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Battle of Chancellorsville? There'll be an app for that page 3
Field work begins on Chancellorsville 'battle app,' a portable digital guide to one of Spotsylvania's four Civil War battlefields.

 Fredericksburg historian Robert K. Krick (left), an authority on the Battle of Chancellorsville, points out an old wagon road used by Stonewall Jackson's troops in their flank attack to Rob Shenk, chief of Internet strategy at the Civil War Trust.
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Date published: 8/16/2011


"By the time [Jackson] got to this crest, the Federal lines had been completely unhinged," Krick intoned into the camera's microphone atop a ridge just west of Wilderness Church. "By the time his troops rolled here, the Federals knew they were going to have to flee the field. Most of them had already done so. Some of them made a brave rally, in what became known as the Buschbeck Line, a few hundred yards farther east--our next stop."

Krick and Shenk, who coincidentally are both California natives, were enthusiastic about prospects for their Chancellorsville undertaking. Shenk noted that many people who download the battle apps are visiting battlefields virtually, from many states--or countries--with some using them to plan trips to the historic sites.

The trust's latest digital-device project will complement the national group's work to promote heritage tourism and preserve fast-dwindling Civil War battlefield acreage, spokesman Jim Campi said.

"We have learned through long experience that the more land we save and interpret, the longer tourists stay in an area. The longer they stay, the more money they spend at local businesses, hotels and eateries," Campi said. "Our battle apps will keep tourists in Spotsylvania County longer."

Clint Schemmer: 540/368-5029
Email: cschemmer@freelancestar.com

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All of the Civil War Trust's battle apps, available via Apple's iTunes App Store, are now free. Initially, each cost $2.99.

As of late last month, people had downloaded more than 20,000 of the apps, said Rob Shenk, the nonprofit's director of Internet strategy and development.

"That's a great achievement, showing really strong uptake," he said.

"The customer feedback and ratings have been rock-solid, the type of things you really want to see: people interested in the battles, in learning about them, in coming to the battlefields to use the product, people excited to have something that energizes their kids, that engages younger folks," Shenk said. "All things that we were hoping for.

"Right now--and this fluctuates--we’re seeing a little over a thousand downloads a week for all three apps," he said. "They do cross-sell each other, and if people have a good experience with one, they may get another. And that brings people to the Fredericksburg-area battlefields."

Nationally, Apple rated the Fredericksburg and Bull Run apps No. 9 and No. 14 last week in the "What's Hot" section for travel apps at the computer and software giant's online App Store.

Bull Run, to date, has been the most popular of the three apps, due to heavy media coverage of events commemorating the Battle of Manassas' 150th anniversary last month, Shenk said.

The trust and its software development partner, NeoTreks of Colorado Springs, Colo., decided they would reach the maximum audience by making all of the apps--including future ones--available at no cost.

"Given that our top goal for the battle apps is to educate, we felt that this move to free was a natural," Shenk said. Studies have shown that free apps can outpace premium-priced apps 10-to-1.

The partners have active projects under way to field Android and iPad versions of their battle apps, Shenk said.

Release dates for those products have not been set. "Our hope is to have our first Android offerings before the year is out," he said.

Jim Campi, the trust's policy director, credited Sean Connaughton, a member of Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's cabinet, with providing crucial support for the digital effort.

"These battle apps wouldn't be possible without the forethought and generosity of Virginia officials," Campi said. "While they were still on the drawing board, Transportation Secretary Connaughton recognized the tremendous tourism potential of the devices and agreed to underwrite 10 Virginia battle apps."

Virginia, the state where the greatest number of Civil War battles took place, will lead the nation in the battle-app realm, too. The first Virginia apps, for Fredericksburg and Manassas, are available now. In addition to Chancellorsville, three other apps—for Malvern Hill and two other battlefields—are expected to be completed by year's end.

--Clint Schemmer