American Civil War Trails & Itineraries

More American Civil War battles were fought in the Capital Region than anywhere else in the USA. Explore Civil War tours and trails throughout Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia to add a powerful dose of history to your holiday.

Civil War re-enactment, Richmond, VA
Civil War re-enactors, Virginia
Civil War-era tents at Manassas National Battlefield Park
Manassas National Battlefield Park, Virginia
Antietam National Battlefield, Sharpsburg, MD
Antietam National Battlefield, Sharpsburg, Maryland
Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC
Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC
Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia
Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia
Civil War re-enactment, Richmond, VA
Civil War-era tents at Manassas National Battlefield Park
Antietam National Battlefield, Sharpsburg, MD
Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC
Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia

Civil War trails across Virginia and Maryland bring the stories of important battles and those who fought them to life on the grounds where the action took place. Walk in a soldier's footsteps across the battlefields, attend Civil War-related events, or don 1800s garb and take part in a battle re-enactment. Visit the many historic churches, homes, museums and cemeteries while making your way along the trails.

Virginia: Follow Trails to the Sites of Epic Battles & Campaigns

Experience the Civil War dramatically by tracing five different Civil War trails throughout the state. More than 400 sites tell stories never before told through pictures, maps, and interpretation. Travellers can spend two days or two weeks following the campaigns fought in Virginia through 79 cities and counties. Each site is accessible by car and describes events specific to that location.

1862 Peninsula Campaign, Civil War in Tidewater

The Peninsula Campaign was a major operation for the Union Army. Lasting from March until July of 1862, it was the first large-scale offensive in the Eastern Theater. The first stage of the campaign ended inconclusively in the Battle of Seven Pines, when Confederate command was passed to General Robert E. Lee after his predecessor, General Joseph Johnston, was injured.

Drive the tour of the Peninsula Campaign, beginning at Fort Monroe in Hampton and ending on the bloody battlefields near Richmond. Several stops relating to the March 1862 Battle of Hampton Roads – the first action between two ironclad ships, the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia – are available.

Shenandoah Valley, Avenue of Invasion

"If the Valley is lost, Virginia is lost." -General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson

The Shenandoah Valley was strategically important due to several key factors:

  • The valley offered a backdoor approach to Washington, DC for the Confederate army.
  • The region was a top producer of important resources like wheat and grain, earning its name as "The Breadbasket of the Confederacy."
  • The valley also provided raw resources such as iron and ore to the Confederacy.

Trail stops uncover the often desperate action in "the great breadbasket," the Valley of Virginia. Highlights are Stonewall Jackson's famous 1862 Valley Campaign and the final Union campaigns in 1864.

Northern Virginia, Crossroads of Conflict

The events leading up to the Battles of Manassas and Mosby Country, the defences of Washington, and many other topics are explained at dozens of Trails sites from the rolling hills of Fauquier County to the suburbs of DC.

Lee vs. Grant, The 1864 Campaign

The 1864 Overland Campaign began west of Fredericksburg when Grant launched an offensive aimed at destroying Confederate forces in Virginia. It ended with the siege of Petersburg.

Lee's Retreat, The Final Campaigns

Cover the route of Robert E. Lee's final march from Petersburg to Appomattox. Visit the battlefield at Sailor's Creek, where Lee lost a substantial part of his army, and explore the 1864 Wilson/Kautz Raid, as well as the critical Battle at Lynchburg.

Virginia Civil War Trip Itineraries

Maryland: Trace the Footsteps of Generals, Assassins & Citizen Soldiers

In Maryland, the Civil War is best explored in the footsteps of generals, on the heels of an assassin and by understanding the stories of the citizens who survived the conflict. Four carefully mapped driving tours link together a collection of well-known and lesser-known sites from Baltimore City throughout the Chesapeake Region, Southern Maryland and into Western Maryland.

Antietam Campaign 

Follow the routes of Union and Confederate soldiers in September 1862 as they marched through Maryland toward what would be the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest single day of battle in American history. The route begins with Robert E. Lee crossing the Potomac River into Maryland at White's Ford, then moving quickly toward Frederick through Middletown to South Mountain, and on to Antietam battlefield.

Gettysburg Campaign 

Perhaps the most well-known Civil War battle, The Battle of Gettysburg took place when the Confederate army invaded Pennsylvania in the summer of 1863. While both sides suffered heavy casualties, the Union took the victory – a major turning point durning the war. 

Gettysburg Campaign Trail encompasses both invasion and retreat: Cavalry Tour, Union Advance Tour, Confederate Advance Tour and Retreat Tour.

Booth Escape Route 

Follow a driving tour along John Wilkes Booth's escape route from Ford's Theater in Washington, DC on April 14, 1865, after shooting President Lincoln, to the location of his capture and death in Virginia 12 days later. The tour follows Route 5 out of Washington into Maryland, then joins US 301 South into Virginia. Nine Civil War Trails signs mark significant stops on the route.

Baltimore Area

This Civil War Trails tour covers the Baltimore City story as well as area themes involving African Americans, the all-important railroads, and a variety of activity on the northern shores of the Chesapeake Bay.

Washington, DC: A Powerful Role in the Civil War & Civil Rights

From Abraham Lincoln’s tide-turning elections and inaugurations to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s soul-stirring “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC has served as a powerful backdrop for catalysing moments in the Civil War and civil rights movement.

Many of the war’s most significant battles took place within a short drive of the White House, including First & Second Manassas (Bull Run), Antietam and Gettysburg. Visitors to DC can step through buildings that hosted key players and witnessed pivotal events, such as the Willard Hotel where Lincoln stayed prior to his inauguration; the National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum, where Lincoln’s second inaugural ball took place; and Arlington National Cemetery, located on land formerly owned by Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s family.

Learn more about DC’s powerful position in the Civil War and its role in the civil rights movement by following this Civil War to Civil Rights itinerary.

For more itineraries and information on travelling in the Capital Region, view our latest Holiday Guide online.

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