Civil War Turns 150 – Hit the Road

by  Paul Eisenberg | Feb 15, 2011
Charleston / Sean Pavone/iStock

Almost as fast as you can say sesquicentennial, April 12 will be here. The date will mark 150 years since Confederate soldiers fired on Union ones at Fort Sumpter in Charleston, South Carolina, effectively beginning the Civil War. And even if you don’t have Civil War buffs in your midst, there is something about this anniversary and the pageantry surrounding it that could translate to a nice learning vacation this spring.

Many celebrations will be planned around battlefields, and “they're all over the east,” observes Lonely Planet U.S. travel editor Robert Reid, and “battlefields from Charleston to Bull's Run are planning particularly ambitious events.”

Charleston is going all out with events that include Civil War-themed museum and concert programming but you’ll also find other potential family fun with the 24th Annual World Grits Festival on April 8-10. And if your family’s like mine they’ll relish the chance to browse Charleston’s Annual Yard Sale on April 16, including more than 50 vendors selling used stuff.

Reid also notes that “the National Park system is getting involved too, creating its own microsite ( to help lead travelers to events over the next four years.” Along those lines, you might want to plan a driving vacation that includes points along the Tennessee Civil War trail, which falls within the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage area. A useful resource map is here.

If you were maybe heading to Washington, D.C. this spring to take in the cherry blossoms and free museums – or if you were going any time before the end of the year – the nation’s capital has launched a Civil War to Civil Rights commemoration that coincides with several notable openings, including the African American Civil War Memorial and Museum and the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, both slated to open this year, and perhaps the most eagerly-awaited event in the district, the opening of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial on August 28.

DC has a good online resource for their Civil War to Civil Rights programming ( that includes itinerary ideas, and if you’re really pressed there’s a single day one that includes a suggested stop at the Willard InterContinental. Lincoln actually slept here before his inauguration and Dr. King wrote his “I Have a Dream” speech at the hotel.

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