Most American battlefields have visitor centres with museums and one of the most impressive, is at the Gettysburg Military Park. Many people are put off by the drive into Gettysburg because the town itself has become a tourist trap complete with a wax museum, but the uniforms equipment and artefacts in the visitor centre more than make up for this. The battlefield itself retains all the drama of the epic three day conflict, the largest ever fought on American soil. Walking across the scene of Pickett's charge is particularly memorable.
For brooding atmosphere though, the Antietam battlefield which has been relatively unspoiled by commercialism cannot be beaten, and it also has a fine visitors' centre, with many uniforms and artefacts on display. Twenty six miles southwest of Washington D.C. is the Manassas National Battlefield Park, encompassing both the first and Second battle. The visitor centre has good exhibits concentrating on the early period of the war, including the uniform worn by Corporal Brownell of the Fire Zouaves. The park also boasts a fine monument to Confederate general Stonewall Jackson. At Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie in Charleston Harbour you can see where the war really began when the Confederates bombarded
Sumter. Both forts have been preserved very well and both have a selection of unusual artefacts.
Of the many Western battlefields, Shiloh Miliary Park in Tennessee comes highly recommended. The battlefield itself has almost the same atmosphere as Antietam and the well laid out visitors' centre boasts a wealth of exhibits.
A number of American museums such as the West Point museum at the academy in New York State boast an impressice collection of Civil War memorabilia. The U.S. cavalry Museum at Fort Riley, Kansas, has an impressive display of Civil war memorabilia and includes an extensive collection of saddles.
Urban areas also boast impressive museums, the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. boasts a fine collection of Civil War artefacts as does Fort Ward in Alexandra, Virginia, which was the fifth largest of the 68 forts manned to protect Washington during the Civil War. The G.A.R. Museum at 4278 Griscom Street, Philadelphia is another museum with some fine artefacts.
The Museum of the Confederacy at 1201 Clay Street Richmond VA 23219 is a must for both Yankee and Confederate military enthusiasts. The many artefacts include Jcb Stuart's plumed hat a Union Zouave's fez picked up at First Manassas and an impressive collection of flags.
To see where the war ended, a trip to Appomattox Court House, three miles east of the town of Appomattox in Virginia is a must. It was here that Lee surrendered to Grant and an impressive re-enactment of the Confederate surrender was made in the village in 1989. Today, Appomattox Court House has a brooding character all of its own.
For a flavour of Americam life in Britain, then a trip to the American Museum at Claverton Manor Bath is recommended. It's not specifically Civil War,but a large scale Civil War Battle is held behind the museum every year, in September.
Specialist tour operators run trips to American Civil War battlefields and the East Coast sites conviniently grouped together in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia are at most a day's drive from each other. Holts' lours Ltd, Brtitain's oldest specialist operator runs yearly trips to a variety of battlefields. Write to Holts' Battlefields & History, Golden Key Building, 15 Market Street, Sandwich, Kent CT13 9DA for details.
Was this article helpful?