Tag Archives: Civil War

Booker T. Washington National Monument

Overview

Booker T. Washington was born in 1856 on this small plantation farm in Hardy, Virginia and freed shortly after the Confederate army’s surrender at nearby Appomattox Court House.  He went on to earn an education and found the groundbreaking Tuskegee Institute in 1881.  Rather than dwelling on his horrible past, Washington was inspired to work hard and maintain an indefatigable spirit.  Later in life he wrote in his book Up From Slavery: “There was no period of my life that was devoted to play… From the time that I can remember anything, almost every day of my life has been occupied in some kind of labor.”

Highlights

Museum, film, reconstructed buildings, farm animals, Jack-O-Lantern Branch Trail

Must-Do Activity

A bronze bust of Booker T. Washington is the first thing visitors see when they approach the National Monument.  The National Park Service (NPS) has reconstructed several buildings on the farm in a style consistent with the 1850s, as seen on the quarter-mile self-guided trail.  The NPS keeps livestock similar to that which was here at the time, including pigs, cattle, chickens, turkeys, and ducks.  This site demonstrates that antebellum life in the South was not all aristocrats on large plantations. 

Best Trail

The Jack-O-Lantern Branch Trail winds 1.5 miles through the forest and fields.

Instagram-worthy Photo

None of the original buildings survive, but several have been reconstructed, including the birthplace cabin of Booker T. Washington.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/bowa/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Roanoke Mountain Campground is run by the NPS on the Blue Ridge Parkway 19 miles northwest of the monument.

Related Sites

Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site (Alabama)

George Washington Carver National Monument (Missouri)

Shenandoah National Park (Virginia)

Explore More – Washington graduated from what school for ex-slaves in 1875, which inspired him to establish Tuskegee Institute in Alabama?

Cane River Creole National Historical Park

Overview

In colonial Louisiana, the word “Creole” referred to any New World product, from architecture to livestock to human beings (and was not specific to any ethnicity).  South of Natchitoches, Louisiana the Cane River National Heritage Area follows an abandoned meander of the Red River, with two antebellum cotton plantations protected as Cane River Creole National Historical Park.  This National Park Service (NPS) site was authorized in 1994 and continues to be developed; meanwhile it provides an interesting perspective on a unique culture and excellent photographic opportunities.

Highlights

Historic buildings, pecan picking

Must-Do Activity

Oakland Plantation dates back to the late 1700s and survived the Civil War intact, but in the wake of Reconstruction tenant farming created a new form of indentured servitude.  Self-guided tours of the site take you through the mule barn, general store, and several cottages.  When we visited in November 2016, park volunteers were only offering one tour per day, but were happy to spend time talking with us inside the old general store.  Slave/tenant quarters are also preserved at Magnolia Plantation downstream, but the main house (which was burned during the Civil War and rebuilt) is privately owned and closed to the public. 

Best Trail

None

Instagram-worthy Photo

Nothing says you are in the South like the crooked branches of live oak trees.  Live oaks drape over the bottle-lined garden at the Oakland Plantation main house.

Peak Season

Fall

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/cari/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Kisatchie National Forest has a small campground three miles north of Natchitoches off State Road 117.

Related Sites

Natchez National Historical Park (Mississippi)

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve (Louisiana)

Poverty Point National Monument (Louisiana)

Explore More – Cane River National Heritage Area covers 40,000 acres, but how large is Cane River Creole National Historical Park?

General Grant National Memorial

Overview

Often referred to as Grant’s Tomb, this 150-foot tall marble and granite rotunda is the largest mausoleum in North America.  Following his death in 1885, the rotunda was constructed in less than two years with donations from 90,000 individuals worldwide, the largest ever public fundraising effort at the time.  It is located on a bluff overlooking the Hudson River in the Morningside Heights area of Manhattan, where Grant spent the final five years of his life after serving two terms as President (1868-1876).

Highlights

Museum, film, tomb

Must-Do Activity

The Overlook Pavilion is separate from the rotunda and offers a few exhibits and a film about Ulysses S. Grant (plus you can put your head in an oversized $50 bill which typically bears Grant’s face).  The rotunda contains the tombs of Ulysses and his wife (Julia) who passed in 1902, as well as murals and bronze busts of fellow Civil War generals. 

Best Trail

None

Instagram-worthy Photo

Outside the rotunda is long curving bench with mosaic images (a la Gaudi) depicting different aspects of the National Park Service (NPS) system.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/gegr/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads are paved, but it is better to take the subway to get to this area.

Camping

There is camping available within Gateway National Recreation Area, which is managed by the NPS.

Related Sites

Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site (Missouri)

Hamilton Grange National Memorial (New York)

Statue of Liberty National Monument (New York)

Explore More –Julia Grant requested that which feature never be added to the rotunda?

Nicodemus National Historic Site

Overview

In northwestern Kansas, a small farming community joined the prestigious ranks of National Park Service (NPS) sites in 1996.  Historically-significant Nicodemus, Kansas was founded in 1877 by former slaves from Kentucky freed during the Civil War.  Between 1860 and 1880, the population of African-Americans in Kansas jumped from 627 to 43,107, so the town is representative of a historic period of diaspora, settlement, and reconstruction. 

Highlights

Township Hall, St. Francis Hotel, Old First Baptist Church

Must-Do Activity

Start your tour at the NPS visitor center in Township Hall built by the Works Progress Administration in 1939 (it is not open every day so check online first).  Please respect private property as you drive past two churches, a circa-1880 hotel, and an old schoolhouse (which are all closed to the public) that have interpretive signs along the street out front.  Every summer around the last weekend in July, the small town grows as descendants of its founders return for the Emancipation Celebration.  This event is open to the public and would be a great time to visit.

Best Trail

None

Instagram-worthy Photo

The First Baptist Church was completed in 1907, constructed around a smaller church (sort of like a turducken).  When it was completed, the original structure was removed in small pieces through the front door.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/nico/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Weber State Park is located 10 miles east of Nicodemus, Kansas.

Related Sites

Homestead National Monument of America (Nebraska)

Fort Larned National Historic Site (Kansas)

Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site (Kansas)

Explore More – For whom was the town of Nicodemus named?

Pecos National Historical Park

Overview

In 1540, Pecos (called Cicuyé by the natives) was a thriving trading center connecting Plains Indians and the Pueblos of northern New Mexico.  It was that year that Spanish conquistador Francisco Vasquez de Coronado led his army to the site during his futile search for the Seven Cities of Gold.  Today you can explore the fascinating ruins at Pecos National Historical Park not far off Interstate 25, which came to replace portions of Route 66, which itself replaced the original Santa Fe Trail.  All of these routes funneled through the mountains at 7,562-foot Glorieta Pass, one of the main reasons for the creation of Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area.  Glorieta Pass was also the site of a March 26-28, 1862 Civil War battle.

Highlights

Museum, film, Pueblo and Mission Ruins Trail, Glorieta Unit

Must-Do Activity

A massive Catholic mission with walls eight feet thick was the legacy the Spanish left behind, which was subsequently destroyed in the widespread revolt of 1680.  The church ruins seen today are a remnant of one rebuilt at a smaller scale in 1717, which interestingly includes ceremonial kivas adjacent to its lofty walls.  In the following centuries Comanche raids commenced, trade routes changed, and the pueblo abandoned in 1838.  At the main National Park Service (NPS) visitor center, you can get the combination for the lock at Pigeon’s Ranch where a 2.25-mile trail passes through parts of the 1862 Battle of Glorieta Pass.

Best Trail

A 1.25-mile self-guided trail allows you to take a peek inside the mission and climb down into two reconstructed kivas to imagine what life was like when this was a bustling pueblo of over 2,000 inhabitants.

Instagram-worthy Photo

There are two reconstructed kivas along the 1.25-mile Pueblo and Mission Ruins Trail, including one right outside the walls of the Catholic mission.  Climb down into a kiva for a trip back in time and a great photographic opportunity (once the dust settles).

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/peco/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

There is no NPS campground at the site, but there are numerous camping opportunities throughout Santa Fe National Forest.

Related Sites

Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument (New Mexico)

Petroglyph National Monument (New Mexico)

Fort Union National Monument (New Mexico)

Explore More – Who was the religious leader credited with organizing the 1680 Pueblo Revolt that drove the Spanish out of northern New Mexico (though they returned in 1692)?