April 16, 2015

Tidewater Trip

USNS Dahl, a 950-feet Large Medium Speed RoRo  (LMSR) ship used to move military vehicles
I made a road trip to Norfolk and Newport News last weekend. Norm Wolf set up a tour of a USNS MSC ship as part of the research for my next book. It was really interesting to tour and see some of these rapid deployment ships that the United States has to move our military forces to hot spots around the world.

Watt Farm at Gaines Mill
On the way home I stopped at Cold Harbor and Gaines Mill Battlefields. This is another spot in Virginia where multiple battles occurred in the same area in different years.  I was particularly interested in Gaines Mill and the Watt House because I plan to build a model of that farm house for the Brook area on my layout. I have a copy of the architectural drawings from the HAER.
Some of the extant earthworks at Cold Harbor
Killing field at Cold Harbor

The National Park Service has a small visitor's center at Cold Harbor. It overlooks an open field where the Union launched part of their futile attack.

It was interesting to see many remnants of the earthworks still exist. The works survived partly because they were so extensive, the local farmers felt that it was too much work to try to reclaim the land. Note that none of the trees in the photos existed at the time of the battle.

The Gaines Mill battlefield was really well preserved and or restored. The NPS has created a great place to visit. It was deserted when I was there so I had the battlefield park to myself.

They have an extensive recreation of the worm fencing in the area, as well as the restored farm house and barn. I really enjoyed my visit and hike around the battlefield on a beautiful spring day.

In general the terrain at these battlefields is relatively flat, but the Watt Farm lies on the south side of Boatswain's Creek. It has quite steep banks and ridges coming out of the creek. I am glad I never had to attack up that slope.

Watt farm house

Position of the 5th Massachusetts Battery at Gaines Mill. Boatswain's Creek is on the left side of the image.

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