Five Little Known Must-See Civil War Battle Sites

The midAtlantic states offer a plethora of great Civil War battlefields and sites to explore, from the obscure (Balls Bluff) to the famous Gettysburg, Manassas and Antietam national battlefields.

Although many of these battlefields’ visitors centers are currently closed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the need for social distancing, add these to your bucket list — these are definitely bucket list worthy!

Although you absolutely should visit Gettysburg, Manassas and Antietam, there are some lesser known battlefields you should visit just so you get a better understanding of the Civil War in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Yes, there are many other interesting Civil War sites in the mid-Atlantic region. At the bottom of this article, click on the destination names to explore them all!

Cedar Creek/Belle Grove National Historic Site

This was the culminating, albeit confusing, battle of the Valley Campaigns of 1864 during the Civil War. According to Joseph W.A Whitehorne in his Self-Guided Tour, the Battle of Cedar Creek, the battle provides “lessons in leadership, command, cohesion, … and the performance of men under stress” have a “lasting value” to all students of the Civil War.

With this battle, the final Confederate invasion of the North was effectively ended. The Confederacy was never again able to threaten Washington, D.C. through the Shenandoah Valley, nor protect one of its key economic bases in Virginia — the “bread basket” of the Shenandoah Valley. Because of the Union army’s “Burning” campaign destroyed the valley’s food sources, making it impossible for the Confederates to feed themselves. The stunning Union victory helped re-elect Lincoln and won Sheridan lasting fame. Six months later, the Civil War was over.

Click here for more information and to plan your visit.

New Market National Battlefield

You want to go here for the story of the Virginia Military Institute cadets, who ended up fighting in this battle. There’s a noteworthy film that tells their story and will likely bring you to tears — every parent can identify with the worry their families felt.

New Market Battlefield State Historical Park is a historic American Civil War battlefield and national historic district located near New Market, VA, in Shenandoah County. The park is also the site of the Virginia Museum of the Civil War, which is operated by the Virginia Military Institute. The Shenandoah Valley encompasses the site of the Battle of New Market, which was fought on May 15, 1864, during Valley Campaigns of 1864. This is one of the smaller battlefields and there isn’t a huge amount to see, although I did enjoy touring the farmhouse on the battlefield and of course, walking the actual battlefield is interesting and scenic.

This was the site of one of the last significant Confederate victories, although other battles, including Cedar Creek would take place throughout the summer and autumn. By the following spring, however, the Civil War was over.

The film at the museum humanizes the battle and the soldiers, including a Union colonel, which is important when we consider the impact the Civil War had on American society, regardless of sides.

Intrigued yet? Of course you are! Click here for the dets.

Monocacy National Battlefield

It was called the Battle that Saved Washington DC, and therein is the significance of this battle, which the North lost. Learning how and why a lost battle ended up saving the Union capital is why you’ll want to spend a morning exploring the preserved battlefields and hiking the three farms that make up the battlefield park.

The driving tour takes you first to several stops around the battlefield, which took place over several local farms: the Best Farm, where the Confederates initially engaged the Union troops, then the Worthington and Thomas Farms on the east bank. You learn about the impact of the battle on local families and those they enslaved on their properties.

The battle was the northernmost Confederate victory of the war. Wallace’s troops retreated to Baltimore, while the Confederates continued toward Washington, DC, but the battle at Monocacy had delayed Early’s march for a day, allowing time for Union reinforcements to arrive and protect the capitol. Thus, it was a strategic win for the North, even though they lost.

For more information about this special battlefield, click here.

Monterey Pass Battlefield

It’s because you haven’t heard of it, but have heard of the Battle of Gettysburg, that you need to do this driving tour. There really isn’t one specific battlefield, and what there is now has churches and late Victorian-era mansions on it.

The Battle of Monterey Pass took place immediately following the Battle of Gettysburg, as the Confederate troops retreated back into Maryland and across the Potomac into the relative safety of Virginia and was fought along a mountain ridge, in a blinding thunderstorm, during the middle of the night on July 4, just one day after the close of the battle of Gettysburg.

The only way to try to understand this battle is to take the driving tour — plan on dedicating at least a couple of hours to do so. Most of the driving tour takes you past private property. It covers some steep terrain, and winding roads, but brings you past some of Pennsylvania’s and Maryland’s loveliest countryside. The tour takes you through the site where the battle began — now there’s a quaint church on the site, built well after the Civil War. But then it follows the Confederate wagon train, as well as the site where Union troops burned the Confederate wagons they’d captured. Look for the reference to George Custer along the way.

Does anyone remember Paul Harvey’s radio show (yeah, totally aged myself) “The Rest of the Story”? Monterey Pass is the rest of the Battle of Gettysburg story. Click here for how to explore it.

Sailors Creek Historic Battlefields

The Sailors Creek Battles (yes, not one but three battles) occurred after the fall of Richmond and Petersburg, on April 6 1865. Following the fall of Richmond and Petersburg, Gen. Robert E. Lee’s primary objective was to get his army into North Carolina and unite with Gen. Joseph E. Johnston’s Confederate force there.

Rain-swollen rivers and mislaid food stores delayed Lee’s army and allowed the Union troops to gain ground, and they were able to get in the road between Lee and North Carolina, forcing Lee to order his troops west to circumvent the Union block. That order set in motion the series of events leading to Sailors Creek, and ultimately to the end of the Civil War.

By the end of the battle, both Lee and Grant knew the war wouldn’t last much longer. Lee wrote to Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States, that “a few more Sailor’s Creeks and it will all be over.” And so it was.

Plan your visit to this new Virginia State Park here.

Fort Delaware

Antietam Illumination
Antietam National Battlefield Dayhike
Dr. Samuel Mudd House
Fort Foote
Maryland Heights Hike: Part 1 and Part 2 
Monocacy National Battlefield Park
Monterey Pass Battlefield Park
Sugarloaf Mountain Park
Surratt’s Tavern
Tudor Hall

Bloody Knox Cabin
Farnsworth House Inn
Gettysburg Heritage Museum
Gettysburg National Military Park
   via Segway 
    via bicycle 
   InSite iPad tour
   Cemetery Ridge Hike
Heritage Rail Trail
Shriver House Museum

American Civil War Museum 
Cedar Creek/Belle Grove National Battlefield and Historic Site
Confederate White House 
Fort Monroe Casemate Museum
Fredericksburg National Battlefield
Grand Caverns
High Bridge Rail Trail
Historic Jamestowne
Hollywood Cemetery
Malvern Hill Battlefield — Seven Days Battle
Manassas National Battlefield Park
Museum of the Confederacy  
New Market Battlefield
Petersburg Crater Battlefield
Prospect Hill Cemetery (Front Royal, VA) 
Richmond National Battlefield Park, Cold Harbor
Sailors Creek Battlefield Historic Site
Stonewall Jackson Winter Headquarters (Winchester, VA)
Tilghman Moore House (Stonewall Jackson’s Headquarters)
Winchester National Cemetery 

Lincoln’s Summer Cottage

Bolivar Heights Battlefield
Harpers Ferry

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