When we started our yearlong tribute to the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary nine months ago, we figured our ‘Find Your Adventure’ series would be focused primarily on national parks. What we’ve learned in the process, however, is that there’s a lot more to the agency’s holdings than we imagined.
Take what is perhaps the most overlooked part of the National Park Service for example, namely its national military parks and national battlefields. There are more than two dozen of them, all dedicated to preserving the sites where so many Americans fought and died for their beliefs during the Civil War.
On the heels of the anniversary of Maryland’s Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest single day of the war, we respectfully present three of the places where the National Park Service is actively protecting these hallowed grounds:
Vicksburg National Military Park
Site of the siege of the Confederate stronghold of Vicksburg, Mississippi, by Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, this park features reconstructed fortifications and trenches that allowed Confederate Gen. John C. Pemberton to hold out against numerically superior Union forces for 47 days.
Manassas National Battlefield Park
This Virginia park preserves the site of the First and Second Battle of Bull Run (aka First and Second Manassas, the name used by Confederate forces). As the opening engagement of the Civil War, the First Battle of Bull Run was the contest where Confederate Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson earned his nickname. The Second Battle of Bull Run, which occurred 13 months later, turned into the Confederates’ second rout of Union forces on this same patch of ground.
Gettysburg National Military Park
Often described as the turning point of the war, this Pennsylvania park marks the site of the three-day engagement that generated the largest number of casualties of any single battle of the Civil War. In addition to preserving important areas like Little Round Top, Devil’s Den and the site of Abraham Lincoln’s now-famous Gettysburg Address, the park puts on living-history demonstrations every weekend from April through October.