Camp Bartow project reviews KOCOA results

Archeologist Dr. Stephen McBride uses several maps to explain the KOCOA – Military Terrain Anaylsis of the Camp Bartow battlefield at the final preservation plan meeting Saturday at the Durbin Public Library. S. Stewart photo
Archeologist Dr. Stephen McBride uses several maps to explain the KOCOA – Military Terrain Anaylsis of the Camp Bartow battlefield at the final preservation plan meeting Saturday at the Durbin Public Library. S. Stewart photo

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

In its final meeting, the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike Alliance and team members of the Camp Bartow Preservation Plan reviewed results of the KOCOA – Military Terrain Analysis.

Archeologist Dr. Stephen McBride, a member of the study team, gave a presentation of maps illustrating the five parts of the KOCOA analysis.

The analysis gives a better understanding of what the terrain looked like in October 1861 when 5,000 Union soldiers marched from Cheat Mountain into Bartow where they fought against the 1,800 Confederate soldiers stationed at Camp Bartow at Traveler’s Repose.

“The KOCOA analysis is a military terrain analysis and the funding agency of this project requires these in their preservation planning process,” McBride said. “The idea is to use modern technology to understand how the battle transpired and what each side did before the battle and during the battle.”

Trying to map how an area looked 150 years ago is a difficult task, and McBride said a lot of historic writings and maps were used to help fill in blanks.

“One of the issues doing a KOCOA analysis is trying to figure out what it looked like in October 1861,” he said. “Sometimes it’s difficult to be one hundred percent sure, particularly about forests. What was the forest like then versus now? Where were some natural barriers or obstacles? We use historic maps to try to do that, as well as historic descriptions.”

K – Key Terrain

“The analysis is done for both sides, but it is more focused toward the defending side since they typically have a more permanent situation,” McBride said. “In the case of the Confederates at Camp Bartow, they had a particular objective which was to defend the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike and the intersection between that Turnpike and what is called the Green Bank Road.”

The Confederates had the upper hand when it came to key terrain because the battle was fought where they were stationed. They were living at Camp Bartow and had time to prepare the land for a battle.

“They put their defensive positions uphill from that to give them a stronger sense of defense,” McBride said of Camp Bartow. “They also constructed fortifications up there. I think all the land behind Camp Bartow really all the way up to the top of Allegheny you could consider part of that key terrain because you don’t want the enemy to get behind on the high ground.”

Along with naturally occurring terrain, the Confederate soldiers built up terrain and defensive lines to deter the Union ranks.

“The Confederates anticipated them coming up this road and built a defensive line, which is usually referred to as abatis, which is basically cut branches,” McBride said. “The branches were cutting out as a defensive position, kind of like barbed wire is used today.”

O – Observation and Fields of Fire

“Observation points, these don’t necessarily mean they are ones the soldiers used, but they are ones they could’ve used,” McBride explained. “These are high points overlooking the turnpike which would’ve given either side a chance to view the movement of the other. We know before the battle that the Confederates were positioned here at the bridge across what we call now the West Fork and they also had some observers on top of the ridge.”

From the high points, the Confederates were able to see quite a distance down the road and were able to see the Union troops coming in plenty of time to get in position to defend Camp Bartow.

“The fields of fire that I’ve got marked here were positions from both the fortifications or abatis, as well as positions where the Arkansas troops were placed that stopped the first Union flanking attempt over to the left of the Confederate line,” McBride said. “These are all kind of self explanatory, where would you place people to observe.”

C – Cover and Concealment

“These big broad bands on either side of the river at the Turnpike are for what I’m guessing were dense forests,” McBride said. “Some of it is mentioned on maps and documents as being dense forests with steep hills.”

Once again, the Confederates used natural occurring cover and concealment, as well as manmade trenches and shelters to hide from the Union troops.

Traveler’s Repose and its farm were used as cover and concealment, including the tall trees of the rich forests.

“There’s descriptions of cutting all the timber down in a half-a-mile radius of the battle,” McBride said. “That’s a real critical thing that soldiers in the Civil War almost always did if they could. If they had the time to do it, they would clear their fields of fire so the enemy couldn’t use those trees as cover and concealment.”

O – Obstacles

“The obstacles that they talked about were really steep slopes; the river itself is an obstacle, not a big river, but still, it’s an obstacle,” McBride said. “Some of these cover and concealments, like the fences, were also obstacles. The fortifications are obstacles. Ravines are obstacles. I added this area because they said, again, they cut the trees down and they left them there as obstacles.”

The Confederates were fortunate that the area around Camp Bartow provided many natural obstacles, but they made sure to make some of their own, like the ditches around the camp and felled trees.

A – Avenues of Approach and Retreat

“Obviously with the battle, the only real avenue of approach is the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike until they got to this position down here [near the bridge],” McBride said. “Another avenue, as I’ve mentioned, is the Green Bank Road, which they did not use, but they could’ve.”

Looking at the KOCOA results, McBride said, in his opinion, the results confirm that the Confederate soldiers did a good job protecting Camp Bartow and the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike.

“They had eighteen hundred against five thousand,” he said. “The military terrain people talk about multiplier effect of terrain and defenders always have advantage over the offensive, the attackers – particularly if they have time to entrench. This is a good example of using terrain to a pretty great advantage and multiplying what’s already a good position by fortifying it with trenches and abatis and other felled trees.”

After the presentation, team leader, Historic Preservation Consultant Mike Gioulis, shared maps of the surveyed area, including the map of the laser scan shared at the last meeting.

“We did laser scanning on some portions of the area,” Gioulis said. “One of the results of the laser scan is this three-dimensional earth mesh. It’s what the terrain, the ground would have looked like. All the vegetation and trees have been removed.”

The earth mesh map revealed remnants of descriptions McBride gave, including a clearly defined trench dug around the area, tent post sites and cannon locations.

The maps McBride and Gioulis shared will be included in the final report along with information from all the studies done so far and recommendations for preservation of the area.

“The report will also include examples of areas like this and what they have done to use the areas,” Gioulis said. “It will also have how this site integrates into a more regional Civil War interpretation in the state. The significance of the site is not just the Civil War, but also the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike and what occurred around the state.”

When the report is complete, it will be available on the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike Alliance website at and at the Durbin Public Library.

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