One of the great things about living in Washington, D.C., is the number of interesting places within 200 miles of the capital. That usually translates to three to four hours drive without traffic, which can easily be a long day trip or a perfect weekend destination. Some of these locations include pivotal American Civil War battlefield sites that not only teach visitors historical facts and figures, but also present incredible sceneries any time of the year. When you come and visit the District next time around, plan a road trip to one of these Civil War battlefields near Washington DC and relive one of the important events that shaped this nation’s history.
Civil War Battlefields Near Washington DC
Manassas National Battlefield Park, Manassas, Virginia
(33 miles from Washington)
Manassas National Battlefield Park is just one of the many Civil War battlefields near Washington DC worth mentioning. The location, a mere 33 miles southwest of the capital, was important for the Confederates who fought and won two battles here during the early stages of the Civil War. Northerners refer to it as Bull Run but ask anyone from the South and they will tell you it’s called Manassas. Pay a visit to the Henry Hill Visitor Center and stop by the historical museum, which chronologically breaks down both battles. Then pay a visit to the giant statue of General Thomas “Stonewall” J. Jackson. Finally, if weather and timing allows, join one of the ranger guided walking tours that pinpoints exact locations of key events in both battles.
Antietam National Battlefield, Sharpsburg, Maryland
(76 miles from Washington)
Take a short but scenic 90-minute drive northwest to Sharpsburg, Maryland and you will find yourself in Antietam National Battlefield, the sight of the bloodiest one-day battle in U.S. history. In the fall of 1862, over 20,000 American soldiers from both sides of the war were killed, injured, and wounded. According to historians, that number was nine times worse than American casualties during D-day. The battle ended in a draw and its devastating effects prompted then president Abraham Lincoln to pen the initial draft of the Emancipation Proclamation. Visit landmarks that include Burnside’s Bridge, Dunker Church, and Pry House, with the latter serving as a medical museum. There’s also an eight and half-mile self-guided driving tour that takes you around the battlefield, stopping at 11 key spots. Lastly, make sure you walk down Bloody Lane, the spot that saw some of the battle’s fiercest fighting.
Gettysburg National Military Park, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
(80 miles from Washington)
Perhaps the most popular and best preserved of all Civil War battlefields near Washington DC lies just 80 miles north of the District. Gettysburg National Military Park was the sight of the Battle of Gettysburg, the clash many consider to be the turning point of the Civil War, and of course, Abraham Lincoln’s now infamous Gettysburg Address. That speech he gave on that dreary November day in 1863 at the dedication of Soldier’s National Cemetery spoke volumes then and continues to do so now. Roam the fields and take one of its many ranger tours, particularly those that talk about Devil’s Den, Pickett’s Charge, and Little Round Top. If time permits, stop by the town proper and visit David Willis’ house, the home Lincoln stayed at when he visited the town.
(109 miles from Washington)
Virginia’s state capital Richmond was also the Confederacy’s capital. Even though no major battle occurred there, the city became a frequent target especially once the northern armies broke through the boundaries set by the Confederacy. The site of the Richmond clashes are collectively found within the Richmond National Battlefield Park and includes those from the Seven Days Campaign, Drewry’s Bluff, and New Market Heights. Within the park stands Tredegar Iron Works, once an ammunition factory, and Chimborazo Hospital, now a museum of medical history. Take a walking tour of the city sights as well, which includes the site of Lumpkin’s Slave Jail, Shockoe Bottom, where Lincoln was cheered on by hundreds of freed slaves, and Hollywood Cemetery, the burial site of several prominent individuals including American presidents John Tyler and James Monroe and well-known Civil War figures like Jefferson Davis and George Pickett.
Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, Appomattox, Virginia
(167 miles from Washington)
The historic McLean House in Appomattox, Virginia was where General Robert E. Lee met with General Ulysses S. Grant to surrender the Army of Northern Virginia and sign the terms that ended the American Civil War. It is the furthest of the five locations on this list of Civil War battlefields near Washington, DC but equally important. The house lies within the compound of the Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, which also highlights the dirt road Union soldiers stood to salute the Confederate troops and the exact spot where Lee’s armies folded their flags and laid down their muskets after the surrender.