by Jack Mountcastle, Brigadier General, U.S. Army (Retired) and tour historian
I had the great pleasure of serving as historian during the This Hallowed Ground tour of key Civil War battlegrounds and historic sites in the mid-Atlantic region. We had a wonderful group on this tour who came from all over the United States and from England. Some of our guests were very well-versed in Civil War history, while many were visiting the battlefields for the first time.
We boarded our comfortable bus on Sunday and drove to nearby Manassas National Battlefield, along the banks of Bull Run Creek in Virginia. Aided by maps provided by our SAHT Tour Director, Dr. Mark Bielski, we explored the plans and actions of the Union and Confederate forces who fought the first major battle of the Civil War on July 21, 1861. Before leaving this area, we viewed the ground on which a subsequent battle (2nd Bull Run) was conducted in August, 1862.
Over the next three days, we traveled to national battlefield parks at Harpers Ferry, WV, Antietam, MD, and Gettysburg, PA. In each of these well-preserved sites, we walked the ground that had been fought over, considered the demands made upon commanders and their troops, and learned more about the volunteers who cared for sick and wounded soldiers. In addition to my scheduled presentations prior to visiting these sites, we also enjoyed lively and far-ranging group discussions on the bus and at each location.
While at Gettysburg, we had a grand experience at the superb Visitors Center with its film, historic cyclorama, and museum. At two fascinating house museums in the town, we heard how the three-day battle affected Gettysburg’s citizens. Wonderful meals at historic local restaurants complemented our experience at Gettysburg.
On Thursday, we returned to Virginia, with stops at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville battlefields before continuing to the Richmond, the former capital of the Confederacy. From Richmond, we had the opportunity to visit the marvelous National Museum of the Civil War Soldier in nearby Petersburg. We concluded our tour with a day spent where the Civil War in Virginia ended, the hallowed ground at Appomattox Court House. Here, General Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant and peace returned to Virginia and other war-torn areas throughout the South.
I feel that this week was not only very enjoyable, but that it was a truly memorable experience. I hope that our guests feel the same way.