For some Washington area residents, the first russet-tinged leaves of Indian summer provided all the coaxing needed to send them strolling, picnicking and sunning on the green of the region's Civil War battlefields yesterday.
More than the occasional visitor, however, said the five-night public television series "The Civil War," which aired last week, helped them to appreciate the parks from a purely historical point of view.
"The series held us spellbound for five days," said Dave Grove, a procurement analyst for the Navy, while strolling along the lawn at the Manassas National Battlefield with his wife, Diana, and his 8-year-old daughter, Elizabeth.
"We're new to the East Coast, and we're trying to see as much of the history as possible," said Grove, who said his family moved to Dale City from Minnesota several weeks ago. "We didn't know much at all about Civil War history before seeing the program."
Sue Ketchum, a park ranger who leads a half-hour guided tour of the Manassas battle site, said even she had learned "a thing or two" from the public television series.
Ketchum said she had noticed a slight increase in attendance and in interest among visitors.
Another park worker said the visitor center had sold out of its copies of a book on the Civil War by Shelby Foote, a historian who appeared on the television program.
At the Frederickburg-Spotsylvania National Military Park, the past year has already seen record attendance as the area celebrates the 125th anniversaries of three Civil War battles fought there, said Greg Mertz, acting supervisory historian for the battlefield.
With the additional publicity provided by the television program, Mertz said, the park is poised for another attendance windfall in the coming months.
"People planning their vacations for next year may include us now that they've seen the program," he said.
Park Ranger Susan Mackreth said there was "unusually high visitation" at the Antietam National Battlefield near Sharpsburg, Md.
"By the end of the day last Saturday, we had 600 visitors, and we've had about 900 people so far today," she said.
Some visitors, among them Louann Creech, said they would have made the trip to Manassas even without the airing of the television series.
"My great-granddaddy fought in the first battle here and my husband's great-granddaddy fought in the second," said Creech, a secretary from North Carolina, who visited the site with her husband, Bobby, a retired police officer.
"I had already planned this trip; I have just gotten interested in the Civil War over the past year" she said, peering up at the massive bronze figure of Stonewall Jackson.
"But I did enjoy the program very much," she said, "and I look forward to it being on again, so I can watch it again."
William Trimble, 62, a computer operator and American history buff, said he had been planning a trip to see the battlefields of Northern Virginia for some time, but the historical background provided by the television series made his visit even more enjoyable.
"I watched the whole thing from start to finish," said Trimble, who toured the Manassas battlefield with his son, Fred, 29.
"I think I learned more from that series," Trimble said, "than I learned in school."