Explore US Civil War Legacies in and around Washington, DC

The United States Civil War changed the face of history and left indelible footprints on the Capital Region, where most of the major battles were fought.

Inside Ford's Theatre in Washington, DC
Ford’s Theatre, where President Lincoln was assassinated by actor John Wilkes Booth
Antietam National Battlefield, Sharpsburg, MD
Antietam National Battlefield, site of the bloodiest battle of the Civil War
National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, Maryland
National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, Maryland
Manassas National Battlefield, Virginia
Reenactors at Manassas National Battlefield Park
The McLean House in Appommattox, Virginia
The McLean House in Appommattox, Virginia, site of the surrender of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia
Inside Ford's Theatre in Washington, DC
Antietam National Battlefield, Sharpsburg, MD
National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, Maryland
Manassas National Battlefield, Virginia
The McLean House in Appommattox, Virginia
In fact, more battles were fought in the Capital Region than anywhere else in the US. Experience the region's Civil War heritage at these sites in DC, Maryland and Virginia:

Washington, DC US Civil War Sites

Ford's Theatre

America’s transfer from civil war to peace was made more difficult on 14 April 1865, when Abraham Lincoln was shot and killed just five days after General Lee’s surrender. While attending a performance of a play at Ford’s Theatre, he was killed by actor John Wilkes Booth and became the first American president to be assassinated. The building, on the site of the assassination, is both a working theatre and historical monument. Schedules vary but visitors may experience audio tours of the theatre, self-guided tours of the museum and Petersen House, talks by National Park Service rangers, and evening and matinee performances. 

The Smithsonian Institution

The Smithsonian Institution houses an extraordinary array of Civil War artefacts in nearly a dozen of its museums and archives. They range from personal effects to examples of uniforms and weapons. A sheet of 96 Confederate postage stamps was the first item in the national philatelic collection, housed today in the National Postal Museum. Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson are among the Civil War leaders represented at the National Portrait Gallery and the lives of soldiers are brought vividly to life at the National Museum of American History.

Civil War to Civil Rights Trail

Follow the path of history on the self-guided Cultural Tourism DC Neighborhood Heritage Trail "Civil War to Civil Rights" to discover little-known sites that link the history of the city to the history of the nation. The trail focuses on DC’s experiences during the Civil War, as well as the continuing challenge to realise the American dream of equal rights for all citizens. See the former boarding house frequented by the Lincoln conspirators, the alley down which John Wilkes Booth fled after shooting the president, the home and office of famed Civil War nurse and American Red Cross founder Clara Barton, and a church that was used as a war hospital.

Maryland US Civil War Sites

Antietam National Battlefield

The pivotal Battle of Antietam was the bloodiest battle of the Civil War with 23,000 soldiers killed, wounded or missing after 12 hours of savage combat on 18 September 1862. The conflict ended the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia’s first invasion into the North and led to Abraham Lincoln issuing the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation to hasten the end of slavery. Situated on fields among the Appalachian foothills and now a national park, visitors can embark on self-guided or informative ranger-led tours of the battlefield, visitor centre, national military cemetery and the field hospital museum.

Maryland Civil War Trail

Take to the road and follow the course of the war, the people who fought in it and the citizens who lived through it on a Maryland Civil War Trail. The four carefully mapped driving routes link together a collection of famous and lesser-known sights from Baltimore city throughout the Chesapeake Region, Southern Maryland and into Western Maryland. From Kennedy Farm, where John Brown staged his 1859 attack on Harpers Ferry to the aftermath of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination and the escape of killer John Wilkes Booth, the trails offer an incredible insight into events that changed the nation.

National Museum of Civil War Medicine

Discover a previously unseen side of the conflict at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick. Exhibits tell the story of care and healing, courage and devotion amidst death and destruction. Weaving together the moving narrative of medics, soldiers and their families, the displays reveal the harsh realities of life in an army camp, the evacuation of wounded from the battlefield, a field hospital and military hospital ward. It is also a story of major advances that changed medicine forever. On show is the only known surviving surgeon’s tent, medical kits and veterinary instruments.

Virginia US Civil War Sites

Fort Monroe National Monument

The largest stone fort built in the US, Fort Monroe National Monument in Hampton is now a national park. Nicknamed "Freedom's Fortress," this Union-held fortification provided a safe haven for thousands of enslaved people during the Civil War. On 9 March 1862 thousands of spectators gathered at Fort Monroe to watch the first battle in history between iron-clad vessels, the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia. And for two years after the end of the war, Confederate President Jefferson Davis was imprisoned at the fort. Self-guided walking tours of the fort are available while the fort’s history is interpreted for visitors at the nearby Casemate Museum.

Manassas National Battlefield Park

Manassas National Battlefield Park preserves the site of the first major battlefield of the Civil War and the equally important Second Battle of Manassas, which convinced General Lee to invade the Union's own home ground. The park is a must-see for anyone who truly wishes to gain a sense for the Civil War. Drive or walk the trails of the scenic yet solemn battlefield where markers, monuments and memorials retell the history of the site. The Henry Hill Visitors Center features electronic battle maps, displays of equipment and battle memorabilia, and a 45-minute film covering both the First and Second Battles of Manassas.

Appomattox Court House

Appomattox Court House National Historic Park commemorates the heroic acts which took place in April of 1865 in this, the original village, to bring about the end of the Civil War. Throughout the year, visitors can tour more than a dozen restored buildings of the historic village including the McLean House, where Generals Lee and Grant crafted and signed the terms of surrender. Exhibits include many original artefacts associated with the events surrounding the surrender. The park's 70-seat theatre features the film "Appomattox, With Malice Toward None," shown on the hour and half-hour. 

Looking to experience more Capital Region history? 

Find Civil War trails and itineraries or explore the nation's earliest days in America's historic triangle

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

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