Twenty Must-See Battlefields
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?
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.