeference a map, digital raster graphic (DRG) format,
Trimble, national historic landmark.
One week
Specify “Help Received”.
Specify “Help Given”.
Provide an overview of this case history and the GIS technical implications therein, specifically
explaining how GIS is a benefit to projects such as this. (one page max … several paragraphs min)
Historic Battlefields and their locations and upkeep have fallen to
the wayside as time has moved forward. In order to help change that
GIS has been used to map historical battlefields of the Civil War.
Specifically The battlefields and trenches near Fredericksburg, VA.
They used maps made by military surveyors and topographical
engineers. These maps contained topographical data, locations of
Trenches, artillery placement, and Survivals. The team that used GPS to
mark the specific locations on the Civil War era battlefield maps. This
data was then overlaid with modern roads, streams, and contour
This data was then handed over to the park and a GIS Specialist.
The data collected along with digitized historic maps has been used to
return the battlefields in the area surrounding Fredericksburg to
return them to their civil war era appearances. Unfortunately many of
the battlefields lay outside of the parks boundaries and the public
(Note:Local Gov and Concerned Citizens) has been enlisted to help.
Identify and define the key words and phrases noted above plus others that you find pertinent to
the case history.
Cultural Resources- Any building, site, district, structure, or object
significant in history, architecture, archeology, culture, or science.
Natural Resources - materials or substances such as minerals, forests,
water, and fertile land that occur in nature and can be used for
economic gain
GPS - The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a space-based satellite
navigation system that provides location and time information in all
weather conditions, anywhere on or near the Earth where there is an
unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites.
GIS - A geographic information system (GIS) is a system designed to
capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage, and present all types of
geographical data.
Cartographer - a person who makes maps
historical ecology- Historical ecology is a research program that
focuses on the interaction between humans and their environment
over the long-term typically over the course of centuries
digital raster graphic (DRG) - A digital raster graphic (DRG) is a digital
image resulting from scanning a paper USGS topographic map for use
on a computer. DRGs created by USGS are typically scanned at 250 dpi
and saved as a TIFF.
What did you personally find interesting about this case history? Discuss.
I found the fact that the data was used to protect the GIS Battlefields
very interesting. The fact that the data was taken before the they had
hired a GIS Technician also kind of interesting. The team used data
collected from coordinating maps and overlaid it on modern day maps.
They ended up rediscovering a section of confederate defense that had
not been found for years. They continued to find other unknown
battlefields. The cool thing is these maps and data can now be used to
defend the land as a historic preserved place.
Are Civil War battlefields being threatened in VA? If so, by what and whom? Discuss and
Wilderness, Virginia had a historic battle happen within in it’s city
bounds. It was marked as the first time Robert E. Lees army met Grant’s
army in battle. The site is being threatened by the construction of a
massive commercial center that will be constructed at the gateway to
the historic field.
Cedar Creek, VA was once a historic battlefield where Union Gen.
Sheridan marched up down the historic Shenandoah valley to starve
out the confederate troops. The confederates launched a counter attack
that was unsuccessful. 400 Acres of Battlefield will be destroyed for the
expansion of mining operations adjacent to cedar creek.
What is your solution to the previous question of threatened VA Civil War battlefields?
I believe that battlefields should be protected in moderation. Not every
site should be protected because the civil war was fought all over the
us, from DC to Arizona. I feel that the most important battlefields
should be preserved. how to find out which ones are the most
important? I am not quite sure I can be the judge of that.
Can you find other Civil (or Revolutionary War, War of 1812, etc.) examples? Discuss and insert
imagery here.
. The Green Spring Battlefield in Virginia is currently battling problems
with expansion due to tourism targeted towards colonial Williamsburg.
The national Park Service gives a long term and short term threat
assessment for the area as High.
Diverging briefly to the “global context”, what about other famous battlefields being threatened
around the world (e.g. ranging from recent to ancient)? Discuss examples you locate and insert
imagery here.
. I haven’t been able to find any information on historically protected
foreign battlefields. I believe this is because other cultures may not
view the places of the battles themselves as important. Many other
areas are very crowded compared to United States so they don’t have
as much freedom when it comes to preserving battlefields or they
happened so long ago.
Now, back to the Civil War in VA. Visit the following site and see if you can play the interactive
battlefield maps with the various units for the two noted counties:
Select each unit and play the map. Note that map layers can be added (e.g. historic towns,
historic roads, historic railroads, etc). Be sure to toggle on Augusta and Franklin counties, the
focal points of the research. What trends can you find noting both the movements and the
moving timescale at the base of the screen? Does this timescale in combination with the
associated unit movements alter any of your previous concepts of this terrible conflict? Do you
think Railroads played a significant role in the battles of the VA/MD/PA region? Discuss each of
the above in a separate paragraph.
Some trends I noticed were that most of the battles and engagements,
in both Augusta and Franklin counties, took place next to modern
larger scale cities, such as Fredericksburg, Richmond, Charlottesville,
and Gettysburg. Trends in the moving timescale at the bottom of the
scale show that every time there is a thick tic line there was a battle or
confrontation from 1861 to 1865. Every time there is a thinner tic line,
there was a confrontation shown.
I noticed that when the historical railroads map was up, mostly all of
the battles and engagements were along the railroad lines. I think this
is important to note because it shows that they were probably used for
navigation purposes. It is also important to note that only one rail line
runs through each of the two counties present on this site.
Note that this is a part of a larger archive of information at What
else is in this GIS archive? Why? What is the purpose?
There is more information on projects that are also ongoing on this
website. They have more digital GIS collections on The Valley of the
Shadow, Virtual Jamestown, The Geography of Slavery Project, The
Dolley Madison Project, The Ground Beneath Our Feet, etc. There is a
great deal of information on this website pertaining to GIS. I think that
there is so much information on here because it serves to help interest
people and teach old facts and histories in a new way. I think they do
this because it keeps peoples attention and because they want to
educate the general public, and those interested, about various aspects
of history.
In like fashion, take a look at the following animation. What did you glean from this use of
“animated GIS”? How would this enhance and/or detract from the traditional forms of learning
about the Civil War from “static” pictures, maps, and text? Discuss.
I thought that this form of animated GIS was very helpful in learning
about history. I thought it was good for those type of people that are
more visual learners versus the verbal type. Seeing where the battles
occurred and who was present and what path the troops took etc was
more helpful to me than anything I ever learned in a history class. I am
not very interested in history because I have a very hard time staying
focused due to my lack of interest, and I thought that for people like
me, a GIS animation could really help them learn. I would enhance
traditional forms of learning by incorporating layered information like
this GIS animation to help all types of students learn. I thought it would
have been a little more realistic and helpful if there were some real
pictures incorporated as well. For example, if a picture of a real map
used in the war was incorporated, or a picture of one of the battles, it
would feel more realistic than just the animations.
Design a pertinent question and the associated answer for this assignment and insert here. It
could be about the material already provided; or, perhaps on new material and/or an interesting
site(s) that you reference.
QUESTION: Do you think that this type of GIS information could be
taken and applied to other areas of learning so that it would be easier
to demonstrate concepts?
ANSWER: I think that this type of information could be used to help
students learn a number of new subjects. I think that this would help in
geography because it would be easy to illustrate to students, and those
kids that had a harder time picturing things in their head would be
assisted. I think that this could also help in the scientific field and in
conducting scientific research because the data gathered could be
displayed in a way that is easy to see. Also, it could be used to identify
location demographics etc.
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COL Gary K. Rogers, PE, PhD
COL Gary K. Rogers, PE, PhD