This trip will recall some of the major battles and events of the Civil War, America’s most shameful war, a conflict which pitted friend against friend, brother against brother, neighbor against neighbor. The casualties were some of the greatest in American history since the deaths on both sides were American.
The road trip will, unfortunately, not be able to see these sights in chronological order, since that would require considerable back-tracking, but will follow an order which is based on convenience.
Stop 1 – Richmond, VA
The road trip begins in Richmond, Virginia, the capital of the Confederacy. Richmond boasts a number of attractions paying tribute to this period in American History, during which the country literally divided into two separate nations. Visit the Museum of the Confederacy, the White House of the Confederacy, and stroll along Monument Avenue to view statues of famous Virginians, many of whom were instrumental in this conflict. Because of all the memorabilia, this is a perfect starting location.
Take Rte 60 West from Richmond, then Rte 24 South to Appomatox, approximately 95 miles.
Stop 2 – Apppomatox Court House National Historical Park
The second stop on the road trip is actually last in the chronology of the war. Appomatox Court House was the scene of General Robert E Lee’s surrender to General Ulysses S Grant on April 9, 1865. The surrender followed a battle in which Gen Lee attempted to get to his supplies at Lynchburg, VA, but was surrounded by Union troops.
Retrace route back to Richmond, take Interstate 95 north to Fredericksburg, a total distance of approximately 150 miles.
Stop 3 – Fredericksburg, VA
Here on December 12, 1962, General Lee achieved his "easiest" victory over Union forces, perhaps due to their delayed crossing of the Rappahannock River. Visit the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County Battlefields Memorial to relive the events of the battle, locate the gun implacements, etc.
Continue north on I-95 to Exit 130A. Take Rte 3 West for about 7 miles.
Stop 4 – Chancellorsville, VA
Another part of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, at Chancellorsville, was the sight of perhap Robert E Lee’s "greatest victory" of the Civil War. The battle began on May 1, 1863 and continued until the May 5th. Lee’s victory, however, was overshadowed by the loss of perhaps his greatest general, Gen "Stonewall" Jackson, killed, accidentally, by his own men as he returned at night to his encampment.
Further north on I-95, take exit 152, to Rte 234 North for about 20 miles to Manassas, Virginia. Total distance = approximately 45 miles.
Stop 5 – Manassas, VA
At Manassas, two pivotal battles took place, approximately one year apart. From the Northern perspective, these battles were known as the First and Second Battles of Bull Run, which is the name of stream near the town. The Manassas National Battlefield Park showcases and chronicles the events of both battles. The first conflict took place on July 16, 1861 and was the first major land battle of the war in the state of Virginia. Gen Stonewall Jackson’s troops eventually overran the Union forces, but the ferocity of the fighting made everyone realize that the war would be costly and lengthy for both sides.
The Second Battle of Bull Run occurred on August 28-30, 1862 and again resulted in a Confederate victory.
Take Rte 15 North to Interstate 70 West, then take Exit 52 onto Rte 340 to Harper’s Ferry, a distance of about 70 miles.
Stop 6 – Harper’s Ferry, VA
Harper’s Ferry National Historical Park was the scene of several important events relating to the Civil War. History buffs will remember that, before the war began, this town was the site of John Brown’s raid on the Federal Arsenal there on October 16, 1859. He felt that, if he could capture the weapons and ammunition there, he could free the slaves and end slavery. He failed and was hanged on December 2nd for his efforts.
On April 18, 1861, just after the vote to secede launched the beginning of the Civil War, Federal soldiers set fire to the Armory and Arsenal, afraid that they would fall into the hands of the Confederacy.
Later, on September 15, 1862, Gen Stonewall Jackson’s troops surrounded and captured the garrison troops. It was the largest surrender of Union forces in the entire war.
Return to I-70, then travel West on the interstate to Exit 29, onto Rte 65 South through Sharpsburg and about 10 miles beyond. Total distance = approximately 50 miles.
Stop 7 – Antietam, Maryland
Antietam National Battlefield was the scene of the bloodiest one-day battle in American History. Over 23,000 soldiers lost their lives on September 17, 1862 in this conflict which effectively ended the Confederate Army’s initial advance into the North.
Take Rte 65 North to I-70 West to Interstate 81 North into Pennsylvania. Continue on I-81 to Rte 30 East to Gettysburg, PA
Stop 8 – Gettysburg, PA
Gettysburg National Military Park marks the location of one the most important and pivotal battles of the entire Civil War. From July 1 to July 3, 1863, Union and Confederate forces launched charges and countercharges which resulted in incredible casualties, strategic mistakes and heroic efforts on both sides. Following the battle, this hallowed place was the scene of President Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address, perhaps his most eloquent speech.
Road Trip Extensions
For those who have more time and interest in the Civil War, the following are some possible excursions which can be added to the above tour.
Just East of Manassas, Virginia, along Interstate 66 is our Nation’s Capital. There are plenty of reminders of the Civil War within the city limits, including the Lincoln Memorial, which contains, on one wall, the words of the President’s Gettysburg Address. The Ford’s Theater National Historic Site was the scene of Lincoln’s assassination, which occurred on April 14, 1865, just a few days after Lee’s surrender at Appomatox.
About 440 miles south of Richmond, VA, Charleston is the location of Fort Sumter National Monument, where Confederate Artillery opened fire on the Federal garrison to launch the Civil War. The event took place on April 12, 1861, and led to four years of bloody conflict.
Shiloh National Military Park lies about 100 miles east of Memphis, TN, near the town of Corinth, MS. Here, over a two-day period, April 6-7, 1862, over 23,000 men lost their lives in one of the bloodiest battles of the war. It is remembered as the greatest battle of the Mississippi Valley Campaign.
Vicksburg National Military Park marks the location of the siege and subsequent takeover of the well-positioned Confederate fortification of Vicksburg. The Union victory here led to control of Mississippi River and was a death knell to the Confederacy. The Park lies along Interstate 20, West of Jackson, MS, which can be reached by taking Interstate 55 for 210 miles South from Memphis, TN.