The Civil battle was among the darkest durations in American history. Politics and social differences centering approximately slavery and its expansion incited passions and also led to sharp divisions throughout the country. The election of president Abraham Lincoln in 1860 triggered the secession of many slave-holding states and also propelled the country into civil war. 4 years of catastrophic bloodshed led to over 700,000 deaths and also forever changed the course of ours nation.

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To better understand the people and also events of that destructive time, it’s useful to visit the battlefields, homes and historic areas where the battle unfolded. Fulfilling its function as America’s storyteller, the national Park company preserves over 75 of this locations. Every year, countless visitors -- many of them descendants of Civil war soldiers -- come to these currently peaceful battlefields to learn much more about this specifying chapter the our nation’s history.

By no means a complete list, below are a few of the plenty of places that help tell the story of the Civil war from beginning to end.

Harpers Ferry National historical Park in West Virginia

The history of Harpers Ferry is just matched through it herbal beauty. Picture of the sunrise native Maryland Heights courtesy of girlfriend Secor.

Harpers Ferry National historic Park in West Virginia is a place every college student of the polite War have to visit. The park is about much more than simply one event, one day or one individual. The history here is multi-layered -- including a diverse number of people and also events that affected the food of ours nation"s history.

In 1859, Abolitionist john Brown and 21 followers launched a raid to seize weapons from a federal armory at Harpers Ferry in the expect of beginning a rebellion that would bring around the end of slavery. The raid concerned a quick finish when U.S. Marines under the command the U.S. Army Colonel Robert E. Lee surrounded and captured Brown’s men. Brown was found guilty the treason, conspiracy and murder and also was hanged on December 2, 1859. His trial and also execution concentrated the nation"s fist on the moral worry of slavery and also inflamed passions that propelled the country toward polite war.

An crucial railroad junction at the confluence the the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, Harpers Ferry is surrounded by high bluffs that make it simple to catch and challenging to hold. End the food of the polite War, Harpers Ferry changed hands eight times and also was severely damaged. The town’s capture in 1862 through Confederates under “Stonewall” Jackson resulted in the largest surrender that American troops until human being War II.

Portions the Harpers Ferry still look lot like how they did during the 1860s. Visitors have the right to immerse themselves in the area’s background and reap the park’s stunning natural beauty. Harpers Ferry additionally serves together the halfway allude on the famous Appalachian Trail.

Fort Sumter national Monument in south Carolina

Volunteers dressed together Union soldiers reduced the garrison flag at fort Sumter national Monument throughout the 150th commemoration of the battle in 2011. Photograph by national Park Service.

When south Carolina seceded from the United says in December 1860, Union pressures in Charleston found themselves surrounded by enemies. Castle fell back to ft Sumter, one imposing framework on an island in the city’s harbor. For much more than 3 months, efforts to resupply the Union troops failed as Confederate pressures gathered roughly the fort, preparing because that a fight.

The first shots that the Civil war were fired as soon as Confederate batteries opened up on ft Sumter ~ above April 12, 1861. Union pressures returned fire but were cut off and outgunned. ~ 34 hours of bombardment, the Union troops under major Robert Anderson were required to surrender. Miraculously, the just fatalities of the fight were two Union soldiers eliminated by a cannon explosion during the surrender ceremony.

Visitors today can take a tour boat out to fort Sumter national Monument come walk the ramparts and see a Civil battle artillery covering still embedded in the fort’s wall. Standing whereby the war started, visitors deserve to feel the power of this place and imagine the dark year that adhered to the battle.

Manassas national Battlefield Park in Virginia

The stone House was supplied as a hospital during the first and 2nd Battle that Manassas. Photograph by national Park Service.

After the surrender of ft Sumter, thousands of thousands of guys enlisted in the Union and also Confederate armies. Months of recruitment and training were punctuated by minor skirmishes, but the an initial major battle of the war didn’t take place until July 1861.

On July 16, 35,000 Union troops under the command of basic Irvin McDowell marched into Virginia to attack Confederate forces near a crucial railroad junction in Manassas. Outnumbered, Confederate general Pierre G. T. Beauregard dubbed for reinforcements and also prepared because that a fight. Anticipating a quick victory, McDowell bespeak his men across a stream referred to as Bull run on the morning the July 21. The battle began.

Sharp fighting on the Confederate left flank thrust the southern troops back to Henry Hill. There, getting here reinforcements stood strong against the Union attack. Because that his determined defense the the hill, Confederate general Thomas Jackson winner the name “Stonewall” and the rebels compelled the Union military to withdraw. The horrific aftermath of the fight shocked both sides and ended the wishes of plenty of for a short and also painless war.

An simple drive indigenous Washington, D.C., Manassas nationwide Battlefield Park not just tells the story the this historic fight but additionally preserves the land whereby the second Battle of Manassas was fought in 1862. For anyone interested in army leadership, just how civilians are influenced by war and the endure of the typical soldier, Manassas is a tremendous outdoor classroom.

Wilson’s Creek national Battlefield in Missouri

A lightning storm brings thunder ago to the landscape in ~ Wilson’s Creek national Battlefield. Photo courtesy of Steven Ross.

Fought on respectable 10, 1861, the fight of Wilson"s Creek was the an initial major Civil battle engagement west the the Mississippi River. Outnumbered two to one, 5,400 Union forces struck 11,000 Confederate troops 12 mile southwest that Springfield, Missouri. Over 2,000 guys were killed or wounded, consisting of Nathaniel Lyon, the first Union basic killed in activity during the polite War. The fighting lasted six hours and also resulted in the retreat of the Union army and also increased assistance for the southern cause in that state. 

The fight of Wilson"s Creek marked the start of the Civil battle in Missouri. For the next three and also a fifty percent years, the state was the scene of savage and fierce fighting. Through the end of the war, Missouri witnessed so countless battles and also skirmishes that it ranked together the 3rd most fought-over state in the nation.

Today, travellers can discover Wilson’s Creek nationwide Battlefield v an educational auto tourism or on a seven-mile trail device for horseback riding and also hiking. Living history programs illustrating soldier life, musket and also artillery shooting demonstrations, Civil war medicine and also other connected topics room presented native Memorial day to job Day on some weekends.

Fort Monroe national Monument in Virginia

The size and scope of ft Monroe nationwide Monument as seen from above. Aerial photo by nationwide Park Service.

Like ft Sumter in south Carolina, Union pressures at ft Monroe uncovered themselves behind foe lines once Virginia seceded indigenous the United states in may 1861. Union basic Benjamin servant -- the fort’s command -- no only had actually to protect the ft but likewise had to decision what come do about escaped servants seeking refuge v the northern troops. Thinking prefer a general and also a lawyer, Butler decided that freedom-seeking slaves would be held as “Contraband” property and not returned to their masters. Word easily spread and hundreds that escaped servants made their way to fort Monroe, setup up a me contained neighborhood in the adjacent town the Hampton.

Despite its lengthy military history, fort Monroe nationwide Monument is among the newer enhancements to the national park system. Here, visitors have the right to tour the fort, walk adjacent beaches, was standing in the the shade of a 500-year-old oak tree, and also hear the story of soldiers, the enslaved and the fight for freedom.

Shiloh National army Park in Tennessee

Many memorials, markers and also statues honor the soldiers who combated at Shiloh. Picture of the Tennessee State Monument by nationwide Park Service.

As the battle approached its second year, battles huge and little raged throughout the country. In western Tennessee, 40,000 Confederates charged right into a big Union camp close to Shiloh Church ~ above April 6, 1862. Union basic Ulysses S. Give rallied his men, however the Confederate onslaught moved them back. In the chaos of the battle, Confederate general Albert Sidney Johnston to be killed. Fighting finished at nightfall however resumed through the return the the sun and also the arrival of Union reinforcements. Regardless of desperate counterattacks, the Confederates were required to retreat. The battle cost both sides a combined total the 23,746 males killed, injured or missing.

Landmarks the the battle are preserved at Shiloh National military Park. Shiloh Church, the Peach Orchard, Bloody Pond and an impenetrable oak thicket that battle survivors called the “Hornets" Nest,” serve as reminders that the horror that taken place here.

Antietam nationwide Battlefield in Maryland

Morning fog lingers end the Cornfield in ~ Antietam national Battlefield. Photograph by nationwide Park Service.

After the 2nd Battle that Manassas, the Confederate military under general Robert E. Lee launched an invasion of Maryland in September 1862. Hoping for a major victory to encourage international support, the Confederates brushed up through towns and also farms, sending out panic with the state. The Union army under basic George B. McClellan pursued them to the financial institutions of Antietam Creek. On the morning the September 17, the battle began.

Over 12 hours, the battle played the end in 3 phases, spreading destructive violence native the Cornfield to the Sunken roadway to Burnside Bridge. Of the 132,000 males who fought, almost 23,000 were killed, injured or missing. It stays the single bloodiest work in American history.

The adhering to day, Lee retreated ago to Virginia. The Union victory listed President Abraham Lincoln the chance to problem the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. Currently the war had a dual purpose of keeping the Union and also ending slavery. 

Antietam nationwide Battlefield now is a beloved patchwork the fields, farms and forests, kept to look together they walk in 1862. Park rangers lead day-to-day tours, sharing soldiers’ stories and also explaining the impact of this battle and the Civil war overall. The an suffer you won’t forget.

Vicksburg National military Park in Mississippi

The Iowa State Memorial glows in the moonlight at Vicksburg National armed forces Park. Photo by nationwide Park Service.

Protecting a cross of the Mississippi River, Vicksburg kept the Confederate states connected together. Together the war continued, soldiers and also supplies flooded with the Mississippi city on their means to the east armies. Surrounded by a maze that swamps and also ringed through fortifications, Vicksburg was a complicated target because that the Union army under basic Ulysses S. Grant.

For much more than a year and also a half, Union forces closed in ~ above the city from the north and the south. In May and June 1863, attacks and a lengthy siege tested the Confederate defenses. The Confederates introduced a desperate counterattack in ~ Milliken’s Bend but were repelled by african American soldiers of the U.S. Fancy Troops and also Union pho firing from flow boats. Exhausted and also out of supplies, the Confederates in ~ Vicksburg surrendered on July 4, turning the birds of the war.

The rebuilt U.S.S. Cairo, a Union ironclad gunboat sunk during the battle, is now on permanent screen at Vicksburg National military Park. Travellers can discover the boat and battlefield, seeing over 1,4000 monuments, memorials and also markers the commemorate the males who fought and also died here. 

Gettysburg National army Park in Pennsylvania

Living history volunteers dressed together Union soldiers command a walking tour throughout the 150th commemoration events at Gettysburg National military Park in 2013. Photograph by national Park Service.

Perhaps the most well known engagement the the polite War, the fight of Gettysburg was fought on the an initial three days of July 1863. The culmination of a Confederate invasion right into Pennsylvania, the southern pressures came indigenous the north and the northern forces came indigenous the south, both trying come secure the important road junction

The 2 massive armies numbered end 165,000 men and also spread throughout a fishhook-shaped line for more than four miles. Over hilltops, with orchards and throughout fields, attacks and counterattacks tested the stamin of both armies. The casualties an installed and moans of anguish filled the nights. Top top the 3rd day that battle, general Lee notified an assault versus the Union center. That is recognized to background as “Pickett’s Charge.” Marching throughout open fields, the Confederates took damaging losses and also had come withdraw. The Union victory at the fight of Gettysburg, sometimes referred to as the "High Water note of the Rebellion," brought an finish to the really hopes of the Confederate claims of America because that independence. 

The results of the fight haunted the town for months. Almost every building in town sheltered wounded soldiers, as bodies were hastily hidden in fields. Plan were created a huge cemetery because that the Union dead. On November 19, 1863, chairman Lincoln yielded his famous Gettysburg resolve at that is dedication.

Gettysburg National armed forces Park is just one of the most visited Civil war sites. Tourists from roughly the world come to far better understand the battle, the war and the people affected by it. The site’s fantastic museum, cyclorama, memorials, kept viewscapes and informative ranger program all help connect human being to this historical battle. 

Andersonville National historical Site in Georgia

American flags decorate tombs at Andersonville National historic Site. Photograph by national Park Service.

The story of Andersonville began in 1864 when the Confederacy constructed a stockade to hold Union prisoners captured during the war. Situated deep behind Confederate lines, the 26.5-acre Camp Sumter -- named for the southern Georgia ar it populated -- was designed for a maximum of 10,000 prisoners. At its most crowded, that held more than 32,000 guys -- many of lock wounded and starving -- in horrific conditions with rampant disease, contaminated water and only minimal shelter from the blazing sun and the chilling rain. In the prison"s 14 months of existence, part 45,000 Union prisoners arrived here. The those, 12,920 died and also were buried in a cemetery created just outside the prison walls.

Today, Andersonville National historical Site comprises three distinct components: the previous site the Camp Sumter military prison, the Andersonville nationwide Cemetery and the nationwide Prisoner of war Museum, which opened up in 1998 to honor every U.S. Detainees of battle in all wars.

Fort Stevens (Civil battle Defenses that Washington) in Washington, D.C.

A visitant reads a plaque at fort Stevens. Picture by nationwide Park Service.

By summer 1864, most of Lee’s Confederate army and Grant’s Union army were involved in siege operations around Petersburg, Virginia. Desperate to relieve press on his lines, Lee bespeak 20,000 guys under basic Jubal at an early stage to move north and also threaten Washington, D.C.

Early’s campaign began with an invasion through Maryland and a win over Union forces along the Monocacy River. Recording the city defenders by surprise, Early progressed closer to Washington, D.C., and also probed Union pressures at fort Stevens ~ above the capital’s north edge. During the fighting, Union troops were surprised to watch President Lincoln appear in the fort. According to legend, together Lincoln was standing on the fort’s walls exposed come Confederate fire, a young officer named Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Shouted “Get down, you cursed fool!” As an ext Union forces arrived, Early dubbed off the attack and retreated come Virginia.

Some of ft Stevens’s walls have been rebuilt and also are kept with various other area forts together the Civil war Defenses that Washington. Visitors deserve to imagine the attack and see a commemorative stone specialized to Abraham Lincoln. The battle of fort Stevens to be the just time in American history that a sit president came under straight fire native an opponent combatant.

Petersburg nationwide Battlefield in Virginia

A living background artillery demonstration at Petersburg national Battlefield. Photo by nationwide Park Service.

After Gettysburg, Lee’s army of northern Virginia fought a long collection of battles between Washington, D.C., and also Richmond, Virginia, as Grant’s Union military pushed south towards the Confederate capital. In June 1864, the Confederates fell earlier to strong defensive lines neighboring Richmond and also a surrounding supply facility at Petersburg.

Grant massed his males along the Confederate lines and also began the longest siege in American warfare. In the challenge of constant Union attacks, the southerners organized on because that 10 months, hope the human being of the North would tire that the war. By February 1865, the 45,000 diverted Confederates to be outnumbered through 110,000 Union soldiers.They realized it was only a matter of time prior to Grant"s superior pressure would one of two people get roughly the Confederate appropriate flank or pierce the line somewhere along it"s 37-mile length. ~ above April 2, give ordered one all out assault and also Lee’s flank crumbled. The southern military abandoned Richmond and Petersburg. Lee was running out of options.

Though large parts that the battlefield have been swallowed increase by the contemporary world, few of the buildings and defenses remain to call the story the the brutal and also bloody fighting that happened here an ext than a century and also a half ago. Petersburg nationwide Battlefield is a 2,700-acre park special a 16-stop driving tour, a wonderful museum and also visitor center, and also 18 mile of forested trails because that hikers and bikers come explore.

Appomattox Court house National historical Park in Virginia

The McLean house at Appomattox Courthouse National historic Park during an illumination. Picture by national Park Service.

Grant’s military kept the pressure on the Confederates as they limped away from Petersburg. Lee had hopes of taking his military south to link up through Confederate basic Joseph E. Johnston’s military in north Carolina, however the lack of food and also supplies slowed the down. Union troops shed bridges, blocked roads and inflicted heavy losses day after day. Finally on the morning of April 9, close to the quiet village of Appomattox Court House, Lee realized the his luck had actually run out.

Lee and Grant met in ~ the residence of Wilbur McLean to discuss the terms of surrender. In what is often defined as a meeting of gentlemen, Grant offered generous terms to Lee and his men, welcoming them earlier into the Union. Starving Confederate soldiers were provided food and enabled to go home. In a war significant by such divisiveness and bitter fighting, it is impressive that equipped conflict finished so simply. Grant"s compassion did lot to allay the emotions of the Confederate troops. As for Lee, the realized that the ideal course to be for his guys to return home and also resume their resides as American citizens.

The McLean house has been meticulously reconstructed and is the centerpiece that Appomattox Court residence National historic Park. Visitors have the right to tour the parlour whereby the civil War involved an end and also see countless original artifacts associated with the events surrounding the surrender that the Confederate military of northern Virginia. Artifacts selection from the pencil supplied by general Lee come make corrections in the surrender terms to uniforms, documents and military items.

Dry Tortugas national Park in Florida

The red brick walls of fort Jefferson was standing out against the blue water at dried Tortugas nationwide Park. Photograph by Andrea Suarez (

Fort Jefferson was developed on the islands of the dried Tortugas to protect one the the most strategic deepwater anchorages in phibìc America. By fortifying the spacious harbor, the United claims maintained vital “advance post” because that ships patrolling the Gulf the Mexico and also the Straits the Florida in the 1840s and 1850s. Nestled in ~ the islands and also shoals that consist of the dried Tortugas, the harbor offered ships the chance to resupply, refit, or seek refuge from storms.

During the civil War, Union warships supplied the harbor in their project to blockade southerly shipping. The ft was also used together a prison, greatly for Union deserters. That is most famed prisoner to be Dr. Samuel Mudd, the physician who set the broken leg of john Wilkes Booth.

Most travellers coming to dried Tortugas nationwide Park space unaware the its Civil battle history. Accessible only by watercraft or seaplane, the park is finest known because that picturesque blue waters, superlative coral reefs and also marine life, remarkable snorkeling and also a substantial assortment that bird life.

African American Civil battle Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The african American Civil war Memorial top top a clear day. Photo by national Park Service.

Early top top in the war, conference forbade the enlistment of free African Americans and also only allowed the usage of previous slaves as workers in the military. V the i of the 2nd Confiscation Act and Militia plot in July 1862, afri Americans from all over in the nation were now allowed to join the military and contribute come the battle for a "new birth of freedom." By supporting the Union, slaves and totally free blacks that were living in the North and South courageously advanced the cause of flexibility for more than 4 million enslaved people. In 1865, president Lincoln said, "without the military aid of the black freedmen, the war against the south could not have been won."

The african American Civil war Memorial in the historic U Street community of Washington, D.C., commemorates the military business of thousands of thousands of african American soldiers and sailors. Etched right into stainless stole panels of the memorial are names identify 209,145 United claims Colored Troops who responded come the Union"s speak to to arms. A sculpture by artists Ed Hamilton dubbed "Spirit that Freedom" depicts 3 infantrymen and also a sailor defending freedom. Over them is the face of the heart of flexibility watching over favor an angel through her eight crossed.

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The freedom of our people and also the unity of our nation, purchased at an unimaginable cost, is the birthright the every citizen. With some of the best public chroniclers in the world, the nationwide Park organization serves as a steward and storyteller for iconic locations like Gettysburg, Shiloh and Andersonville that connect us to our past and inspire ours future.