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BY CLINT SCHEMMER
Just in time for the Battle of Fredericksburg's big birthday, new ways to learn about Robert E. Lee's most-lopsided victory have arrived.
Today, the Civil War Trust is rolling out a trifecta of applications geared to giving visitors--virtual or on the ground--the lay of the land, and introducing them to the battle's many stories, military and civilian.
Only once before has the nation's leading battlefield-preservation nonprofit put this much time and energy into a software suite--for the Battle of Antietam's sesquicentennial this fall.
Now, you can survey the Rappahannock River city's 6-mile-wide battlefront from the comfort of your desktop, via Fredericksburg 360. The online app mixes zoomable panoramic photos, embedded videos by National Park Service historian Frank O'Reilly, clickable points of interest, a working compass, maps and distance markers to landmarks.
Together, they bring the landscape to life from Stafford Heights to Willis Hill. You can cross the river, fight through the streets of town, march up the Bloody Plain toward Marye's Heights, and cross Slaughter Pen Farm in Gen. George G. Meade's breakthrough of "Stonewall" Jackson's line at Prospect Hill. Powerful combination.
The same is true for the major update of the trust's Fredericksburg battle app, one of its iPhone and Android smartphone offerings for the Civil War sesquicentennial. (The Android version is due any day.)
The anniversary update integrates new sites and media as well as a "Field Glasses AR" viewer that uses augmented reality to locate key battlefield sites. Visitors to Fredericksburg can try an interactive Battlefield Challenge that urges them to explore and share their discoveries with friends.
The trust's website also provides an animated map that covers the terrain and troop movements, moment by moment, from Prospect Hill to the south in Spotsylvania County to Marye's Heights in town, the other end of Lee's defenses.
Trust president James Lighthizer hopes the multimedia trio will demonstrate the dynamic, fast-moving quality of events experienced by our ancestors, augmenting the best history books.
"By using 21st-century technology to integrate video, audio and other media, we can create an immersive and interactive experience, helping 19th-century history appeal to a whole new generation," he said in a statement today.
The battle apps are funded by the Virginia Department of Transportation. Since April 2011, nearly 100,000 people have downloaded one of the series's 10 titles.civilwar.org/fredericksburg
Clint Schemmer: 540/368-5029