Whether you’re an American history buff or looking for a day trip adventure the whole family can enjoy, time travel back to the 1860s and discover the Civil War’s lasting mark on the region by visiting the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area. This year marks 160 years since the Battle of Gettysburg, the perfect time to plan a trip for the family to visit historical sites, travel scenic byways, and explore charming downtowns and main streets. Explore Civil War history throughout Maryland while you trace the route of the Gettysburg campaign in Carroll, Frederick, and Washington counties.
In recognition of the anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg—fought July 1-3, 1863, and considered a turning point in the conflict—the historic sites, towns, and cities in the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area will offer unique experiential education opportunities and events. In Westminster there will be a commemoration of the anniversary of Corbit’s Charge, an important skirmish that preceded the battle of Gettysburg, and visitors can experience what daily life was like for soldiers at the Civil War encampment at Union Mills Homestead.
The Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area has new ways for visitors to learn more about African American history during the Civil War. Saturday, June 17th there will be a Juneteenth hike, a 1.5-mile walk hosted and guided by rangers at Monocacy National Battlefield. Juneteenth marks the day when federal troops reached Galveston, Tx., to ensure all slaves there were free, a full two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Hikers will learn about the journey of freedom, hearing stories of court rulings and the ratification of Maryland’s constitution in 1864 that abolished slavery in the state. The hike will include a visit to the site of a United States Colored Troops recruiting station at Monocacy National Battlefield. (The hike will begin at 11:00 a.m. on June 17th, with no reservation required.)
Did you know Maryland has its own saint, and the community she founded – the Daughters of Charity – was known for caregiving as nurses throughout the Civil War, including at nearby Gettysburg? Discover the story of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton at the historic site and museum of the first American Saint. Bring the whole family to enjoy the Seton Shrine in northern Frederick County which offers home, cemetery, and tours, and a Civil War exhibit.
Right down the road is The Village at the historic Catoctin Furnace Historical Society just south of Thurmont in Frederick County. Learn about the creation of weapons of war at the Museum of the Ironworker and immerse yourself in the history of the enslaved African American community that labored there prior to the Civil War. This historic district has six historical sites conveniently located close together that are sure to inspire the whole family to get out of the house. The museum is open Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., but you can enjoy the kitchen garden and trails daily from dawn to dusk.
Two miles south of Williamsport, Md., is the site of the last Confederate defenses after the Gettysburg campaign. Located in Washington County, visitors here can trace the Confederate retreat by visiting the Battle of Falling Waters 1863 site. The town of Williamsport has its own historical delights, in particular the C&O Canal’s headquarters. Hagerstown, the county seat of Washington County, has acknowledged the role of enslaved people in the region as well as the efforts of local heroes who helped many escape via the Underground Railroad. A Visit Hagerstown brochure highlights those individuals and helps visitors follow the path of freedom and resistance by marking local sites of the area’s Underground Railroad trail.
Wherever you may find yourself in the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area you are certain to find opportunities to step back into history and explore the Civil War from many different perspectives. Along the way you will find towns, small main streets, and cities with exceptional food and accommodations for when you need a fully 21st century respite at the end of your journey.
Start planning your adventure in history today. To request a travel packet with more information about the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area upcoming events, visit our website.