Tag Archives: National Battlefield

Nez Perce National Historical Park

Overview

Nez Perce National Historical Park is unique because it comprises 38 sites stretching across four states, not even including an 1877 incident inside Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park.  Many of the locations (as well as Big Hole National Battlefield) cover the War of 1877, when a portion of the tribe fled more than 1,000 miles from Oregon towards the Canadian border only to be stopped 40 miles short by the U.S. Army at Bear Paw Battlefield in Montana.  Under the leadership of legendary Chief Joseph they crossed the Rocky Mountains at Lolo Pass, made famous by the Lewis and Clark Expedition that the tribe assisted in 1805.

Highlights

Museum, film, Heart of the Monster, Lolo Pass, Bear Paw Battlefield

Must-Do Activity

The main National Park Service (NPS) visitor center is in Spalding, Idaho on the Nez Perce Indian Reservation where the “heart of the monster” resides.  According to legend, after Coyote slew the monster that inhaled all the people, its heart and liver came to rest on the banks of the Clearwater River.  This park is also unique because the Nez Perce remain an active tribe with a strong sense of community, as documented in the excellent new film at the visitor center.  Highway 12 follows the beautiful Clearwater River through northern Idaho and provides access points for the unpaved Lolo Motorway (a section of the Nez Perce National Historical Trail) and its many scenic overlooks.

Best Trail

Nez Perce National Historical Trail stretches 1,170 miles from Oregon to Montana, ending at the NPS site at Bear Paw Battlefield where a five-day fight finally led to the tribe’s surrender in October 1877.

Instagram-worthy Photo

At a roadside pullout on Highway 95 in Idaho, the NPS interprets White Bird Battlefield where 34 U.S. Army soldiers were killed on June 17, 1877 escalating the U.S. government’s conflict with the Nez Perce into a war.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

Most of the major roads are paved, with the notable exception of the Lolo Motorway which requires a high clearance vehicle (and four-wheel drive on its western end).

Camping

There are camping opportunities ranging from dispersed to developed located throughout Clearwater, Nez Perce, and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests.

Related Sites

Big Hole National Battlefield (Montana)

Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site (Montana)

Whitman Mission National Historic Site (Washington)

Explore More – After the 1863 “Steal Treaty” reduced the Nez Perce Reservation by 90%, what was the 1887 federal law that allowed another 90% to end up in white ownership?

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 and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park (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)

Richmond National Battlefield Park

Overview

Richmond, Virginia was the capital of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War, located only 110 miles south of Washington, D.C.  The heavily fortified city repelled Union attacks in 1862 and 1864, but was abandoned following the retreat from Petersburg on April 2, 1865.  Richmond National Battlefield Park is composed of thirteen units connected by an 80-mile driving tour, some of which are only staffed seasonally.  The main National Park Service (NPS) visitor center at Tredegar Iron Works is located near the historic Virginia capitol building and not far from Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site.

Highlights

Tredegar Iron Works, film, Cold Harbor battlefield, Chimborazo Medical Museum

Must-Do Activity

The modern NPS visitor center is located downtown inside the Tredegar Iron Works on the Canal Walk.  During the war, this foundry produced almost 1,100 cannons, as well as armor plating for ironclad gunboats.  Today the stabilized and enclosed remains of Tredegar Iron Works offer three stories of exhibits, including a film and several interactive multimedia displays.  The site of the June 1864 Battle of Cold Harbor has a year-round visitor center northeast of Richmond.  We also highly recommend a stop at the Chimborazo Medical Museum, which covers an often overlooked aspect of a war that claimed 620,000 soldiers’ lives, many from disease.

Best Trail

Short trails help visitors understand the battles at Beaver Dam Creek, Gaines’ Mill, Malvern Hill, Cold Harbor, Fort Harrison, Fort Brady, Parker’s Battery, and Drewry’s Bluff.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The stabilized brick walls of Tredegar Iron Works are an interesting subject for photographs.  The foundry was protected by its workers from destruction by the retreating Confederate army on April 2, 1865.  This proved important during Reconstruction after the war.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None except for parking at Tredegar Iron Works

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Pocahontas State Park and Forest offers a campground with running water just outside Richmond, Virginia.

Related Sites

Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site (Virginia)

Fredericksbug and Spotsylvania County Battlefields Memorial National Military Park (Virginia)

Appomattox Court House National Historical Park (Virginia)

Explore More –Opened in October 1861, how many sick and wounded soldiers were treated at Chimborazo Hospital (with its 3,000 bed capacity and 20% mortality rate) by the end of the Civil War?

Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park

Overview

There are probably not many places on the list of top 50 most visited units in the National Park Service (NPS) system that you have never heard of, but Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park may be one.  Located in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, this 2,923-acre park receives more than 2.3-million visitors annually.  The park memorializes a Civil War battlefield on General Sherman’s “scorched earth” march to Atlanta in 1864 and is now surrounded by a heavily-populated suburb and a university.  Watch for pedestrians on the road to the top of the 700-foot tall Kennesaw Mountain.

Highlights

Museum, film, scenic views, hiking trails, Kolb’s Farm, cannons

Must-Do Activity

You can drive to the cannons and earthworks on top of Kennesaw Mountain when the shuttle bus is not running on weekdays, but most recreationists walk the road or trails to get there.  Inside the NPS visitor center at the 700-foot hill’s base, you will learn about the Atlanta Campaign of 1864 when Union General William Tecumseh Sherman led 100,000 troops out of Chattanooga, Tennessee on the “March to the Sea.”  After 5,350 soldiers died at Kennesaw Mountain, he decided to just go around it on his way to the city, causing the Confederates to abandon their fortifications there.  If you do drive to the top, you will need to go around many pedestrians and bikers, too.

Best Trail

There are 19.7 miles of hiking trails, but we found that most visitors just walked or biked down the center of the paved road to the top.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Kennesaw Mountain offers sweeping views of the Atlanta-metropolitan area.

Peak Season

Spring and fall

Hours

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

Fees

$5 per vehicle or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

The road to the top is paved, but there is limited parking up there so a shuttle bus runs on weekends.

Camping

There are several campgrounds on nearby Lake Altoona managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  Red Top Mountain State Park is also located north of Kennesaw, Georgia.

Related Sites

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park (Tennessee-Georgia)

Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (Georgia)

Andersonville National Historic Site (Georgia)

Explore More – The attack on Kennesaw Mountain occurred on June 27, 1864, but when did the Union army finally occupy Atlanta?

Antietam National Battlefield

Overview

Antietam National Battlefield was established in 1890 to commemorate those who fought in Sharpsburg, Maryland on September 17, 1862, the bloodiest single day in American military history with more than 23,000 total casualties.  In fact, it was in the aftermath of Antietam that Clara Barton earned her nickname “The Angel of the Battlefield” before going on to found the American Red Cross in 1881.  The battle was a draw, but together with a Union victory at Harpers Ferry stopped the Confederate advance north and provided the impetus for President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. 

Highlights

Museum, film, driving tour, Observation Tower, Pry House Medical Museum, cannons

Must-Do Activity

Your entrance fee allows you access to the museum and eight-mile driving tour, as well as 3,200 acres of beautiful Maryland countryside.  Even though this site holds a grisly honor, today it is a charming open space with picturesque bridges and monuments, perfect for a pleasant walk or bike ride.  During our visit, Burnside Bridge was being rebuilt after it collapsed in 2014.  Overall, it is a much quieter spot than nearby Gettysburg National Military Park.

Best Trail

The park has more than doubled in size since 1990 and there are walking trails accessible all along the driving tour route.  At a minimum, you should get out of the car to walk “Bloody Lane” before climbing up the Observation Tower.

Instagram-worthy Photo

A split-rail fence provided cover for Confederate troops on Sunken Road, also known as “Bloody Lane.”  A nice view of it and the Maryland countryside is offered from the Observation Tower.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

$20 per vehicle or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Reservations are required for organized groups to camp within the park, but there is a walk-in campground located five miles south within Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park.  Greenbrier State Park offers a developed campground about 15 miles away.

Related Sites

Catoctin Mountain Park (Maryland)

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

Clara Barton National Historic Site (Maryland)

Explore More – How many Union soldiers are interred at Antietam National Cemetery (alongside veterans from four other wars)?