Visiting Historical Civil War Sites
Part of the National Park Services’ mission is to protect America’s treasures and help preserve its history. One of the ways the NPS does this is by protecting National Historic Sites, and Battlefields related to the American Civil War.
The NPS protects over 90 Civil War sites. One way to learn from these sites, and their place in American history, is through the Jr. Ranger Program. This program will help you explore each site, and learn all about the history behind the Civil War. As our Rv adventures continue we will certainly visit more civil war sites.
If you enjoy learning about American History through the NPS make sure to also visit our Revolutionary War post.
A Nation Truly Divided | Now…….or 1862-1865
In today’s political climate you will often hear talk of a nation divided. You may hear someone mention the words “I can’t believe how divided this country has become”, or maybe “Our country has never been this divided before”, or “This country is so divided I don’t think we will ever be able to fix it”.
I could not help but think of these words as we sat overlooking the Antietam National Battlefield during the summer of 2019. During our visit, we learned the true toll of this civil war battle.
September 17, 1862, is the bloodiest day in American history. According to the National Park Service, this battle lasted 12 hours. 23,00 Americans were killed, wounded, or went missing during the battle of Antietam.
This was a single one-day battle during the American Civil War. On September 17, 1862, approximately 45,000 confederate troops took up arms against the Union troops. Fifteen months before this battle these same troops were American citizens.
I cannot help but question if today’s climate is the most divided this country has ever been. Without question, there is a lot of division in the United States currently. However, after visiting Antietam I can’t help but believe that maybe the country was more divided between 1861 and 1865.
During our Rv travels, we have visited three separate Civil War sites. Of course, this is just a small sample of the 90+ Civil War sites within the National Park Service. As we continue with our adventures across the country, and the National Park System we are sure to visit many more.
Civil War Historic Sites | Our Experience
Harpers Ferry National Historic Park
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park Facts
- Located at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers in and around Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.
- Designated a National Monument in 1944, declared a National Historical Park in 1963.
- During the Civil War Harpers Ferry sat on the boundary between the Union and Confederate forces.
- Several historical museums now occupy restored 19th-century buildings in the Lower Town Historic District.
- Nearly half a million people visit the park each year
For our visit to Harpers Ferry National Historic Site, we set up camp at the Harpers Ferry/Civil War Battlefields Koa Holiday campground.
This campground is only half a mile from the National Parks visitor center making it a great camp for visiting Harpers Ferry. From the visitor center, you can take a shuttle down to the historical park. This is a quick 5-minute ride down to the town of Harpers Ferry.
When walking into Harpers Ferry you are taken back in time to the period of the Civil War.
For amazing views, you can walk down to what is known as the point. This is where the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers meet. From here you can look upon Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia at the same time.
What was Harpers Ferry’s role when the nation was divided? Well after our visit we learned that Harpers Ferry had a large role during the conflict. Harpers Ferry was affected by the Civil War the day after Virginia Succeeded from the Union. On April 18th, 1861, the armory and arsenal were burnt down.
Antietam National Battlefield
Antietam National Battlefield Facts
- The Antietam National Battlefield was established on August 30, 1890
- This N.P.S site commemorates the American Civil War Battle of Antietam that occurred on September 17, 1862.
- Antietam was the bloodiest one-day battle of the Civil War.
- Is located along Antietam Creek in Sharpsburg, northwestern Maryland.
- In the Battle of Antietam, General Robert E. Lee’s first invasion of the North ended on this battlefield in 1862.
- Antietam National Cemetery, which adjoins the park, covers 11.36 acres and contains more than 4,976 interments
On our way south to Big Bend National Park we stopped in Sharpsburg, MD. Here we set up camp at the Hagerstown / Antietam Battlefield KOA Holiday. The campground is 17 miles from the Battlefield and sits right on the Conococheague Creek. You can find a video of Marcus jumping this river with his bike on our Why Rv? page.
During our visit, we participated in a Ranger-led tour of the park. We walked the cornfield where thousands of soldiers lost their lives. This cornfield saw some of America’s most horrific fighting in all its history. It is one thing to read about this area, but an entirely different experience even 158 years after the battle.
We were able to spend an entire day visiting the Antietam Battlefield and National Cemetery. Of all the numerous National Parks, and Historic sites we have visited this one hit home the most for me.
I remember looking out of the visitor center over pristine farmland and trying to image 132,000 soldiers marching on each other, and fighting to the death.
This visit was a truly humbling experience and changed how we look at the Civil War.
Gettysburg National Military Park
Gettysburg National Military Park Facts
- Located in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
- Battle of Gettysburg was fought July 1–3, 1863
- Gettysburg National Military Park protects and interprets the landscape of the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War.
- In 1864 Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association acquired land for memorials and preservation
- Officially came under federal control on February 11, 1895, with a piece of legislation titled, “An Act To establish a national military park at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.”
Gettysburg National Military Park is the first civil war site we visited. We had just purchased our Rv and were starting our Rv adventure. Unfortunately, at the time we were unaware of the Jr Ranger program and just made our way around the museum, visitor center, and the Gettysburg National Cemetery.
This Cemetery is where President Lincoln spoke his famous Gettysburg Address. The Cemetery includes a monument dedicated to this famous speech. This monument memorializes the speech and not the speaker.
Gettysburg was the site of one of the most crucial battles during this divided time. By the end of this three-day battle, there were over 50,000 casualties.
The Gettysburg National Military Park is a great site to visit. Little did we know it would be the first of many for us.
We Must Never Forget
This topic is so very important in our opinion. Yes, there is division in the United States right now. Yes, there are great challenges ahead. And yea I believe we have been this divided before, and we overcame it.
Remembering our history and those that came before us is so very important. We are so very lucky that our Country understands this and does an amazing job of protecting important parts of our history.
In addition to Civil War sites, we have visited numerous NPS related to President Lincon. To read more about Lincoln read our blog post Honoring America’s 16th President.