Battlefields are unique cultural resources. They are both archaeological sites and historic landscapes. These fields include remnants of earthworks, sunken roadbeds, bridges and historic buildings. They are locations where famous personalities made history. Battlefields are tragic places where men fought, suffered, and died. They are burial places for the dead.
"In great deeds something abides,
On great fields something stays,
Forms change and pass, bodies disappear,
But spirits linger to consecrate ground,
For the visionplace of souls."
-Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain
Battlefields have long been discussed only by historians, because they are difficult to study using traditional archaeological methods. Our use of increasingly sophisticated technology, however, has been equal to the task. Remote sensing techniques, GPS receivers, GIS mapping software, and satellite photography assist us to determine exactly where military engagements took place.
The widespread use of metal detectors by hobbyists have unfortunately affected archaeologists ability to scientifically study many Civil War battlefields. Metal detectors, however, are useful tools for military site investigations. We have successfully used metal detectors to determine the archaeological integrity of well known Civil War battlefields like Stones River (TN), Secessionville (SC), and Resaca (GA). We have also used these instruments to locate “lost” Revolutionary War battlefields of Fish Dam Ford (SC) and Eutaw Springs (SC). Each find is carefully mapped using a TotalStation laser transit with datums recorded by GPS receivers.
Historic maps contain useful data, but they often weren’t precisely scaled and don’t correspond well to our modern topographic maps. We use Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping software to “rubbersheet” known landmarks and geographic features on modern maps. This information, coupled with the archaeological data (also mapped as a GIS layer), provides convincing evidence of actual fighting and troop movements during the time of the battle.