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History abounds along the mid-Atlantic Coast – a section of the country better known as Colonial American. States like Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania feature famed historic sites like Fort McHenry, Colonial Williamsburg, and of course, centuries-old battlefield sites.
History buffs enjoy tours of battlefields from the Civil War and Revolutionary War, including the Richmond National Battlefield Park, and the legendary Gettysburg National Military Park.
Choose from major Colonial cities like Richmond, Baltimore, and DC – all historic sites in their own right – and follow these battle site loop trails in southern, central, and northern Colonial America.
Start your tour of Colonial America’s northern battlefield sites in Maryland’s largest and most historic city, Baltimore.
From Baltimore, hop on Interstate 70 and head west to the Monocacy National Battlefield – just an hour out of town in Frederick. Operated by the National Park Service, the site commemorates the Battle of Monocacy Junction – known as “The Battle That Saved Washington DC” – fought in 1864 during the American Civil War. Covering 1,647 acres, the battlefield features walking paths like the Worthington Farm Trails, Thomas Farm Trails, and Gambrill Mill Trail – plus an auto tour and the Monocacy National Battlefield Visitor Center.
From there, travel 18 miles northwest to the pet-friendly South Mountain State Battlefield in Middletown – a site observing the Battle of South Mountain. Fought in 1862 during the Civil War, South Mountain was Maryland’s first major Civil War scrape. Found on the National Register of Historic Places, the South Mountain State Battlefield features the Washington Monument State Park, and reenactments of the Battle of South Mountain. South Mountain is also intersected by the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.
Just 10 miles southwest of South Mountain, the Antietam National Battlefield is located in Sharpsburg – covering 3,230 acres of western Maryland along Antietam Creek. The site commemorates the Civil War Battle of Antietam, fought in 1862, and features the Antietam National Cemetery, the Pry House Field Hospital Museum, and the famed Bloody Lane at Antietam. Be sure to explore the Antietam National Battlefield Visitor Center, and take a stroll past the scenic Burnside's Bridge.
It’s only an hour’s drive northeast from Antietam to the most famed battlefield in Colonial America: Gettysburg National Military Park. Set just north of the Pennsylvania border, Gettysburg covers 3,965 acres, and is surrounded by the Gettysburg Battlefield Historic District. Welcoming over one million annual visitors, this national park is listed on the NRHP, and features the Pennsylvania Memorial, the Gettysburg National Cemetery, and the Gettysburg Museum & Visitor Center – all commemorating the legendary Battle of Gettysburg of 1863.
From Gettysburg, make the 60-mile drive back to Baltimore – completing your battlefield tour of northern Colonial America. Back in Charm City, continue your exploration of Maryland historic sites with visits to Federal Hill Park, the gravesite of famed author Edgar Allen Poe, and the legendary Fort McHenry National Monument.
Even More History in Pennsylvania...
The Keystone State features even more historic military sites for the history buff on a road trip. From Gettysburg, hop on Interstate 76 for the well-known Valley Forge National Historical Park – set two hours east in the outskirts of Philadelphia in King of Prussia. Made famous by the American Revolutionary War, Valley Forge was a military camp for the American Continental Army during the winter of 1777 through 1778. Now a 3,500-acre U.S. National Historic Landmark District, the Valley features onsite museums, reenactments, and park tours – plus outdoor recreation like fishing and boating on the Schuylkill River.
If you’d rather head west from Gettysburg, you may anticipate visits to Fort Necessity National Battlefield, and Point State Park – the site of the Battle of Fort Duquesne. Pass through cities like Chambersburg and Breezewood, and make your way toward Ft. Necessity in Farmington – preserving the spot of 1754’s Battle of Fort Necessity. Once there, check out the historic Mount Washington Tavern, or the grave of General Edward Braddock.
From Ft. Necessity, head north through Bentleyville to downtown Pittsburgh, where you can visit the site marked for the former Fort Duquesne in the 26-acre Point State Park. A National Historic Landmark, the park commemorates Ft. Duquesne of 1754, and Ft. Pitt of 1758.
Once you’ve explored famed attractions like the White House in Washington DC, look forward to a road trip through central Colonial America. The stops along the way? Historic Civil War battlefields.
From DC, hop on Interstate 66 and head west to Manassas National Battlefield Park near Manassas in central Virginia. The park is the site of the First Battle of Bull Run in 1861, and the Second Battle of Bull Run fought in 1862. Covering 5,073 acres, the National Battlefield Park is both a U.S. Historic district and listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Check out the Henry Hill Visitor Center, the Groveton village, and historic homes like Hazel Plain and Portici.
Less than 20 minutes south of Manassas National Battlefield Park, the Bristoe Station Battlefield Heritage Park is situated in Bristow on 133 acres. Bristoe commemorates two battles – the Battle of Kettle Run fought in 1862 and 1863’s Battle of Bristoe Station – and features guided tours, a three-mile hike, and public historic home. Bristoe Station Battlefield Heritage Park is free to visitors, and open from dawn until sunset in Prince William County.
From Bristoe, head south for one hour until you reach Fredericksburg – home to the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park. Covering 8,374 acres, the U.S. National Military Park is listed on the NRHP, and commemorates four Civil War battles: the Battle of Fredericksburg, the Battle of the Wilderness, the Battle of Chancellorsville, and the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House.
Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park visitors are encouraged to explore the Fredericksburg National Cemetery, featuring stunning monuments like the 127th Pennsylvania Volunteer Monument, Humphreys' Division Monument, and Fifth Corps Monument. Known as America's Battleground, the area also features plantation tours, orientation films, and guided walking tours of the battle sites. From Fredericksburg, find Interstate 95 and get back to DC in just over an hour.
But Don't Leave DC Just Yet...
More historic sites await in the nation’s capital, so check out the Lincoln Memorial and the rest of the National Mall once you’ve completed your tour of central Colonial America’s battlefields.
Another of DC’s many must-sees is the renowned Gadsby’s Tavern – just south of DC in Old Town Alexandria. A U.S. National Historic Landmark, the tavern was built in 1785 and was the site for George Washington’s yearly Birthnight Ball. Gadsby’s Tavern hosted many other famous early Americans as well, including John Adams, James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, and Thomas Jefferson.
For a DC attraction off the beaten path, be sure to check out the Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens – considered the hidden gem of the capitol region. Set on 25 acres, the 36-room mansion became an elaborate decorative arts museum in 1973.
Explore Hillwood’s many gardens – including Motor Court, Four Seasons Overlook, and the French Parterre – or enjoy over 17,000 items of well-known collector Marjorie Merriweather Post. Grab lunch at Hillwood Café, and don’t leave without a visit to Post’s onsite grave in the stunning Rose Garden.
Virginia’s capital city of Richmond will be the starting point for your tour of southern Colonial America battlefields. In fact, you don’t have to go far to reach your first destination: The Richmond National Battlefield Park.
Set outside of southeastern River City, the Richmond National Battlefield Park covers 7,307 acres of central Virginia, and commemorates over 30 Civil War battle sites. This U.S. National Battlefield Park is a U.S. Historic district, and is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Featuring 13 individual sites throughout the area, the Richmond National Battlefield Park has the Tredegar Iron Works Visitor Center & Museum, and the Chimborazo Hospital Museum – plus battle sites like Drewry's Bluff, Gaines' Mill, and Malvern Hill. Other associated sites include Fort Harrison, New Market Heights, and Rural Plains – also known as Shelton House.
From the Richmond National Battlefield Park, head further east for an hour to the Colonial National Historical Park in Yorkton. Listed on the NRHP, the park welcomes three million annual visitors to this U.S. Historic district. The site is set along Colonial Parkway – crossing other nearby attractions like the Historic Jamestowne Settlement, and Colonial Williamsburg. Visitors are encouraged to explore the Yorktown National Battlefield – commemorating this Revolutionary War siege of 1781 – and the associated Yorktown Victory Center. The entire park covers 9,349.28 acres, and features other points of interest like the Cape Henry Memorial, the Green Spring Plantation, and the Colonial National Monument.
From the Colonial National Historical Park, head northwest on Interstate 64, and take a left on Roxbury Road – or Virginia State Highway 106 – for Petersburg National Battlefield. Set in Petersburg, the site is listed on the NRHP, and features the nine-acre Poplar Grove National Cemetery and the Eastern Front Visitor Center. The park commemorates the 1865 Siege of Petersburg – known as the Civil War’s longest military event.
Just 14 miles southwest of Petersburg, the Five Forks Battlefield is another must-see during your tour of southern Colonial American battlefields. Commemorating the 1865 Battle of Five Forks – also known as the Waterloo of the Confederacy – the site features outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and even fishing at Grant's Headquarters Unit back in Petersburg.
Make the 26-mile drive north back to Richmond, or enjoy exploring more historic sites throughout Virginia. This will complete your tour of Civil War and Revolutionary War battle sites in southern Colonial America.
More to See in Virginia...
Stick around Richmond for just one more stop along your tour of historic Colonial America. The illustrious Hollywood Cemetery features the gravesites of two U.S. presidents – James Monroe and John Tyler – and holds the country record with 25 Confederate generals buried at the site.
Explore landmarks like the 90-foot granite pyramid commemorating over 18,000 Confederate soldiers in the cemetery, and the elaborate memorials of presidents Monroe ad Tyler. First opened in 1850, the Hollywood Cemetery features a story for most graves – plus walking tours and spectacular views of the James River.