Planning A Road Trip To America's Civil War Battlegrounds

Sep 9, 2016 by Cedric (Driver Weekly)

With famous Civil War battlegrounds spread across the eastern half of the United States, the best way to see them all is on a road trip. A road trip will let you pick and choose which sites you want to visit and skip the ones that are less interesting to you. You can go on a shorter trip that focuses on a specific area, like the Deep South, or a long haul that spans the divide between the North and South. Before embarking on an epic American voyage, consider these important tips.

Plan Your Route

As with any road trip, you need to start the planning process by figuring out which locations you are not willing to miss. Some of the most popular destinations for Civil War buffs are Gettysburg in Pennsylvania; Antietam in Maryland; Harpers Ferry in West Virginia; Fredericksburg, Richmond, Petersburg, and Appomattox in Virginia; Shiloh, Georgia, Chattanooga, and Chickamauga in Tennessee; Mobile Bay in Alabama; Andersonville in Georgia; and Vicksburg in Mississippi. Once you know which battlegrounds you have to see, take a look at the other ones close to them or even between them so you can lay out a route that will make the most of your time on the road. 

Embrace Flexibility

Now that you know where you want to go, you can start working out a general schedule. Make a plan that is realistic, but make sure it isn’t set in stone. You don’t want to feel rushed at any of these iconic sites if you find something truly fascinating, and you should have the option to stay longer somewhere if you want. To help with this, think about which areas you are willing to skip or visit for a shorter amount of time if it becomes necessary.

Prepare Your Car

You need to make sure your car is up to the challenge of exploring the various Civil War battlegrounds, especially if you will be traveling for several days straight. Bring your vehicle to your mechanic for a quick inspection to make sure everything is running smoothly and catch up on any maintenance you’ve been putting off. If your vehicle is too small, too large, or has poor mileage, consider renting a car for your trip.

Bring an Actual Map

Even if your car or smartphone both have built-in navigation systems with GPS, you shouldn’t neglect to bring a physical map. It will let you view larger areas clearly and put your entire trip in perspective. Some areas will have poor cellphone coverage, and a map can help you in a pinch. In an emergency, a physical map can make a huge difference.

Bring Snacks and Entertainment


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It should be a given, but you always want to bring along entertainment and some snacks on a road trip. You don’t know how long of a stretch there will be between gas stations or restaurants, and you don’t want to get bored or hungry while driving. If you want to be extraordinarily prepared, pack a few sandwiches, as well, so you don’t even have to stop for lunch during the first part of your trip.

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