At one of the darkest times in our young country’s history, the Civil War left us with much to learn and fight for. The battles were long, hard, and bloody. Many of the greatest Civil War battles, like all involved in the Gettysburg Campaign, happened right in the Keystone State itself. Here are some Civil War Battlefields in Pennsylvania that are worth a visit!
Many of the great Civil War sites are preserved in the Gettysburg National Military Park in Adams County, Pennsylvania. This includes perhaps the most famous, and tragic, battles in Civil War history: The Battle of Gettysburg. This iconic battle saw the most casualties of the entire war: 51,112 men died in the fight. It resulted in a grand victory by the North, however, and an end to Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s reign.
War buffs and visitors alike can explore the Gettysburg Battlefield, honoring the fallen and walking in the footsteps of the victors. There are over 1,000 acres of saved, historic land to see! You can really spend a whole day in this Park. There’s a helpful and well-executed visitor’s center, which spans 22,000 square feet. But if you’d rather just get out there and see the fields for yourself, guests are free to explore on their own or take a self-guided or guided tour of the property.
Two of the most fascinating spots in the Gettysburg National Military Park are the David Wills House and the Soldier’s National Cemetery. The former is where Abraham Lincoln stayed the night before his famous address, and the latter is where the beloved President made the Gettysburg Address.
Within the Battle of Gettysburg, there were several fighting grounds and landmarks that should be visited:
Little Round Top
The defense of Little Round Top was organized by General Gouverneur K. Warren, and held by Union Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain — who famously ordered a desperate bayonet charge after his men had run out of ammunition — on July 2, 1863. The views today from this iconic hilltop are incredible. TripAdvisor reviews say that if you’re going to go anywhere on the Gettysburg trail, go to Little Round Top.
It’s important to remember that there were many stops along the Gettysburg Campaign that were hugely important to the North’s victory over the South. The Battle of Hanover was an unplanned skirmish, but made it in the history books. There are 18 waysides where visitors can trace the significant moments of this battle, like where the Confederates invaded Pennsylvania and where General George Custer stopped their advance.
Visitors can pick up their self–guided brochure at the Hanover Chamber of Commerce. This facility has free admission, and open all year round. There’s also on – site bicycling, boating, canoeing, fishing, and a golf course!
The Battle of Carlisle (not to be confused with the Seige of Carlisle, which was, in fact, in the United Kingdom) was more of a skirmish than an outright battle. But every engagement in a larger conflict adds up. The Confederates had just stopped at the Carlisle Barracks to resupply. But on July 1st the fight began, with the Confederates being told to surrender. They refused. This fight was deemed inconclusive, but the Confederate cavalry set fire to the barracks in Carlisle, so it wasn’t so great for the Union.
There isn’t exactly a battlefield to visit in Carlisle, but there is a nice plaque in the town to commemorate the fight.
This was the location where a brigade was supposed to be protecting the Confederate’s Left Flank. The Battle of Hunterstown was incredibly important, and was full of surprising turns. There were unexpected attacks, an ambush, and a Confederate victory.
Similar to Carlisle, there’s no official battlefield location in the current town of Hunterstown, but there are several markers. There’s a memorial for General George Custer and a sign and map explaining the battle. Its last sentence reads: “If not for the Battle of Hunterstown, approximately 2,129 more Confederate infantry may have fought in that evening’s battles for Culp’s Hill and East Cemetery Hill at Gettysburg.”
While this battle was fought in Pennsylvania, Virginians were the real heroes here. A slow-moving Confederate wagon train was causing problems, so Union troops went to search Fairfield for the wagons. But the 6th and 7th Virginia cavalry were ready for them with the defeat. While this was not a massive battle, with only 14 casualties, it was hugely important for the Confederacy. The victory secured Hagerstown Road, which safely carried Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia back home.
There are the occasional markers spread around Fairfield, but nothing big and dramatic to mark the battle.
And that’s not all! There’s so much history to explore in Pennsylvania! Go check them out!