Civil War: This Hallowed Ground Tour

Always mystify, mislead and surprise the enemy; and when you strike and overcome him, never let up in the pursuit.

– Stonewall Jackson

The Civil War; This Hallowed Ground Tour is a patriotic journey through the Civil War In Virginia and at Gettysburg.

The Civil War was, and remains today, the central event of American history. Our Declaration of Independence of 1776 (“AII men are created equal”), and our Constitution of 1789 (“to form a more perfect union”) were really ratified only after four years of civil war – an ordeal by fire that cost the lives of more than 600,000 American soldiers of North and South, who were killed in action or died of disease. An additional 300,000 Americans were wounded. These terrible casualties were higher than the combined total of American casualties in all of our wars – including both world wars and Vietnam. More Americans were killed at Antietam – the bloodiest single day of the Civil War – than at Omaha Beach.

The ebb and flow of the military campaigns are fascinating; yet, our trip is more than a retracing of battles.

What were the causes of the war? Who were those Americans, for whom their state was more important than the United States, and who were willing to sacrifice their lives and property for the “Southern Way of Life.” And what was the Southern Way of Life?

Who were those soldiers whose hearts were, in the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, “touched by fire?” How were they trained? Until the turning point at Gettysburg, why did the Confederate generals in the East think harder, fight harder, and campaign better than the Union generals? And, finally, why did the North win?

Historians have devoted careers to these topics. Our groups will be accompanied by a professional historian, who will lead seven education sessions and be available for informal discussions during the trip.

For the first time since 1861–65, the United States is at war in our homeland. In overcoming the challenges facing us today, we can learn from, and be inspired by, the skill, the courage, and the endurance displayed by the generation that brought us through the Civil War.

The trip is more than a retracing of battles. Education sessions are included to enhance our understanding of the Civil War. Our approach will consider both the “worm’s eye view” of the soldiers, and the high command environment of President Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, and their senior generals.


  • Manassas, Gettysburg, Appomattox - This tour gives us a panorama of the major battles that began and ended the Civil War, starting with First Manassas, culminating with Gettysburg and breathing the air of finality at Appomattox.
  • Shenandoah Valley, Harpers Ferry - We conduct a study of Stonewall Jackson’s Shenandoah Valley campaign where he won a series of lopsided victories while being vastly outnumbered. Harpers Ferry, John Brown’s raid the the prelude to war are included.
  • Antietam - Antietam was the site of the bloodiest day of war in American history when, on 17 September 1862, there were 23,000 casualties.
  • Gettysburg - At Gettysburg we study the three days that marked General Lee’s final attempt to carry the war to the north.
  • Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Spotsylvania, Wilderness - We tour the area of four major battles: Confederate victories at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville leading up to Gettysburg; then Spotsylvania and the Wilderness Campaign fighting to keep the Grant’s Union armies at bay.

Day-By-Day Itinerary

Day 1 Manassas – Confederate Victories, Union Disarray

“My loyalty to Virginia ought to take precedence over that which is due to the federal government. If Virginia stands by the old Union, so will I. But, if she secedes, then I will still follow my native state with my sword, and need be with my life.” Robert E. Lee, February, 1861

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Abraham Lincoln, June 16, 1858

“. . . no State, upon its own mere motion, can lawfully get out of the Union, – resolves and ordinances to that effect are legally void, and acts of violence, within any State or States, against the authority of the United States, are
insurrectionary . . .” Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861

“Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came”
Abraham Lincoln—Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865

Our program will begin at 1:00 this afternoon with a visit to the battlefield at Manassas.

Neither the North nor the South was prepared for war. Both sides thought that a war would be short. Union leaders believed that the Confederacy would quickly succumb to the greater resources and larger manpower of the North. Confederate leaders doubted that the northern population would be willing to fight to preserve the Union.

The first battle of Manassas, July 21, 1861, also known as Bull Run in the North, reflects these miscalculations. Following the proud but green Union Army, many citizens left Washington with picnic baskets to watch what they expected to be a colorful show.

The reality was different; nearly 900 soldiers on both sides were killed during ten hours of heavy fighting. Confederate troops, better led than their Union opponents, won a decisive victory. The Union Army retreated to Washington. First Manassas marked the end of innocence and illusions for both sides.

By the time of Second Manassas, August 28 to 30, 1862, both armies had gained combat experience, but the result was the same – a Confederate victory. Although the Confederacy was now at the height of its power, Yankee resolve remained firm. Much fighting lay ahead.

Our historian will retrace these battles at Manassas with us and explain the reasons for the
Confederate victories.

Day 2 The Shenandoah Valley Campaigns; The Genius of Stonewall Jackson; Harpers Ferry, Antietam

One-third of the Civil War battles took place in Virginia. The beautiful Shenandoah Valley, the richest agricultural region in Virginia, was the bread basket for Lee’s Army. It was also the most pervasive region of combat. Official records show 326 incidents of armed conflict – on average one conflict every four or five days.

The Valley campaigns are forever linked with the tactical brilliance of Confederate General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, a VMI professor turned soldier, who in 1862 defeated three Union armies in a single month. Jackson’s Valley Campaign is one of the most studied campaigns of military history. The campaign demonstrates how a numerically inferior force can defeat larger forces by fast movement, surprise attack, and intelligent use of the terrain. Today’s American Army brings its officers to the Shenandoah Valley to study the tactics of Stonewall Jackson.

Only in October 1864, after the Battle of Cedar Creek, did the northern army gain control of the Shenandoah Valley. Union General Philip Sheridan then brought total warfare to the Valley, a concept that General William Tecumseh Sherman introduced in Mississippi and would bring to Georgia in November and December during his “March to the Sea.” Sheridan’s campaign became known to valley residents as “The Burning.”

Our historian will retrace with us some major battles of this region, as well as Jackson’s huge victory at Harpers Ferry.

“All through the conflict, up and down Marched Uncle Tom and Old John Brown.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes—June, 1882

The Shenandoah River flows into the Potomac at Harpers Ferry. Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Harpers Ferry with its rivers and mountains is one of the loveliest places in the eastern U.S.

This idyllic spot was the scene of John Brown’s raid at the federal arsenal, October 17, 1859 — a failed, misguided act that hastened the outbreak of war. Although Brown was hanged for treason on December 2, the raid hardened radical sentiment in both the North and South. Northerners glorified Brown as a martyr in the cause of human freedom. Southerners saw the raid as part of a northern conspiracy to promote slave insurrections in the southern states. Compromise and conciliation between the sections became less likely.

We’ll visit Harpers Ferry and reflect on the drama of this lovely place.

Next we will continue to Antietam.

The Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg), September 17, 1862, was the bloodiest single day battle in American history. More men were killed or wounded at Antietam – 23,100 – than at Pearl Harbor or at D-Day in Normandy.

Although neither side gained a decisive victory, Lee’s failure to carry the war effort effectively into the North caused Great Britain to postpone recognition of the Confederate government. The battle also gave President Lincoln the opportunity to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, which, on January 1, 1863, declared free all slaves in the United States still in rebellion against the United States. Now the war had a dual purpose: to preserve the Union and end slavery.

We will walk on this battlefield and reflect on the extraor­dinary importance and tragedy of
September 17, 1862.

We’ll continue to Gettysburg, arriving in the late afternoon.

Day 3 Gettysburg: Days One and Two

The Lord’s terrible swift sword was also very much in evidence at Gettysburg.

The Battle of Gettysburg, lasting three days, July 1, 2, and 3, 1863, was the bloodiest battle of the Civil War. More than 50,000 Americans of both sides were casualties.

This epic battle was also the major turning point of the War. Called by historians the “High Water Mark” of the Confederacy, Gettysburg was the second and last attempt of Robert E. Lee to move the fighting out of Virginia and into the northern states. Lee’s first attempt at Antietam had failed. Although nearly two years of fierce fighting still lay ahead, after Gettysburg the prospects of a Union victory changed from if to when.

Today our historian and guide will cover the events leading up to the battle and retrace with us on the battlefield the fighting of the 1st and 2nd of July 1.

We will stand at Little Round Top, where the 20th Maine Regiment, led by Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, repulsed several Confederate assaults and preserved the Union position at Cemetery Ridge. This action was described by author Michael Shaara in his epic narrative The Killer Angels.

Dinner this evening will be at an historic inn.

Day 4 Gettysburg: Pickett’s Charge; Lincoln’s Address; The Civilian Experience

Accompanied by our historian, we will walk on the field of Pickett’s Charge this morning, from beginning to end. Pickett’s Charge was – and remains today – one of the most famous attacks in American military history.

As noted by historian James McPherson, “Pickett’s Charge represented the Confederate war effort in microcosm: unsurpassed valor, apparent initial success, and ultimate disaster.” Of the 14,000 Confederates who attacked, only about half returned. Pickett’s own division lost two-thirds of its men. General Lee withdrew his army back to Virginia and was no longer able to launch a major offensive.

“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve
that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom ­and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863

Some four months after the battle, President Lincoln came to Gettysburg to speak at the dedication of the cemetery. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, which school children memorize, stands as one of the great speeches of American history. We will visit the site where Lincoln spoke.

The trauma of war affects civilians, as well as soldiers. We will visit Shriver House, a museum dedicated to the civilian experience and how one family struggled to survive the Civil War.

Dinner this evening will be at the Dobbin House, the oldest building in Gettysburg (1797) and a stopping point for escaped slaves seeking refuge in the North via the Underground Railroad.

Day 5 Fredericksburg – Richmond: The Heroism of Clara Barton – Chancellorsville

This morning we will return south to Virginia and visit Fredericksburg – a region of four major battles: Fredericksburg, December 1862; Chancellorsville, May 1863; The Wilderness, May 1864; Spottsylvania Court House, May 1864

Richmond, the soul and Capital of the Confederacy, and a major industrial and supply center, was the main target of the northern army. The direct route from Washington to Richmond passes through Fredericksburg. Hence the town’s strategic importance.

t was here that Clara Barton, later to found the American Red Cross, won fame and gratitude for her heroic nursing of the wounded of both sides. We’ll visit Chatham Plantation, where the “holy angel” from Massachusetts worked at her makeshift “hospital.”

Barton had already helped the wounded at the Battles of Antietam and Second Manassas. Later, she would serve at the Wilderness and Spottsylvania; she was then appointed supervisor of nurses for the Union Army of the James. She organized hospitals and nurses and administered day-to-day activities in the invalid camps that received the wounded from Cold Harbor, Petersburg, and other battles near Richmond.

Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville were Confederate victories, although Stonewall Jackson was killed at Chancellorsville. The reinforcing Texas brigade ensured victory for Lee at the Wilderness, while Spottsylvania, probably the most vicious hand-to-hand battle of the war, was indecisive.

After visiting Fredericksburg, we’ll continue to Chancellors­ville, where our historian will analyze the battle, show us where Stonewall Jackson was killed, and describe the significant aftermath of the battle.

Day 6 Petersburg – The Confederacy and the Old South

Today we will look at the antebellum South and the Confederacy.

Who were these Americans, for whom their state was more important than the United States, and who were willing to sacrifice their lives and property for the “Southern Way of Life?” And what was the southern way of life?

Scholars have written volumes about this complicated topic. We will look at the Old South in hopes of under-standing more this evening than we knew this morning.

We will visit the Museum of the Confederacy, which the Chicago Tribune called “perhaps the finest Civil War museum in the country.” Exhibits include a chronological history of the Confederacy and the Civil War, along with an exploration of the life of Robert E. Lee.

Next, we will journey south to Petersburg to visit the National Museum of the Civil War Soldier at Pamplin Historical Park. The Museum tells the story of the nearly 3,000,000 Americans – northerners and southerners, whites and blacks, immigrants and native born – who fought in the Civil War. Why did they fight? How were they trained? What happened to them in battle and afterwards?

Tudor Hall Plantation is also included. The grounds feature a working kitchen and two slave quarters, one of which presents a multi-media exhibit on slavery in the years before the Civil War. Tudor Hall stands as a living example of Southern plantation life in the Civil War era. Talk with costumed interpreters as they go about the daily routine of plantation life.

The historical plantations along the James River exemplify the social and political life of the Old South.

Day 7 Appomattox

The final campaign began at Petersburg and Richmond. The Battle at Cold Harbor, near Richmond, changed the course of the Richmond campaign from a war of maneuver to a war of siege. In the longest siege in American history, June, 1864, to April, 1865, Union forces under General Grant put pressure on Richmond/Petersburg from the North and East. The siege was trench warfare —a precursor of World War I fifty years later. Only the considerable skill, courage and endurance of Lee’s army kept the Union forces out of the Confederate capital. But on April 2 the northern army broke through and cut off the Confederate supply lines from the South, forcing Lee to evacuate Richmond and Petersburg and retreat to the west. Grant pursued relentlessly, and virtually surrounded Lee’s army at Appomattox Court House. Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865.

Appomattox Court House joined Valley Forge, Yorktown, and Gettysburg as sacred ground in American history. The Old South was, in the words of Margaret Mitchell, “Gone With The Wind.” The United States
was reborn.

After visiting Appomattox, we will return to our hotel for our
farewell dinner.

Day 8 Richmond/Dulles Airports

This morning we will be transferred to either Richmond or Dulles Airport, concluding our journey through the Civil War. Arrival at Richmond at 8:30 a.m. Dulles will be about 11:00 a.m.

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Map for Civil War: This Hallowed Ground Tour

Tour Dates

  • September 27 - October 4, 2015
  • May 22 - 29, 2016
  • June 2016 Call for information.
  • September 25 - October 2, 2016
  • October 2016 Call for information.
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TRIP COST $2,595

Prices are per person based on double occupancy. For a single room add $495.

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