A road trip through famous Civil War sites and monuments isn’t just a vacation for history buffs. Along the way you’ll get a firsthand account of a tumultuous time in this country’s history, while enjoying hauntingly beautiful landscapes and authentic Southern hospitality. If you’re unfamiliar with the Civil War and its history, here are five essential stops on any Civil War road trip.
- Fort Sumter: This is where it all began. Fort Sumter is located in South Carolina, and was the site of the first Civil War battle. It was here that Confederate soldiers attacked the fort for 34 hours until Union occupants surrendered. Visitors to the monument will find artifacts from the artillery barrage and historic views of the Charleston harbor.
- Manassas: This historic Virginian battleground saw two conflicts: the First and Second Battles of Bull Run. The South came out ahead after each battle, the results of which earned Confederate General Thomas J. Jackson the nickname “Stonewall” after rallying his troops to hold off an advancing Northern army.
- Shiloh: The somber battleground at Shiloh Military Park in Tennessee is notable as the site of the largest battle in the Mississippi Valley Campaign. Each side sustained staggering casualties at Shiloh, which ended with a hard-earned Northern victory. Civil War re-enactors observe the anniversary of the conflict every year with a well-attended event on the Shiloh battlegrounds.
- Gettysburg: Probably the most well known of the Civil War battlegrounds due to Abraham Lincoln’s historic speech of the same name, Gettysburg is the site of the infamous Pickett’s Charge. The ill-fated attack by Confederate General George Pickett on Cemetery Ridge effectively ended the South’s chances for success in Pennsylvania. Gettysburg is visited by thousands of pilgrims every year, and is among the most well preserved of any Civil War battleground.
- Appomattox: After more than four years of loss and destruction, the winding down of the Civil War began on April 9, 1865 in the McLean House in Appomattox, Va. It was here that Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, essentially marking the end of the war. Visitors to the site will find a reconstructed McLean house, as well as other historic buildings from the era.
While there are dozens of notable sites and monuments scattered throughout the South, these historic locations are a necessary part of a comprehensive Civil War road trip. Some of the locations are spread out, so be sure to spend time planning your route. Prepare for the road trip by packing essential items such as camping supplies, completing any necessary vehicle maintenance, and double-checking your auto insurance coverage. Forgetting a sleeping bag or driving around the country without car insurance could cut your Civil War road trip short.