The Civil War marked the height of the most divisive time in our nation’s history. This bloodiest of all U.S. battles was not only fought on American soil, it also often pitted brother against brother and neighbor against neighbor. With flashes of military genius and dark moments of disaster, the story of the Civil War battles is worth remembering again and again.
Today, Civil War buffs can visit the more than 600 historic sites along the Civil War Discovery Trail, uncovering rare bits of 19th-century history. More than thirty-one states – and the District of Columbia – have Discovery Trail sites, some of which are as famous as Ford’s Theatre, the Antietam National Battlefield (site of the bloodiest day in American history), and splendid antebellum mansions like the Carnton Plantation of Tennessee. You can visit Port Hudson, Louisiana, where hundreds of African American soldiers fought valiantly, or tour the homes on the Underground Railroad.
With so many important sites along the trail, it’s easy to design a camping vacation around the ones you want to visit. Maybe you’re heading to Florida already on a family vacation. You might as well plan a side trip to the Olustee Battlefield State Historic Park or to Fort Jefferson at Dry Tortugas National Park. Florida alone has more than twenty Discovery Trail sites, so there’s sure to be one near your destination.
You can use the Discovery Trail website to plan a route around Virginia’s seventy-two historic sites, stopping at the Appomattox Court House, the Cedar Creek Battlefield, and the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. You might even catch a reenactment at one of these battlefields. This is a great way to bring history to life, as you watch one side take aim at the other, displaying the cold brutality of war.
The Discovery Trail sites also help you learn more about what life was like for civilians at the time of the Civil War. You’ll see restored homes like the Lee Hall Mansion or the Belle Boyd Cottage. Pay a visit to Christ Church, Virginia or tour Rector House at the John Mosby Heritage Area.
With locations in such varied locales as New Mexico, Minnesota, and Maine, the Discovery Trail encompasses a majority of the states in the nation. The Trail even includes sites in the United Kingdom, France, and Bermuda. Are you curious about Wisconsin’s role in the Civil War? How about Kansas’s or California’s? From north to south, you’ll find battlefields, homes of important military leaders, and the sites that marked turning points in the war’s outcome.