The farms and pastures of rural Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania may look peaceful today, but 150 years ago they bore witness to the American Civil War. Now maintained by the National Park Service, these battlefields are the perfect places to hear some of America’s most harrowing stories of sacrifice and bravery.
Want to take a drive through history? Pick up your rental car at one of the Washington, D.C., area’s four Alamo locations. Then grab a road map, download an audio guide and embark on a tour of battle sites that shaped the nation. Here are a few worth visiting:
Manassas National Battlefield Park, Manassas, Virginia
When Union and Confederate troops met at Manassas in July 1861 for what would become known as the First Battle of Bull Run, the Civil War had just begun. The Union Army, fraught with inexperience and overconfidence, stepped into battle thinking the ensuing clash would be a sure victory. Throngs of city dwellers even traveled to the countryside, picnic baskets and bottles of wine in tow, to watch the battle. But the Union Army was stopped cold, and the Confederate general who blocked them — Thomas J. Jackson — earned his immortal nickname: Stonewall.
Not only is Manassas a short drive from Washington, D.C., but the battlefield also offers double the history for Civil War buffs: Manassas saw not one, but two major battles (the Second Battle of Bull Run took place there in August 1862). A 16-mile driving tour of the area covers 11 important war sites, and drivers can download audio guides online or use the Bull Run Battle App.