Tag Archives: Civil War

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)?

Top 10 Civil War National Park Sites

At least 22 of the 419 units in the National Park Service (NPS) system deal directly with the Civil War and a few others are related (like Rock Creek Park and Fort Monroe National Monument).  This does not even take into account the multiple sites devoted to Abraham Lincoln.  While we have not been to all of them yet, this is our ranking of our favorite NPS sites dedicated to remembering the Civil War.  Click here to see all of our Top 10 lists, including our favorite Civil War books and films.

10. Antietam National Battlefield (Maryland)

9. Pea Ridge National Military Park (Arkansas)

8. Manassas National Battlefield Park (Virginia)

7. Shiloh National Military Park (Tennessee-Mississippi)

6. Appomattox Court House National Historical Park (Virginia)

5. Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park (Tennessee-Georgia)

4. Fort Sumter National Monument (South Carolina)

3. Gettysburg National Military Park (Pennsylvania)

2. Andersonville National Historic Site (Georgia)

…and finally, our #1 NPS site dedicated to the Civil War:

1. Vicksburg National Military Park (Mississippi)

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Honorable Mentions

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park (West Virginia-Maryland-Virginia)

Pecos National Historical Park (New Mexico)

Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site (District of Columbia)

Appomattox Court House National Historical Park

Overview

If the name Appomattox Court House rings a bell, that is because in U.S. History class you learned it was where the Civil War ended on April 9, 1865.  There was a courthouse in the town of Appomattox Court House, Virginia, but that is not where Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant signed surrender papers; actually it was the home of Wilmer McLean.  In 1893, the McLean house was completely disassembled to be turned into an offsite museum, but was later brought back and rebuilt by the National Park Service (NPS).  The county jail is one of several other restored buildings in the park originally designated a National Monument in 1935 and changed to a National Historical Park in 1954.

Highlights

Museum, film, reconstructed McLean House, guided tours

Must-Do Activity

The restored courthouse now serves as the NPS visitor center and museum, from where visitors can start their walk through Meeks General Store, Clover Hill Tavern, the county jail, and other period buildings.  Much of the furniture from the McLean House was taken as souvenirs by Union officers, as well as a doll owned by 7-year-old Lula McLean that was not returned until 1992.

Best Trail

A four-mile hiking trail connects the Village of Appomattox Court House with the April 9, 1865 battlefield and the two General’s headquarters.

Instagram-worthy Photo

You have to take a photo inside the restored room in the McLean house where Lee surrendered his army of 9,000 men, essentially ending the Civil War.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

None in the park, but the campground at Holliday Lake State Park is only 12 miles away.

Related Sites

Petersburg National Battlefield (Virginia)

Richmond National Battlefield Park (Virginia)

Booker T. Washington National Monument (Virginia)

Explore More – Seven regiments of African American soldiers in the Union Army participated in the Battle of Appomattox Court House; how many men is that?