The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

OUTDOORS 2014: Civil War battlefields let you hike, take in history at the same time

  • Print

FREDERICK, Md. - About 150 years after the "Battle that Saved Washington," journalist and Civil War buff Keith White leads a dozen friends on a tour of the farmland south of here where Union forces led by Maj. Gen. Lew Wallace were credited with delaying the Confederate advance toward the nation's capital.

The group will spend nearly three hours hiking many of the half-dozen or so miles of trails at the Monocacy National Battlefield, listening as White relays details of the July 9, 1864, battle, which resulted in more than 2,000 casualties in a Confederate victory.

"It's not just a hike, but there's something additional," he says in an interview later. "You can go to a battlefield and get a little sense of that history."

There are more than 300 miles of trails to explore in the 24 national parks designated as significant battlegrounds of the Civil War, according to figures provided by the National Park Service. The Manassas National Battlefield in Virginia, for example, has more than 40 miles of trails; Pecos National Historical Park in New Mexico has just two.

The 24 battlefields drew nearly 10 million visitors last year.

"Each one is unique, yet the vast majority share things in common," says Mike Litterst, a National Park Service spokesman. Most have a visitor's centre and a museum to help put the site in context. Many have park rangers or volunteers who give walking tours.

And these aren't the only preserved Civil War battlefields. Others are under state, local or private jurisdiction.

"Some 10,500 armed conflicts occurred during the Civil War, ranging from battles to minor skirmishes," the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission said in a report to Congress in 1993. Of those, 384 were determined to be "principal battles" that had a significant impact on the course of the war. Those battles occurred in 26 states.

"The war really did touch pretty much every corner of America," said Mary Koik, deputy director of communications for the Civil War Trust, an organization that works to preserve the battlefields. "You have battles fought from Pennsylvania all the way out through New Mexico."

Some people may use the battlefields for fitness or recreation, a place to walk the dog or take a stroll with the kids and be out in nature.

The Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park near Atlanta is historic, but also "quality outdoor space," Koik said.

Surveys done by her group, however, indicate that most park visitors are interested in the history.

Before visiting a battlefield, White recommends reading up on it. You can get information about the battlefields on the Civil War Trust and National Park Service websites, or pick up brochures and maps at the visitor centre. "It's also good to sit down and talk to a ranger," White said.

Markers along the way will point out historical spots on the battlefield and give you a snapshot of what occurred there.

"By visiting these in succession, in the right order, you'll see how the battle unfolded," Koik said.

Before his tours, White does research on the battle fought there and prepares a script. "Usually, time permitting, I will go up and walk the trail before I lead the tour so I'm not caught unaware."

White became interested in the Civil War after learning that he had ancestors on both sides of the conflict. He also volunteers at the site of the Battle of Chancellorsville, part of the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park in Virginia. He plans to lead friends on a tour of two additional battlefields this year.

"The more you learn, the deeper you get into it," he said. "There are so many people and so many story lines involved."

The National Park Service and the Civil War Trust also have free GPS-based smartphone apps that will act as tour guides for some of the parks.

"We think the most important thing is to get people out to see these places," Koik said.



National Park Service's Civil War page:

The Civil War Trust:

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Stuary Murray announces musical RightsFest for CMHR opening weekend

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Marc Gallant/Winnipeg Free Press. Local/Standup- BABY BISON. Fort Whyte Centre's newest mother gently nudges her 50 pound, female bull calf awake. Calf born yesterday. 25 now in herd. Four more calfs are expected over the next four weeks. It is the bison's second calf. June 7, 2002.
  • Marc Gallant/Winnipeg Free Press. Gardening Column- Assiniboine Park English Garden. July 19, 2002.

View More Gallery Photos


Should Winnipeg control growth to deal with climate change?

View Results

Ads by Google