As citizens recognize the pain of slavery, new conflicts arise between the states. In 1961, those conflicts boil over into the Civil War. The first shot was at Fort Sumter, and the struggle went on for four years until Robert E. Lee surrendered. Travel the battlefields and experience the pain of a nation torn apart:
46. Harpers Ferry, West Virginia – Harpers Ferry entered the history books on October 16, 1859 when an abolitionist by the name of John Brown led a group of twenty-one men in a raid on the arsenal. One of the men was a fugitive slave, and at that time assisting a fugitive slave was illegal. Brown hoped to use the weapons to initiate a slave uprising in the South. The men were quickly pinned down by local citizens, and then Marines arrived to quell the uprising. John Brown was then tried and hanged for treason, which captured the attention of the nation and became a catalyst for the Civil War. Today, you can visit the town and Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.
47. Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie – Charleston Harbor, South Carolina – Fort Sumter sits on an island in the middle of the mouth of Charleston Harbor, and Fort Moultrie sit on the end of Sullivan’s Island, on the north side of Charleston Harbor. Fort Sumter is the most famous of the two, as it is the site of the beginning of the Civil War. The Confederate artillery opened fire on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, and the fort fell to the Confederacy 34 hours later. It would be in Confederate hands for another four years. Fort Moultrie played a role in the American Revolution, preventing Charleston from falling into British hands until 1780. You can visit both forts to see large parts of the 1800s US Naval defense systems, but keep in mind, you can’t go directly from Fort Sumter to Fort Moultrie without going back to the mainland!
48. Manassas National Battlefield Park – Manassas, Virginia – Site of the first major battle of the Civil War in 1861, The First Battle of Bull Run was a Confederate victory. The next year, the Second Battle of Bull Run was fought on the same ground and also resulted in a Confederate victory. Today, the site is a National Battlefield Park, and houses monuments, cemeteries, a visitor center, and a tour.
49. Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield – Republic, Missouri – Fought on August 10, 1861, the Battle of Wilson’s Creek was the first major Civil War engagement west of the Mississippi River. The site is located just southwest of Springfield, MO and features a 5 mile auto tour loop, a restored house, and “Bloody Hill,” the scene of the major battle.
50. Homestead National Monument of America – Gage County, Nebraska – This monument commemorates the passage of the Homestead Act of 1862. This act allowed any qualified person to claim up to 160 acres of federally owned land in exchange for caring for the land for five years. After the Homestead Act, American expansion westward increased significantly, forming the foundation of what we see as our country today. The monument now stands on a site that includes some of the first acres successfully claimed under the Homestead Act. The park contains 2.7 miles of hiking trails, a restored 1867 cabin, The Freeman School, and a Heritage Center.
51. Antietam National Battlefield – near Sharpsburg, Maryland – The Battle of Antietam was fought on September 17, 1862 and was the first field-army level engagement of the Eastern Theatre of the Civil War to take place on Union Soil. It was the bloodiest single-day battle in US history with over twenty-two thousand soldiers dead, wounded, or missing. The battle itself was tactically inconclusive, but the Confederate troops withdrew first from the field, making it a Union victory in military terms. The victory was significant enough, that President Lincoln announced his Emancipation Proclamation, which led to the British and French refusing to recognize the Confederacy.
52. Gettysburg National Military Park – Gettysburg, Pennsylvania – The Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863 was the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, and a major turning point. The three day battle saw the loss of over fifty thousand troops from both sides of the conflict, and inspired President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
53. Fort Morgan and Fort Gaines – Mouth of Mobile Bay, Alabama – These forts are the two remaining fortifications on the mouth of Mobile Bay. Over the last 400 years, several strategic sites along Mobile Bay were fortified and used by the Spanish, the British, the Confederacy, and the US. Forts Morgan and Gaines are most well know from the Civil War. They were the key fortifications in the Battle of Mobile Bay, and the last remaining strongholds of the Confederacy during the Civil War. Once they fell in 1864, The Union was able to cut off supplies to the Confederacy from the Gulf. Fort Morgan also was important in the War of 1812, and Fort Gaines had a role in the Spanish-American War in 1898. You can visit both forts today, and you can see some photos of our family’s visit to Fort Morgan in October 2016 at this link.
54. Appomattox Court House National Historical Park – Appomattox Court House, Virginia – The Battle of Appomottox Court House was one of the last battles of the Civil War. Fought on the morning of April 9, 1865, it was the final engagement of General Robert E Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia before surrender on the afternoon of April 9. On April 12, a formal ceremony marked the disbandment of the Army of Northern Virginia, triggering a series of surrenders across the South, and ending the war.
55. Andersonville National Historic Site – Andersonville, Georgia – Opened as a prison for Union soldiers caught behind Confederate lines in 1864, Andersonville was the site of Camp Sumter(Also known as Andersonville Prison.) The prison was built to house no more than ten thousand prisoners, but ended up housing more than thirty thousand in deplorable conditions. Today, the site is a memorial to all American prisoners of war and consists of the historic prison site and a National Cemetery,
If you are interested in American Revolution, War of 1812, or Civil War battlefield sites, this organization is dedicated to preserving the fields and also has many interesting historic maps.
This list doesn’t cover all of the battles of the Civil War. Through the War, over 300 battles were fought, and over 8,000 instances of hostilities were recorded. This list catalogs the 384 most recognized battles if you are interested in further reading.
The War Between the States is over, and rebuilding has begun. Along with a nation rebuilding, we had a nation inventing. See the treasures of the Gilded Age and the inventions of the Industrial Revolution:
To return to the main 100 United States Historic Sites to See While Homeschooling, click here.
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Visit the next post in the series: Post Civil War Sites