A driving tour of U.S. Civil War Battlegrounds & places of interest

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Ever since I'd stopped at Gettysburg on the way back from Washington D.C. in 2002, I'd wanted to take a tour of battlegrounds. I planned an 10 day epic drive through the American Southeast, visiting various battleground parks, hiking my way through them. I saw a whole lot of memorials, statues, and cemetaries, and really enjoyed journying back in time.

Click the link to go to the photo page for each day

Day1. Started my morning very early, long before sunrise. Stopped in Metropolis, Il, for gasoline, and took some pictures of the famous Superman statue there. By mid day, I'd gotten to my first battlesites, of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson, on the Cumberland river. I'd actually been to Fort Donelson once before, years ago when I was deer hunting with a buddy. Later, I went to Shiloh, which ended up being one of my two favorite parks on my trip. Saw 'Bloody Pond', and the 'Hornet's Nest', two things I'd read about many times.

Links: Fort Donelson, Shiloh

Day2. Drove southeast through Tennesee, heading for Murphesboroh, to take in the Stone's River battle. It was not a great experience. The park had been overrun with kids playing frisbee, bikers and such. I think I was the only visitor to the crowded park who knew that a battle had once been fought there. I hiked the walking tour, but left quickly, unimpressed. I headed to Lookout mountain, and enjoyed my hike up to the top, and the views from there.

Link: Stone's River

Day3. Stayed overnight at a KOA campgrounds, you can see from the picture how rough I had it... Day 3 was the Chick/Chat National Military Park, near Oglethorpe, GA. This was my favorite park of my vacation. Huge, lightly populated, very rural and not overrun by hordes of visitors playing frisbee. There were a few equestrians on some of the back trails, but I stepped aside to let them pass, watched for the frequent horse apples, and enjoyed the nearly 20 miles of hiking I did that day. I had lovely June weather, temps in the low 80's and sunny.

Link: Chik/Chat

Day4. My fourth day of touring brought me to within sight of the skyscrapers of downtown Atlanta. I climbed Kennesaw mountain, rather, I hiked to the low summit. Located about 20 miles north of the dense urban area, this site too was overrun by local residents, and had only vague vestiges of a battlesite, a few rusting cannons overrun by weeds. However, the view was quite nice and I enjoyed my hike, despite the crowds. I'd planned originally on going into Atlanta for some Civil War museums, but I decided I wasn't up for the crowds and congestion.

Link: Kennesaw Mountain

Day5. Day 5 was a planned long driving day, heading north along the Blue Ridge Parkway. I'd hoped to get in some wilderness hikes, but rain, crowds and road closures impacted that a bit, and led to some frustrations. A pretty drive, I stopped and took a few pictures despite the rain.

Link: Blue Ridge Parkway

Day6. In the middle of my trip, I came to the end of the Confederacy, at Appomattox Court House. The buildings had been preserved/rebuilt to match the 1865 view, and I enjoyed wandering around the small recreated town. Surprisingly, I saw a minivan in the parking lot with an Illinois license plate, and dealer sticker from a local Bloomington-Normal dealership. We were both a long way from home. In the afternoon, I reached Petersburg, Virginia, to the site of the infamous 'Crater' battle. If you've seen the movie 'Cold Mountain', that movie opens with a depiction of the 'Crater', a large amount of explosives detonated under Confederate lines. The current crater was nothing but a slight depression, covered with grass.

Links: Appomattox Court House Petersburg

Day7. On this day I got to take in the very nice area of Fredricksburg, Spotslyvania, Chancellsorville, and The Wilderness, all in an area north of the capital of the Confederacy, Richmond Virginia. Despite their proximity to Richmond, they weren't overly crowded, and I got some nice hiking through the monuments in. In a bit of Deja Vu, I posed and took a timered shot of me, at the spot where confederate General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson was shot and mortally wounded by his troops, at Chancellsorville. 4 years earlier, while driving to D.C. from Charleston S.C, Dennis and I had stopped at the site where he'd died 10 days later. A bit of a 'before & after' moment.

Links: Fredricksburg & Spotsylvania

Day8. When I'd been to D.C. in '02, one of the things I hadn't got to visit was Arlington National Cemetary. I'd decided to rectify that lack on this trip. Spent the entire day there, and had a great time. Saw all the memorials, the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers (absolutely not to missed, if you're in the area), and even managed to see the gravesites of someone I'd met once, as a child: Colonel Greg 'Pappy' Boyington, of 'Baa Baa Black Sheep fame. Visited the former residence of Robert E. Lee, which was the centerpiece of Arlington, and the gardens around it. Visited the Kennedy gravesites, also quite memorable.

Link: Arlington House

Day9. The last two days of my touring would bring me to what were probably the two most important battles of the entire 4 year war. Today, it's Antietam National Battlefield, in Sharpsburg, Maryland. This was definitly a highlight of my trip. I'd read so many stories of this battle, the single bloodiest day in American history. The Sunken Lane, the Bloody Cornfield, Dunker Church, Burnside's Bridge....I felt that I really was stepping through time on my hike through this battleground. I also felt bloody warm, as the temps pushed towards 90'.

Link: Antietam National Battlefield

Day10. No tour of Civil War battlegrounds would be complete without a stop at Gettysburg, and I'd saved it for the last day of my battlesite touring. Sadly, schedule wise, it had ended up being on a Saturday, which is *not* a good day to visit a crowded park. Hordes of tourists and busses packed the park, the congestion, and the 95 degree weather, made for a less than ideal time to hike. I mostly stayed in my car, and cranked the AC to max. With all of the vehicles doing the same thing, it really wasn't safe to try and do much hiking. Also sadly, the cyclorama, which I'd gotten to see in my previous visit, was closed for refurbishment.