Things to Do

Civil War Battlefields

Walk through sites that established this country, without a History Channel documentary to guide you.

Photograph by Flickr user Pablo Sanchez

Why you might roll your eyes:

You read all about the Civil War in high school, you watched Ken Burns’s nine-part masterwork on the subject, and with 150th-anniversary commemorations of some part of the war occurring over the past four years, you’ve had your fill.

Why youll love it:

Walking the battlefields is a singularly powerful experience. Throughout the Mid-Atlantic and South, there are untold places where the Union and Confederate armies fought, skirmished, or otherwise antagonized each other. Yet only within an easy drive of Washington will you find three of the most significant battlefields of that terrible conflict. In June of 1861, the two armies clashed for the first time at Manassas, where 4,700 casualties dashed the romanticized view of war both sides held. A year later at Antietam, Yankees and Rebels fought the first major battle on Union soil, which soaked up the blood of more than 20,000 killed or wounded. It remains the single bloodiest day of combat in American history. In 1863, another 51,000 were killed or wounded at Gettysburg, which was also the war’s turning point. Memorials and tours at these hallowed grounds sear into consciousness the dreadful price paid to keep the United States alive.

For more, go to, click on “find a park,” and search for a battlefield.

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