The American Civil War changed our nation forever. It tore apart families and ripped a hole in the country that still fascinates history buffs today. Perhaps nothing beats the feeling of standing on a Civil War battlefield thinking about the brave men who once fought and gave their lives for freedom and justice. Over the last few years, millions of Americans have sought that kind of connection and visited famous Civil War sites to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the war. These are three famous Civil War historical sites worth visiting.
Richmond’s rich culture and Civil War history exceed that of any other city in our nation. The southern white history of the Civil War has always been well preserved with beautiful monument and museums, but in recent years, there has been a greater focus on documenting the horrific African American experience. The Slave Trail walking tour includes a visit to historic sites of once thriving slave markets, the infamous Lumpkin’s Slave Jail, the Shockoe Bottom farmers market, and sites where Abraham Lincoln was greeted by hundreds of celebrating freed slaves. You can also cross a charming pedestrian bridge from the James River to Belle Isle, which is a prison site where captured Union soldiers were held.
On May 23, 1861, the Virginia people officially voted to join the Confederacy. This is a day that sealed the fate of the town of Alexandria. Alexandrians realized that their location, just across the Potomac and close to legions of Union troops, would undoubtedly make them an irresistible target. It didn’t take long for Union troops to infiltrate and begin what would become a four-year occupation, which was the longest of any Confederate holding in the Civil War.
The once prosperous railroad town and Southern port became a chaotic melting pot of military personnel and civilians from both sides of the war. Nurses and doctors flooded the city to care for wounded soldiers, and a growing population of runaway slaves began to call Alexandria home and were looking for new employment. Still formally considered the property of their former masters, these escaped slaves were labeled “contraband” in order to keep them from having to be returned to their “owners.” The town is an amazing place to visit and has a variety of great accommodations available for those looking to stay and explore.
A trip to Gettysburg is truly unforgettable. The well-preserved battlefields still feel eerie and sacred. The area is scattered with legendary battle sites like Devil’s Den and Little Round Top, which are nicely preserved. Of course, don’t forget to walk the route of one of the Civil War’s most famous conflicts, Pickett’s Charge, which was named after the intriguing Major General George Pickett.
You don’t need to be a history buff or educator to be intrigued with the vivid stories of the Civil War. So regardless of whether you’re planning a road trip dedicated to honoring the Civil War or are just discovering these areas as a tourist, be cautioned. You may be well on your way to a new lifelong obsession or hobby.