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Twenty Must-See Battlefields

Buddy Secor

While all hallowed grounds are important for their role in history, the Trust has pulled together twenty of what we believe are our country’s “must-see” battlefields.

We hope you’ll be able to visit a battlefield or two (or all twenty!) this summer and reflect on what happened there and why it matters. For each of the battlefields we've included in this list, we've also provided additional resources: information about the battlefield and what happened there, itineraries to help you hit the most important sights, mobile apps to help enhance your battlefield experience, and even some virtual tours if you can’t make it to the battlefield.

Now, which battlefields have you seen? And which ones are on your list to visit this summer?

Antietam, Maryland

Matt Brant

September 17, 1862

The Battle of Antietam, considered a Union victory, remains the bloodiest one-day battle in American military history, leaving a total of 22,720 soldiers dead, wounded, or missing.

Explore Antietam

Chalmette, Louisiana

Buddy Secor

January 8, 1815

The U.S. achieves its greatest victory of the War of 1812 in the Battle of New Orleans, fought at Chalmette Plantation, thwarting a British effort to gain control of a key American port and elevating Major General Andrew Jackson to national fame.

Explore Chalmette & New Orleans

New Orleans

The United States achieved its greatest land victory of the War of 1812 at New Orleans. The battle thwarted a British effort to gain control of a...

Chancellorsville, Virginia

Theresa Rasmussen

April 30-May 6, 1863

In the Battle of Chancellorsville, Robert E. Lee makes the daring decision to face a force twice his size by splitting his own army into thirds, and wins a major victory for the Confederacy.

Explore Chancellorsville

Charleston, South Carolina

Mark Thornberry

Fort Moultrie & Fort Sumter

On June 28, 1776, Continental soldiers fighting from a rudimentary fort (later named Fort Moultrie) on Sullivan’s Island withstood an attack by nine Royal Navy warships, saving Charleston from British occupation. Nearly 85 years later, on April 12, 1861, Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter, beginning the Civil War. 

Explore Charleston

Civil War  |  Fort

Fort Moultrie

Sullivan's Island, South Carolina | Fort Moultrie's history covers more that 220 years of seacoast defense, from the first decisive victory in the...

Fort Sumter

Early in the morning of April 12, 1861, Confederate guns around Charleston Harbor opened fire on Fort Sumter. The American Civil War was officially...

Chickamauga, Georgia

Randall Pennington

September 18-20, 1863

The South’s Army of Tennessee defeats a Union force in the Battle of Chickamauga after the Rebels had been pushed out of Chattanooga earlier that month. It was the second bloodiest battle of the Civil War, ranking only behind Gettysburg.

Explore Chickamauga

Cowpens, South Carolina

Brian Keeley Photography

January 17, 1781

American troops rout British forces in what is now Spartanburg County. The battle marks a turning point for the Americans in the Revolutionary War’s Southern Campaign.  

Explore Cowpens

Rev War  |  Battle

Cowpens

A stunning example of military prowess and skilled leadership, the Battle of Cowpens near Chesnee, South Carolina, was a critical American victory in...

Fort McHenry, Maryland

Jim Powers

September 12-14, 1814

U.S. soldiers at Baltimore’s Fort McHenry valiantly withstand 25 hours of British bombardment during the Battle of Baltimore, inspiring Francis Scott Key to pen “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Explore Fort McHenry

Fort McHenry

The failed bombardment of Fort McHenry forced the British to abandon their land assault on the crucial port city of Baltimore. This British defeat was...

Fredericksburg, Virginia

December 11-15, 1862

General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia repulses a series of attacks by the Union’s Army of the Potomac in what turns out to be one of the most decisive losses for the Union in the war.

Explore Fredericksburg

Gaines' Mill & Cold Harbor

Rob Shenk

June 1862 & June 1864

Two major Civil War battles — Gaines’ Mill and Cold Harbor — take place on the same land outside Richmond. All told, the fighting involves some 261,230 Union and Confederate soldiers with casualty count totals nearing 33,000 killed, wounded, or missing.

Explore Gaines' Mill & Cold Harbor

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Jeff Palmer

July 1-3, 1863

At the Battle of Gettysburg, Union forces turn back a Confederate invasion into the North, marking a turning point in the Civil War, though at a cost of more than 51,000 total casualties.

Explore Gettysburg

Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia

Noel Kline

September 12-15, 1862

Confederate General “Stonewall” Jackson successfully attacks the vital Union garrison at Harper’s Ferry. In the largest Union surrender of the Civil War, Jackson captures 73 artillery pieces, 13,000 rifles, and more than 12,000 men.

Explore Harpers Ferry

Kennesaw Mountain, Georgia

Brian Keeley Photography

June 27, 1864

Union Major General William T. Sherman launches his biggest frontal assault against the Confederate Army of Tennessee. Though a tactical defeat for Union forces, the battle fails to stop Sherman’s advance on Atlanta.

Explore Kennesaw Mountain

Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts

Youvathana Sok

April 19, 1775

The Revolutionary War begins with the “shot heard round the world” at the Battles of Lexington and Concord when colonial militiamen engage a Redcoat column on the Lexington town green.  

Explore Lexington and Concord

Manassas, Virginia

July 1861 & August 1862

The Federal supply base of Manassas is the site of the First Battle of Bull Run, the first major land battle of the Civil War, and the Second Battle of Bull Run, which led to Lee’s first invasion of the North.

Explore Manassas

Perryville, Kentucky

Daniel Kirchner

October 8, 1862

At the Battle of Perryville, the largest battle fought in Kentucky, the Union victory helps ensure the state remains in Northern hands throughout the rest of the war.

Explore Perryville

Saratoga, New York

Doug Menuez

September-October 1777

The Continental Army’s victory at the Battle of Saratoga, two crucial engagements waged 14 days apart, proves a turning point in the Revolution, convincing the French, Spanish, and Dutch to join the Patriots’ cause.

Explore Saratoga

Saratoga Battlefield

One of the most decisive American victories in the entire Revolutionary War, the Battle of Saratoga ended British General John Burgoyne's attempt to...

Shiloh, Tennessee

Mike Talplacido

April 6-7, 1862

The Battle of Shiloh begins with a surprise attack by Confederate forces and ends as the bloodiest conflict of the Civil War up to that point. The 23,000-plus total casualties shocked North and South alike. 

Explore Shiloh

Shiloh Battlefield

Shiloh is one of the best preserved Civil War battlefields anywhere. Within the nearly 4,000-acre Shiloh National Military Park you can visit historic...

Trenton & Princeton, New Jersey

Eric Malave

December 1776 & January 1777

General George Washington’s army wins three key battles over 10 days — the Battle of Trenton on December 26, the Battle of the Assunpink Creek (Second Trenton) on January 2, 1777, and the battle of Princeton on January 3, 1777 — reasserting control over much of New Jersey.

Explore Trenton & Princeton

Rev War  |  Battle

Trenton

After crossing the Delaware River in a treacherous storm, General George Washington’s army defeated a garrison of Hessian mercenaries at Trenton. The...

Vicksburg, Mississippi

Mike Talplacido

May 18-July 4, 1863

The Union army’s successful siege of the Confederate stronghold of Vicksburg, a critical supply line, gives control of the Mississippi River to the Union.

Explore Vicksburg

Vicksburg Battle App

Download FREE | The Vicksburg Battle App® is the perfect Civil War touring partner for your exploration of one of the more remarkable campaigns of the

Yorktown, Virginia

Andy Backowski

September 28-October 19, 1781

In the Siege of Yorktown, a joint land and sea campaign, General George Washington entraps English troops, forcing British General Cornwallis to surrender and effectively ending the War of Independence.

Explore Yorktown

Yorktown Battlefield

Much of the 1862 Yorktown battlefield encompasses the 1781 battlefield of the American Revolution. Today, well preserved Union and Confederate...