Civil War Tour: Double Feature Eastern and Western Theatres

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Two Civil War tours back-to-back!

– Mark Bielski, Historian

Each Fall, Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours offers two American Civil War Tours— Civil War: This Hallowed Ground and Civil War: Mississippi River Campaign. We have arranged the timing so that Civil War enthusiasts can take these two tours back-to-back on our Civil War: Double Feature Eastern and Western Theatres. This is an added bonus for Civil War history buffs on two fronts: You can learn about the campaigns waged in both the Eastern and Western Theatres on one tour and also save $1,290 by taking the two tours together!

Civil War Tour: This Hallowed Ground

Our This Hallowed Ground Civil War Tour gives guests a panorama of the major events that began and ended the Civil War, starting with First Manassas, culminating with Gettysburg and breathing the air of finality at Appomattox. This tour begins and ends at Dulles airport near Washington D.C. Double feature guests then fly from Dulles to Memphis in time for the Mississippi River Tour’s welcome reception. The This Hallowed Ground Tour can be extended on the front end with the Shenandoah Valley pre-tour extension; call the office for more details, 504-821-9283.

Civil War Tour: Mississippi River Campaign

The Mississippi River was the major interstate highway of the 19th century America and key to the confederacy. It was also the strategic focal point of the Civil War. Whoever held the great river would control the continent. Without it, neither side could supply itself. This tour begins in Memphis and ends in New Orleans.

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Civil War Tour: This Hallowed Ground

  • Manassas, Gettysburg, Appomattox - This tour is a study of the causes behind the conflict and the major battles that began and ended the Civil War, starting with First Manassas, culminating with Gettysburg and closing with the surrender 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 during the war and John Brown’s raid, 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 score a major victory in 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.

Civil War Tour: Mississippi River

  • Mississippi River in Memphis: Review the naval battle and campaigns that led to the Union’s eventual control of the river
  • Shiloh: Tour one of the Civil War’s most beautifully preserved battlefields, where a bloody struggle that took place on April 1862, and then on to Corinth, MS, the vital rail link that was General Grant’s objective
  • Vicksburg: Study of the siege of Vicksburg and the battles that made up Grant’s campaign to seize this stronghold that controlled the river
  • Natchez Trace: Drive the Natchez Trace to the city that bears its name and is a showpiece of Old South preservation with its many antebellum homes and plantations
  • Port Hudson, LA: Get a glimpse of the longest siege in American history—the Confederates surrendered here only after Vicksburg fell
  • New Orleans: Walk the world-famous French Quarter, relax, shop and explore the unique blends of cuisines and cultures that make the Crescent City different than any other

Day-By-Day Itinerary

DAY 1 Welcome Reception

Schedule your flight to the Washington Dulles International Airport. The group will meet at a nearby hotel where we will have a Welcome Reception at 6 p.m. followed by dinner at 7 p.m.

DAY 2 Manassas: Confederate Victories, Union Disarray

Our program begins with a visit to the battlefield at Manassas. Both the North and South thought that a war would be short. Union leaders believed their greater resources and manpower would prevail while the Confederates doubted northern resolve. The first battle of Manassas (Bull Run) July 21, 1861 saw the proud but green Union Army facing the better led Confederates who won a decisive victory. The Union Army retreated unpursued to Washington. Innocence and illusion were over for both sides. By the time of Second Manassas at the end of August 1862, both armies had gained combat experience, but the result was an even more significant Confederate victory.

DAY 3 The Shenandoah Valley Campaigns: 
The Genius of Stonewall Jackson, 
Harpers Ferry, Antietam

A third of the War’s battles occurred in Virginia. The beautiful Shenandoah Valley was the bread basket for Lee’s Army. It was also a region constantly beset by combat. The Valley campaigns are forever linked with the tactical brilliance of Confederate General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, who in 1862 defeated three Union armies in a single month. The campaign demonstrates how a numerically inferior force can defeat larger forces by fast movement, surprise attack, and intelligent use of the terrain.

Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers, Harpers Ferry is one of the loveliest places in the eastern U.S. This was the scene of John Brown’s raid in October 1859-a failed, misguided act that hastened the outbreak of war. Brown was hanged for treason on December 2, but the raid hardened radical sentiment for he was seen a martyr in the North and a radical insurrectionist in the South.

The Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg), September 17, 1862, was the bloodiest single day battle in American history with 23,100 men killed or wounded. Although neither side gained a decisive victory, Lee’s withdrawal and failure to carry the war effort effectively into the North caused Great Britain to postpone recognition of the Confederacy. It also gave President Lincoln the opportunity to compose and later issue the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, declaring all slaves free in the states still in rebellion.

DAY 4 Gettysburg: Days One and Two

The Battle of Gettysburg, lasting three days, July 1, 2, and 3, 1863, was the bloodiest battle and the turning point of the Civil War. More than 50,000 Americans of both sides were casualties. Gettysburg was General Lee’s final attempt to carry the war north. Although nearly two years of fierce fighting still lay ahead, after Gettysburg the prospects of a Union victory changed from if to when. 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.

DAY 5 Gettysburg: Pickett’s Charge, Lincoln’s Address, 
The Civilian Experience

Today we walk the field of Pickett’s Charge, perhaps the most famous attack in American 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.

Some four months after the battle, President Lincoln came to Gettysburg to deliver one of the greatest speeches in American history. We will visit Shriver House, a museum dedicated to the civilian experience during the struggle. Dinner will be at the Dobbin House, the oldest building in Gettysburg (1797) and a stopping point for escaped slaves on the Underground Railroad.

DAY 6 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; 
Spotsylvania Court House, May 1864. Richmond, the soul and Capital of the Confederacy, was the northern army’s main target. The direct route from Washington to Richmond passes through Fredericksburg. Clara Barton, later to found the American Red Cross, won fame and gratitude for her heroic nursing of the wounded of both sides. We visit Chatham Plantation, where the “holy angel” from Massachusetts worked at her makeshift “hospital.” Barton had already helped the wounded at Antietam and Second Manassas. Later, she would serve at the Wilderness and Spotsylvania and become supervisor of nurses for the Union Army of the James.

Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville were decisive Confederate victories. Wilderness and Spotsylvania were tremendous but tactically inconclusive battles in Grant’s 1864 Overland campaign. After visiting Fredericksburg, we’ll continue to Chancellorsville, where we analyze the battle, see where Stonewall Jackson received his mortal wounds and discuss the aftermath.

DAY 7 Petersburg: The Confederacy and the Antebellum South

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? The Museum of the Confederacy houses exhibits that depict a chronological history of the Confederacy and the Civil War, along with an exploration of the life of Robert E. Lee.

Next we 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. Tudor Hall Plantation features a working kitchen and slave quarters that present a multi-media exhibit on antebellum slavery and plantation life.

DAY 8 Appomattox

The final campaign began at Petersburg. the longest siege in American history, June 1864—April 1865. The siege was a precursor of the trench warfare of the First World War fifty years later. Only the considerable skill, courage and endurance of Lee’s army kept the Union forces out away from Richmond. But on April 2 the northern army broke through and cut off the Confederate supply lines from the South, forcing Lee to retreat to the west. Grant pursued relentlessly, and virtually surrounded Lee’s army and forced the surrender on April 9 at Appomattox Court House. The United States was reborn. After visiting Appomattox, we will return to our hotel for our farewell dinner.

DAY 9 Fly to Memphis

Morning transfer to airport (Richmond or Dulles) for your flight to Memphis.  This flight is not included in the tour price. Second welcome reception at downtown Memphis hotel.

DAY 10 Corinth

We will start with a brief visit to a site on the Mississippi River at Confederate Park in the city of Memphis. A naval battle fought here on June 6, 1862, resulted in a crushing defeat for the Confederates. Shiloh National Military Park is the next stop. One of the most beautifully preserved Civil War battlefields, it still echoes the two day bloody battle that finally ended with a Confederate withdrawal from the field. Following our extensive battlefield tour, we will overnight in Corinth, Mississippi.

DAY 11 Tupelo

In the spring of 1862, Grant's original objective was the vital rail link at Corinth, Mississippi. The railroads that crossed at Corinth connected the Confederacy from the Gulf of Mexico to Kentucky and from the Mississippi River to the Atlantic states.

We begin with a tour of historic Corinth where we can view the antebellum homes that quartered generals from both sides. We will continue to the Civil War Interpretive Center, Crossroads Museum and Corinth Contraband camp.

In the afternoon we will drive to Brice's Crossroads, the site of a clash between Confederate troops under General Nathan Bedford Forrest and Union Cavalry under General Samuel D. Sturgis. Though greatly outnumbered, Forrest craftily routed the Union forces.

DAY 12 Vicksburg

Drive to Vicksburg to study the battle for control of the Mississippi River the key to the Confederacy.

We will start the study of the battle of Vicksburg near the remote landing site in Bruinsburg. We will explore the very path that Union General U.S. Grant and his troops followed after the key amphibious river crossing in April 1862. Two hundred yards from the spot of Grant's landing, the group will stop to view Windsor Ruins, the magnificent remains of an old plantation home General Grant passed as he sought out Confederate forces. We then visit the battlefield at Port Gibson, a site ten miles from Grant's crossing and the initial engagement of the Vicksburg Campaign.

DAY 13 Vicksburg

Vicksburg National Military Park, the vast, hallowed ground where the maneuvering and struggle for control of the Mississippi could occupy a tour group for several days. Our tour dedicates a day to this landmark battle. We will explore the park and study the battle, as well as the evidence of the grueling siege at this Confederate stronghold. We will finish the day with a visit to the USS Cairo, the Union gunship sunk by a Confederate torpedo (mine) in the Yazoo River.

DAY 14 Natchez

In the morning, we visit the Old Courthouse Museum with its eclectic collection of artifacts from antebellum Vicksburg and the Civil War. We also stop at the riverfront to see the murals that depict local history and line the flood wall.  Afterwards, we proceed south to the city of Natchez, traveling some of the way on the Natchez Trace.  

The Trace was the primary wilderness road of what was then the Old Southwest and today it is a scenic parkway. It provides a glimpse into the past and was the connecting route north from Natchez to Nashville. We begin with a city-tour of Natchez.  Not damaged by the war, it is one of the most well preserved cities of the Old South. We will also visit Longwood Plantation, an excellent example of an antebellum era home. We spend the night in Natchez.

DAY 15 Arrive in New Orleans

We drive downriver to Port Hudson, Louisiana the Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi. In 1863 Port Hudson was site of a 48 day siege, the longest in American history. The bluffs at Port Hudson were the first high ground upstream from Baton Rouge. The Confederates constructed a line of earthworks and positioned river batteries to defend the river at this point. Port Hudson was just down river from the mouth of the Red River, the artery for supplies from Texas to the rest of the Confederacy. Both sides fought bitterly for this strategic jewel. We will continue south to the great city of New Orleans. We will view the grand neighborhoods of Uptown New Orleans, the Garden District and the home where President Jefferson Davis died.

Farewell Dinner


We will start our day with a short walking tour in the world famous French Quarter, one of the best-preserved neighborhoods in the country. Guests then have the afternoon to explore New Orleans as they please, which could include the Confederate Memorial Hall Museum and the National WWII Museum, located across the street from one another.


Tour ends with morning check out. If you are interested in extra nights post-tour in New Orleans, we are happy to pass along the hotel's group rate to you.


Tour Dates

  • October 9 - 25, 2020
  • October 8 - 24, 2021
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TRIP COST $5,190

Prices are per person based on double occupancy (a savings of $1,290 by taking the tours together). For a single room add $950. Deposit of $300 required.

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