Top 10 Civil War Battlefields in the US
The bloodiest battle of the Civil War was fought between July 1 and 3 in 1863. This battle was a major turning point in the war, which had been largely dominated by the Confederates till then. The Gettysburg National Military Park now marks this historic battle ground. A number of monuments mark the battle and the 51,000 casualties incurred here. Take a guided tour through combat sites such as Little Round Top and Devil’s Den and do not miss out on a “Living History” weekend, when the Battle of Gettysburg is enacted by actors in full costume.
The Battle of Antietam (also called the Battle of Sharpsburg), fought on September 17, 1862, was the bloodiest single day battle in the history of America and cost the country nearly 23,000 casualties (about 4000 of the 100000 soldiers who participated in the battle died). Antietam battlefield is well preserved and self-guided tours can be undertaken to view the combat sites. Alternatively, you may avail of expert guides and take a walking tour. It is the devastation of this battle that led Abraham Lincoln to write and adopt the initial Emancipation Proclamation as a tool to end slavery in the states.
Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy for almost the entire length of the American Civil War. Capturing Richmond became the main target of the Union forces and the city saw much action. The Richmond National Battlefield Park preserves the historic heritage of some of the main invasions such as the Seven Days Campaign (June 25, 1862 to July 1, 1862). Several city museums such as the Museum of the Confederacy and the monuments along Monument Avenue promise an educational insight into the nation’s historic past and the Civil War itself. A visit to the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail and the sites of erstwhile slave markets serve as a reminder that liberty and equality is what the nation strives for.
Though not a battlefield, the city of Vicksburg in Mississippi was the scene of a very long and painful siege during the Civil War. The 47-day-long siege by Union Major General Ulysses S Grant (May 18, 1863 to July 4, 1863) led the Confederate Army to remain within the city’s fortress till they surrendered. The siege was a maneuver to both gain access to the Mississippi River and to drive a wedge in the Confederacy. The Old Courthouse Museum and the USS Cairo Museum are treasure troves of information. Visitors prefer to take a 20-mile drive-through the military park to have a closer look at this historic township.
Manassas in Virginia witnessed the first major battle of the American Civil War. On July 21, 1861, both the Union and Confederate forces had about 18,000 young recruits each and hopes were high for a Northern victory. But, the Union Army was slow and was outmaneuvered by the Confederacy. The First Battle of Bull Run (Battle of First Manassas) ended in a resounding Confederate victory. The second battle here in 1862 also ended in a Confederate victory. The museum at the Henry Hill Visitor Centre and a tour of the Manassas National Battlefield Park is likely to be a very interesting and informative one.
State: South Carolina
Fort Sumter is where the civil war started. The Battle of Fort Sumter between April 12, 1861 and April 14, 1861, was the bombardment and surrender of this historic fort, which led to the secession of the seven Southern states. The 34-hour-long bombardment of the brick fort built in an artificial island forced Major Robert Anderson to surrender. The fort is well-preserved and can be accessed by a boat ride. Apart from Fort Sumter, Fort Moultrie on the mainland is also open to visitors and history buffs.
One of the greatest battles fought during the American Civil War, on April 6 and 7, 1862, was the Battle of Pittsburg Landing or the Battle of Shiloh. Not only was it the largest battle of the Mississippi Valley Campaign, but is also known for the huge losses sustained by the Union and Confederate forces. Almost one-fourth of the 1,09,784 who embarked on this battle were injured, missing, or dead. The Shiloh National Military Park preserves both the battlefields of Shiloh and Corinth, which became the next target due to the presence of a major rail-road junction.
State: West Virginia
The Harpers Ferry National Historical Park preserves this town which was the scene of John Brown’s historic Armory during the American Civil War (1859). Located where the Potomac River meets the Shenandoah River, Harpers Ferry was an important bastion and a munitions base. Brown’s raid was the catalyst that led to the civil war and in September 1862, the town saw action many times. One of the important battles fought here was the Battle of Harpers Ferry (September 12–15, 1862) when Major General Thomas J “Stonewall” Jackson recaptured the town.
The Battle of Pea Ridge was another major engagement of the American Civil War fought in the city of Pea Ridge near Leetown in Arkansas. Between March 6 and 8, 1862, the Union forces led by Brigadier General Samuel Curtis clashed with the Confederate forces led by Major General Earl Van Dorn. The Confederacy hoped to recapture Missouri and Arkansas that it had lost earlier on. The Confederate forces had greatly outnumbered the Union army and yet the battle was won by the Union forces, who secured Missouri. The Pea Ridge National Military Park visitors’ center has excellent guiding material that provides insight into the strategies used in the battle.
Chickamauga and Chattanooga
State: Georgia & Tennessee
The Battle of Chickamauga, fought on September 19 and 20, 1863, was the first major battle fought in the state of Georgia. It ended in a significant victory for the Confederate forces. The Battle of Chattanooga was fought from November 23 to November 25, 1863, between the forces of Major General Ulysses S. Grant and General Braxton Bragg, and resulted in a Union victory. The Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park preserves the history and sites of these two battles. Do remember to scale Lookout Mountain and get a bird’s eye view of these two major battlefields.