Some of the pivotal clashes of the Civil War were fought on Maryland's soil. Walking the fields where Blue met Gray, you'll gain a new appreciation for the tragedies and triumph that took place here.
Start your trip with an 8.5-mile driving or cycling tour of Washington County's Antietam National Battlefield, site of the bloodiest one-day battle in American history. On September 17, 1862, General Robert E. Lee pitted his 41,000 men against a Union force twice that size; by nightfall, more than 23,000 soldiers were dead, wounded or missing. Today, more than 350 monuments decorate the battlefield in their honor. You may also want to explore South Mountain Battlefield State Park, Maryland’s first battlefield state park and the site of the Battle of South Mountain, which instigated the Battle of Antietam. Don't forget to visit the Boonsborough Museum of History, where you'll find items from both the Antietam and Gettysburg battles, and nearby Hagerstown, the site of several smaller battles and a launching point for others. (In fact, in 1864, Hagerstown was threatened with destruction by a Confederate general unless a $20,000-ransom was paid.) End your day with dinner at one of the area's charming restaurants.
Travel southeast to the Monocacy National Battlefield in Frederick County, where a crucial battle to prevent an invasion of Washington, D.C., took place on July 9, 1864. Here, you'll learn how a small Union force of 5,800 managed to stall the advance of a Confederate army over three times its size for a full day. The rebels eventually won the field, but the battle lasted long enough to allow troops to assemble to defend the capitol. Not far from Monocacy National Battlefield is the Barbara Fritchie House and Museum, a reconstruction of the original home of the sassy Civil War heroine, whose wit and courage as she heckled passing rebel soldiers is immortalized in a poem by John Greenleaf Whittier. While in the area, tour the National Museum of Civil War Medicine to discover the harsh realities of 19th-century battlefield treatment, as well as the compassion exhibited and advances made by medical personnel on both sides.
Carroll County remained relatively untouched by the battles raging around it, but it nevertheless played an important role in the days leading up to the Battle of Gettysburg. Retrace the paths of the Union and Confederate armies as they moved toward that monumental encounter on the "Roads to Gettysburg" 25-stop driving tour. On it, you'll learn more about Corbit's Charge, a cavalry skirmish that prevented Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart's men from reaching Gettysburg in time to deliver critical support to Lee's forces. In an exciting chain of events, Union and Confederate troops bivouacked at Union Mills within the same day on their way north. The Union Mills Homestead, a clapboard farmhouse, still stands today, and interestingly, the family that built the home, the Shrivers, sent men to fight on both sides of the war.
The Antietam Campaign: Lee Invades Maryland
Gettysburg: Invasion & Retreat