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  1. Default Revolutionary War/Civil War road trip-advice needed

    Hello! My first post here. We are planning to take the family from Alabama to see some historical sites into the northeast. We have 9 days. Some sights we would like to see include Appomattox, Williamsburg, Yorktown, Jamestown, Washington DC, Gettysburg, Philadelphia, and Boston. ANY and ALL advice would be appreciated! Is that trip too ambitious?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    That sounds like a great trip. I'm not sure if the trip is too ambitious, although I think you might be better off leaving off Boston from this trip. It's quite a long distance from the other spots you mentioned, and even without it, you've already got 7 things you want to see and do in your 9 days - most of which really will take most of a day.

    For Philly, make sure you make an online reservation to tour Independence Hall,, it's free to visit, but you can only see it on a tour, and they book up very very early if you go in person.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default I Have to Agree

    Trying to See Boston on this trip is counter-productive. It's a full day's drive from the DC area so you'd be wasting two of your nine days just getting to it and back to Washington - before you'd even seen anything while there. There is more than enough history in the Virginia/DC/Philadelphia area to fill. Keep in mind that it's at least one long, hard day to get from central Alabama to Appomattox, so your nine days is already down to seven days before you even start, just accounting for the time needed to get into your primary target area.

    Actually, I'd probably take more like a day and a half each way between Alabama and Virginia, and take a little time on each of those drives to see some of the many Revolutionary sites on the way. Those would include Cowpens, King's Mountain, Guilford Courthouse, and Monticello. I'd try to see at least one or two such sites going up, and another one or two on the drive home.

    Then in the northern Virginia area, there's Manasas as well as Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania, and Antietem in Maryland. Speaking of Maryland, don't forget Fort McHenry. And in Philadelphia, besides Independence Hall, you'll want to check out Elfreth's Alley, the Betsy Ross House, the USS Olympia, and Ben Franklin's grave. You can easily see why there isn't time left in your trip to get all the way up to Boston.


  4. Default

    Thanks so much for the advice! The more I look at it, I tend to agree about Boston. Maybe that can be a trip for another time. I'm open to any and all suggestions as to where to stay, where to eat, etc. Thanks again!!!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    In Gettysburg, you'll want to do a few things:
    * See the cyclorama. Very worthwhile! It's in the Visitors center/museum. BTW, that museum could take a full day in itself.
    * Climb up at least one of the monuments (Pennsylvania) and one of the towers.
    * Optional on the self-guided driving tour, the Devil's Den.
    You may not have time to hike to the top of Big Round Top, but I can tell you, there's NO view from there. It's just a good hike. There's a view from Little Round Top, but it's right on the self-guided driving tour.
    * Be sure to find the area where Lincoln gave his Address, in the cemetery area.

    Gettysburg has lots of eating establishments. We stayed at the EconoLodge outside of the main town, and we were comfortable.


  6. Default

    Thank you very much Donna! This is all great information. I love this forum already!

  7. #7

    Default In the days before Appomattox............

    .........the remnants of Lee's army was pursued from Jetersville to Farmville, where a trainload of rations dispatched from Lynchburg were expected to awaiting his starving soldiers. Just east of Farmville, the High Bridge carried the railroad over the Appomattox River and a low bridge beneath it provided for wagon train use. Union cavalry ran ahead of the slow-moving columns and set fire to the bridges, but Lee's cavalry arrived in time to put it out, preventing his force's entrapment between the pursuing Union forces and the un-fordable river. Lee crossed, the train from Lynchburg never arrived at Farmville, so Lee stayed on the north side of the river headed for Appomattox Station some 25 miles and 2 days' march west. The Union cavalry kept to the south side of the river, easily beating Lee's vanguard to Appomattox Station, and captured the train. With his soldiers weakened from starvation and exhausted by the nearly nonstop march from Petersburg, and with rapidly increasing forces between he and the remaining Confederate depots at Lynchburg, Lee surrendered at Appomattox.

    The High Bridge is now pedestrian and cyclist accessible as a pathway within the High Bridge Trail State Park, a 31 mile linear rails-to-trails park with the 2,500' long High Bridge at its center. A parking area on River Road about 3/4 mile from the west end of the bridge provides the closest access.

    Within about 5 miles of the east end of the High Bridge is Sailors Creek battlefield, site of the last major engagement prior to Lee's surrender at Appomattox. A series of signs and plaques known as Virginia's "Civil War Trails" allows for one to follow the exact routes of Lee and his pursuers, including the northern route from Farmville through New Store to Appomattox, all along paved roads within bucolic pasturelands and forests. A fine day's travel could include beginning at Jetersville, visiting Sailors Creek, driving around to Farmville to visit the High Bridge, then following the retreat route to Appomattox.

    North of Charlottesville, along US 29, lies Culpeper, VA. Just outside of Culpeper is Brandy Station. Just 3 weeks before the fighting began at Gettysburg, J E B Stuart's cavalry, screening Lee's army as it advanced north towards Pennsylvania, was attacked at Brandy Station in what became the largest primarily cavalry engagement ever to take place on American soil, involving over 20,000 cavalrymen. At Brandy Station, Union cavalry for the first time matched the Confederates in terms of cavalry tactics and success, and for the most part, the Union cavalry only improved over the remaining 21 months of the conflict. Today the action at Brandy Station is memorialized at Brandy Station Battlefield Park, open since 2003 and preserving over 1,800 acres of the battlefield. In 2013, the Fleetwood Hill site was acquired and added to the preserved areas.

    Not far west of US 15 in Southside Virginia, the Staunton River Bridge State Park memorializes the action at this strategically important rail bridge over the Staunton (Roanoke) River, a crucial crossing on the rail line between Danville and Petersburg/Richmond. A raid launched in June 1864 from Union lines at Petersburg struck west to destroy the bridge. As the Union forces approached, some 450 elderly, recovering wounded, and young boy volunteers gathered on the bluffs, joining 450 regular soldiers to form a defensive force of 900. They faced and repulsed repeated attacks from the Union force of 5,000 cavalry and horse artillery. The arrival of the Confederate cavalry which had been pursuing the Union raiders compelled the Union force to retire. Today exhibits can be viewed along both sides of the river and a level walking trail along the former railroad bed allows pedestrian crossing of the river on the steel bridge built after the original bridge was finally burned in the last days of the conflict. The north end of the park is about 30 minutes south of Appomattox, at Randolph, VA.


  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Kudos to AZBuck, Donna and Foy!


    Great information in this thread. Makes me wish I had time to go and explore this region myself!


  9. Default Join us!

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Sedenquist View Post

    Great information in this thread. Makes me wish I had time to go and explore this region myself!

    Feel free to join us...if you can handle 4 teenagers and an 8 year old...

  10. #10


    Sounds like a great trip - even the planning for someone else's trip is fun! Four teenagers and an 8-year-old does make it a bit tougher, though!

    I write Civil War travel books, so I'm probably going to be a bit biased. That said...

    Appomattox would be a great stop, and be sure to see the American Civil War Center's new museum there. Keep in mind, though, that it's a bit isolated and may take some extra drive time to get to. If you do it, try to loop in Monticello and maybe Montpelier, which are sort of in the same general area. Sort of.

    If you want something interactive for the kids, check out Pamplin Park/Museum of the Civil War Soldier in Petersburg. You're on the last major battlefield of the war - the one that drove Lee to Appomattox - and it's very well preserved. The exhibits are very interactive and geared toward an immersive experience. If I wanted to get a kid interested in history, this is where I'd take them.

    If you go to DC, take advantage of your representative in Congress! If you contact their office, they can generally have one of their staffers give you a personal guided tour of the capital (bypassing all the long lines!) and/or gallery passes, and may even be able to squeeze you into a White House tour, which is not open to the public at large. It's the only way you'll see it.

    If you're interested in the Civil War, I have endless tips for you - feel free to contact me!

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