2021 American Civil War
the united states AT war 1861-1865
Philadelphia to Charleston
Philadelphia to Charleston
2021 American Civil War Battlefield Tour
The United States at War 1861-1865,
Friday June 4
Arrive in Philadelphia, PA, for a Welcome Reception & Dinner in the heart of the city. You will make some new friends as you enjoy a glass of wine and listen to the introductory historical briefing which sets the stage for our amazing journey.
Overnight Philadelphia - hotel tba. [D]
Saturday June 5
Today we set the stage for our two-week adventure, beginning with historical sites in the birthplace of the United States of America. We visit Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, along with a visit to the National Constitution Centre, where we chat about the Constitution and the implications it has for ‘States Rights’ and the existence of slavery in America. How fragile might this first-time experiment in democracy be? Could a document that proclaims that “all men are born equal” truly represent the aspirations of millions of black African Americans, who could be bought and sold?
Following a lunch at leisure in the historic Reading Market, where you can sample a classic Philly Cheese-Steak Sandwich, we take a guided tour of the Underground Railroad Museum at Belmont Mansion where we will chat about the origins of slavery, how it worked and how many slaves risked all as they tried to flee from the barbaric institution and make their way to the safety of Canada.
Overnight Philadelphia - hotel tba. [B,L]
Sunday June 6
As we leave Philadelphia and head to Washington, we stop to explore Gettysburg, the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the war.
The second Confederate invasion of the Union north in mid-summer 1863 will make the town and surrounding countryside the scene of heavy fighting, leaving over 50,000 casualties. Gettysburg is forever immortalized with names like Little Round Top, The Wheatfield and Picket’s Charge.
Confederate General Robert E. Lee came within an ace of victory here, and Gettysburg is a must-visit for any Civil War enthusiast. Our day visit with a local expert guide will be one of many highlights of our tour.
Overnight Gettysburg - hotel tba. [B,L]
Monday June 7
In the fall of 1862, after one and a half years of war, Confederate troops under General Robert E. Lee, for the first time set foot on Union soil and are met by the Union forces under Major General Ambrose Burnside beside a little creek called Antietam. This morning we set out for a guided tour of the battlefield where we will visit Dunker’s Church, the Sunken Road and of course Burnside’s Bridge.
It was a bold gamble by General Lee, and will lead to some of the most vicious fighting of The Civil War. With over 22,000 casualties, September 17, 1862 remains the bloodiest day in American history and Lee was fortunate to withdraw his army in one piece back across the Potomac River. Although the battle resulted in a narrow Union victory, it was just enough to give President Lincoln the confidence to announce his Emancipation Proclamation, in which he declared that the 3.5 million slaves in the Confederate south were now free. From this time on, one of the central objectives of the north was to eliminate slavery.
Following Antietam we make a brief stop at Harper’s Ferry where your local expert guide will recount John Brown’s insurrection of 1859 and the impact it had on the hardening lines of slave vs non-slave states.
Overnight Alexandria - hotel tba. [B,L]
Tuesday June 8
We spend the day in Washington, the capital city of The United States and, for the five years of The Civil War, the capital of the Union. Named after the First President and Founding Father, George Washington, it was from here that Abraham Lincoln led the fight to keep The United States undivided. Home to the Lincoln Memorial, the Houses of Congress and The White House, Washington is bursting with cultural highlights.
We start our day across The Potomac River where we visit Arlington National Cemetery. Originally the stately home of the Confederate General Robert E. Lee, Arlington has been transformed into a place of reverence and the resting place for those who fell fighting the Confederate States. We also visit the graves of President John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert and then watch the always impressive ceremonial changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Crossing into Washington for a lunch at leisure, we then visit The Ford Theatre and Peterson House to hear the tragic story of the death of the great President Abraham Lincoln.
Overnight Alexandria - hotel tba. [B,L]
Wednesday June 9
Mere months after the start of the Civil War at Fort Sumter in 1861, the Northern public was clamouring for a drive on the southern captial, Richmond, to quickly end the war. Today we start with a visit to Manassas, about twenty-five miles west of Washington, where the inexperienced armies of the north and the south clash in battle for the first time.
Union Brigadier General McDowell did not feel his army was ready but the prodding of the President pushed him into action. After months of parade square bashing, the ‘Bluecoats’ marched to battle full of ‘piss and vinegar’ and “a-hootin’ and a-hollorin.” Reports even recount stories of the men falling out en-route to pick the ripening berries that lined the roadways. When battle was finally joined, the initial Union pressure wilted under the Southern defense, especially that of “Stonewall” Jackson, and soon gave way to a total shambolic retreat back to Washington, a rout forever known as “The Great Skedaddle.” Washington was wide open but the Confederate forces were green and failed to follow up. It was a major Confederate victory, with both sides beginning to realize that no ‘one big battle’ was going to end the war.
A year later many of the veterans who fought at 1st Manassas would return to the same battlefield for 2nd Manassas. It would be a long war, and this morning we will explore these battles at the Manassas National Battlefield Park.
Returning to Alexandria, you will have free time to explore - perhaps stopping at the old Slave Warehouse of Price, Birch and Company on Duke Street. Optionally, you can join an excursion to historic Mount Vernon, home to founding father George Washington.
Overnight Alexandria - hotel tba. [B,L]
Thursday June 10
Our focus today will be on Fredericksburg, the scene of repeated fighting, with possession of the city changing hands seven times during the war. Our guided tour will start at Chatham, where you will look upon the same skyline of Fredericksburg that the Union Generals did, and understand the flow of troops across the river and into the City of Fredericksburg. Chatham was used as a hospital during the War and the famous American poet Walt Whitman writes about two trees at Chatham that had enough arms and legs under them from the surgery to fill up a one-horse cart. The trees are still on the property and near a window soldiers scratched graffiti on a panel that you can still see today.
In December 1862, Major General Ambrose Burnside planned to cross the Rappahannoc River and attack Richmond before General Lee could stop him. But the necessary pontoon boats for bridge building were slow to arrive and Lee managed to place his defenses in strong positions along Marye's Heights and Prospect Hill. From these positions heavy casualties were inflicted on the north, and Burnside was forced to withdraw. It was one of the Union’s early blunders of the war.
Overnight Fredericksburg - hotel tba. [B,L]
Friday June 11
On this day we explore the battlefields of Chancellorsville, Virginia. It was here in April 1863, following their successful defense of Fredericksburg, that the Confederacy watches as the new Union Commander, General “Fightin’ John Hooker, launches a new assault and drives 130,000 men south across the Rappahannock River to take the Confederate capital of Richmond.
With only 60,000 soldiers under his command, Gen. Lee has a tough choice - stand, or flee. He does neither. Instead he attacks, and brings about the most brilliant tactical victory of his career. Unfortunately, one of his losses was a big one and could not be undone - Gen Thomas ‘Stonewall” Jackson was mistakenly shot by his own men and died. We visit Fairfield, where he lingered eight days before passing.
We also make a special visit to the battlefield known as "The Wilderness" and nearby Ellwood Manor for a guided tour.
Overnight Richmond - hotel tba. [B,L]
Saturday June 12
This morning we travel to Newport News to explore the Battle of Hampton Roads – the most important naval battle of The Civil War and the first meeting in history of ironclad warships. Although the battle ended indecisively, with the northern naval blockade remaining in place, it received worldwide attention and ushered in a new age in warship design.
Our visit to The Monitor Centre in Newport News takes us back to the beginning of this new age of naval warfare - a must see for historians of all stripes. On our way to our overnight stay in Richmond we stop at Fort Munroe, before concluding our day in historic Richmond, capital of the Confederate south.
Overnight Richmond - hotel tba. [B,L]
Sunday June 13
The picturesque town of Richmond first became famous for the line “Give me liberty or give me death,” spoken by Patrick Henry during the great War of Independence a century earlier. In Civil War times Richmond was famous as the capital city of the southern Confederacy, and we will tour here today at the National Battlefield Park with a local expert guide.
We will also tour the Tredegar Iron Works, a critically important factory where most of the Confederate field cannons were forged. Tredegar was key to the success or failure of the Confederate Army. Your visit also includes free time to explore the American Civil War Museum.
Overnight Petersburg - hotel tba. [B,L]
Monday June 14
For 9½ months in 1865 Union General Ulysses S. Grant lay siege to the city of Petersburg, making it the longest military event of The Civil War. Thousands of coloured troops fought here for the freedom of their race. It was here that General Robert E. Lee would witness the final, inevitable decline of his Army of Virginia, with the war ultimately coming to an end at Appomattox Courthouse on April 3rd, 1865.
This morning we visit the Petersburg National Battlefield, and in the afternoon you'll enjoy a guided tour of the historic Appomattox Court House.
Overnight Lynchburg - hotel tba. [B,L]
Tuesday June 15
This morning we hit the road and continue our journey further south, crossing from Virginia into North Carolina. After a stop for lunch we visit historic Bennett Place for a guided tour.
Ten days after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln and seventeen days after the surrender of Lee’s Army of North Virginia at Appomattox, the largest surrender of Confederate forces took place here, in the farm house of James Bennett. Ninety thousand men surrendered – virtually all of the troops in the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida. But Texas still held out, and it wasn’t until August 1866 that the rebellion of the southern states could officially be declared over, and reconstruction could begin.
Overnight Raleigh - hotel tba. [B,L]
Wednesday June 16
Vowing to “make Georgia howl,” Union General William Tecumseh Sherman drove relentlessly through the southern states and ended his infamous “March to the Sea” by successfully taking Savannah in December of 1864. He then turned north in his ‘Carolinas Campaign’ in the last months of the war, capturing and burning the capital city of Columbia, South Carolina in February of 1865.
Sherman's decision to operate deep within enemy territory and without supply lines is considered to be one of the major campaigns of the war but his destruction of broad swathes of southern territory, including the burning of southern cities like Atlanta and Columbia, is remembered with bitterness to this day. We will take a guided driving tour of Columbia to hear this history.
Overnight Columbia - hotel tba. [B,L]
Thursday June 17
The interwoven story of the elimination of slavery in America has been one of the recurrent themes of our tour. Today we visit Boone Hall Plantation, a surviving example of how slaves lived, worked and died in 18th century America. We visit the original slave cabins and see the ‘cotton jenny’, giving us a glimpse of what life might have been like on a southern cotton plantation. Boone Hall was also the site of a massive brick building industry, producing four million bricks a year and using 85 slaves. Many of the bricks for the buildings in our next stop, Charleston, came from Boone Hall.
Overnight Charleston - hotel tba. [B,L]
Friday June 18
We end our tour where it all began – the historic and charming city of Charleston and a guided visit to the place where cannons were fired in anger for the first time – historic Fort Sumter. As southern states began seceding from the union following Lincoln’s election, they began seizing federal ports and forts. Lincoln had committed to not firing first in the war and when he informed the southern President Jefferson Davis that he was going to send food to the embattled Union soldiers inside Fort Sumter, he left Davis with few to no options.
And so it was that on the night of April 12, 1861, Confederate gunners opened fire on the fort. With Charleston residents sitting on balconies along what is now known as The Battery, drinking salutes to the start of the hostilities, the Union soldiers held out for 34 hours before surrendering. As Shelby Foote noted in his historical “The Civil War” trilogy - “the thing gets under way” - it was the beginning of the war.
Overnight Charleston - hotel tba. [B,L,D]
Saturday June 19
Today you will enjoy a full free day in Charleston. Originally named Charles Town, after King Charles ll of England, Charleston played a major role in the slave trade with historians estimating that nearly half of all Africans brought to America arrived here.
With a population of just over eight hundred thousand Charleston is one of the most popular tourist destinations on the southern Atlantic coast.
Overnight Charleston - hotel tba. [B]