Honoring Bravery at Historic Gettysburg

The Battle of Gettysburg was a major turning point in the Civil War, the Union victory that ended General Robert E. Lee’s second and most ambitious invasion of the North

America’s history is full of bravery and bloodshed, noble ideas, and flawed men. One of the places that seem to show this so clearly is Gettysburg National Battlefield.

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The Battle of Gettysburg marked the turning point of the Civil War. The North and South met for three days in the stifling July heat and fought each other in what became the bloodiest battle of the war. General Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia retreated and would never cross the Mason-Dixon line into the Union side again. 

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The battle was fought as tensions between the Union and the Confederacy had reached an all-time high. In January 1863, six months before the battle took place, President Lincoln had delivered his famous Emancipation Proclamation declaring all slaves to be free. The objective of the war which had been kindled by questions of states’ rights versus the governments’ rights now became about whether a man had a right to be free. 

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We slowly made our way through the historic battlefield, beginning with the Union side. Gettysburg in person feels completely different from learning about the battle in a textbook.

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The Reality of War

The Battle of Gettysburg, like many battles in the Civil War, took place on the farms of civilians. Many of the farmhouses are still standing today allowing visitors to imagine what it felt like to watch war happen right outside their windows. Many picture war as separate from real life. Gettysburg intentionally reminds visitors of the ways that they intersect. The battlefield feels like a picture of the human paradox: that we are capable of both tending to soil and procuring fruit from it, and fighting one another on that very same soil. 

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The largest and most prominent monument on the battlefield is the Pennsylvania State Memorial. Standing an impressive 110 feet high, the monument looms over the battlefield. Etched into the four sides of the monument are the 34,530 names of the Pennsylvanians who served their state and country fighting in this battle.

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The battlefield monuments are designed to educate visitors on where the Union and Confederate lines were and how the fighting took place. As we moved to the Confederate side of the battle, I was struck by the number of monuments, plaques, and markers that honored the men who fought with these states. The Gettysburg Battlefield National Park website has stated their commitment to preserve “these memorials while simultaneously educating visitors holistically about the actions, motivations, and causes of the soldiers and states they commemorate. A hallmark of American progress is our ability to learn from our history.” 

The park is dedicated to providing accurate information and historical context to their visitors to reflect what really happened on the battlefield.

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The Visitor Center

After visitors wander around the field the Gettysburg Visitor Center provides a welcome relief from summer heat. More than that though, its Museum of the American Civil War is packed with information, relics, and stories from the Civil War. 

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The Soldier’s National Cemetery (Gettysburg National Cemetery), the final resting place of the Union soldiers who died at Gettysburg and where President Abraham Lincoln gave his famous address, is also located in the park and is open from dawn to dusk throughout the year.

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I left Gettysburg feeling overwhelmed by the reality of war and would return again to the park to find the stories of bravery and courage in the midst of it. The battlefield is full of stories of people who in a season when their country was hanging on by a thread, summoned enough hope for what their more perfect Union could be to fight for its future. 

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Worth Pondering…

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war.

It is for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us, that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion, that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain―that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

―Abraham Lincoln, November 19, 1863

Appomattox Court House: Beginning Peace and Reunion

A national historical park reveals the consequences of a divided country and the importance of reconciliation

On April 9, 1865, in the small Virginia village of Appomattox Court House, Gen. Robert E. Lee, leader of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, surrendered his army to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. It was the beginning of the end of the “war between the states” which tore the country apart for more than four years. During the conflict, at least 620,000 Americans died, more than in all of the country’s wars before and since. Another million were wounded.

Appomattox Court House National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Appomattox Court House located east of Lynchburg was little more than a cluster of buildings that spread across the Virginia Piedmont region. Like some other county seats at that time it was named after its courthouse.

The National Park Service has put together an impressive facility that includes indoor displays as well as a re-created town full of original buildings. The town appears very similar to what it looked like in 1865. The property pays tribute to both sides in the final days of the conflict.

Appomattox Court House National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the center of the town is the rebuilt courthouse (the original burned down in 1892) which serves as the visitor’s center. A 15-minute film shown upstairs in the courthouse explains the final days of the war from both the Confederate and Union points of view.

War’s End in Sight

Historians remind us that Lee was not the only Confederate general leading troops and he did not represent the entire Confederacy when he surrendered. It wasn’t until May 5, 1865 that Confederate President Jefferson Davis dissolved his government. The official declaration that the war was won by the Union came more than a year later in August 1866.

Appomattox Court House National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But by late March 1865, Grant had put Lee’s army already plagued by desertion at a great disadvantage. Grant had cut off railroad lines that supplied food. The Battle of Five Forks which some call the Waterloo of the Confederacy was fought near Petersburg, Virginia, on April 1, 1865. Lee’s army was defeated and nearly a third of his men captured. After abandoning Petersburg, Lee’s men retreated to Amelia Court House where they hoped to meet a Confederate supply train. But no train arrived. By that point, the men had not eaten for 36 hours.

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The Battle of Sailor’s Creek on April 6 cost Lee another 7,700 men. Lee headed west to another supply train stop outside Appomattox Court House. But the train had been captured by Union forces led by Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan and Maj. Gen. George Custer.

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Yet another battle took place that evening near this site. Lee saw his supply lines cut off from the south, the James River to his north, and an army of starving men. He sent Grant a message requesting a meeting in the small village of Appomattox Court House.

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The Meeting

On the second floor of the courthouse, a copy of a famous painting by Tom Lovell depicts the meeting between the two generals that took place at the McLean House just a short walk down the gravel road. In the home’s parlor on April 9, 1865, Lee and Grant met to discuss and sign surrender terms for the Army of Northern Virginia.

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On that day, Lee arrived at the McLean home shortly after 1:00 p.m.; Grant followed 30 minutes later. Once they were in the parlor, Grant and Lee sat across from each other. Today, visitors can see authentic reproductions of the two small tables and chairs that sit about 10 feet apart.

Appomattox Court House National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It was decided that the terms of the surrender should be put in writing. Grant wrote out his terms in pencil and handed the paper to Lee for review. After reading the document, Lee made a few minor requests. Grant agreed to the changes. The final draft was put to ink and duplicates were made for each side. Once completed, each man signed the documents. Afterward, they shook hands and Lee left. The meeting lasted approximately an hour and a half.

Appomattox Court House National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A formal surrender ceremony, the stacking of the arms, took place on April 12. That gave the Union army time to print more than 28,000 parole passes that were distributed to the Confederate soldiers. Lee was concerned that his army would reject the surrender and engage in guerrilla warfare. As part of Grant’s terms, passes were printed to allow the men to return home, free from detention.

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On that day, the Confederate soldiers walked up the hill between two lines of Union soldiers to lay down their arms for the last time. The place where guns were stacked, in front of what was then the Peers house was called “Surrender Triangle.”

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The Park

On April 10, 1940, Appomattox Court House National Historical Monument was created by Park Service opened the McLean House to the public. The entire site which encompasses approximately 1,800 acres became a national historical park in 1954.

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An interesting fact is that homeowner Wilmer McLean became wealthy as a sugar smuggler during the war selling the commodity to the Confederates. All of his gain was in Confederate currency; when the war ended, McLean lost everything.

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Several other historic buildings on the expansive park grounds can be seen via a self-guided walking tour. Overall, more than two dozen structures have been restored and 31 others are awaiting restoration.

Inside the restored 1819 Clover Hill Tavern, you see a replica of the printing press used to create the parole passes for the Confederate soldiers. Built in 1819, it’s the oldest original structure in the museum.

Appomattox Court House National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Details

Appomattox Court House National Historical Park is 25 miles east of Lynchburg, Virginia. Parking and admission are free. RV parking is available (no overnight parking). The visitor’s center is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Worth Pondering…

The war is over — the rebels are our countrymen again.

―Ulysses S. Grant, after stopping his men from cheering Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse

Appomattox Court House National Historic Park: The War Is Over

The stories of Appomattox Court House go far beyond the final significant battles of the Civil War

The Appomattox Court House National Historical Park commemorates the heroic acts which took place in April of 1865 in this, the original village, to bring about the end of the Civil War. Walk the old country lanes where Robert E. Lee, Commanding General of the Army of Northern Virginia, surrendered his men to Ulysses Grant, General-in-Chief of all United States forces, on April 9, 1865. Imagine the events that signaled the end of the Southern States’ attempt to create a separate nation.

Appomattox Court House National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Appomattox Court House National Historical Park encompasses approximately 1,800 acres of rolling hills in rural central Virginia. The site includes the McLean home—where Lee made his formal surrender—and the village of Appomattox Court House, the former county seat for Appomattox County.

Appomattox Court House National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Thanks to the fact that it was all but deserted after the Civil War, it looks a lot like it must have when Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant.

Appomattox Court House National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The walking tour allows you to see all buildings which are original to the site, and have been restored to their original condition. The highlight of the Park is the McLean house where Generals Lee and Grant crafted and signed the terms of surrender, bringing an end to the bloodiest chapter of U.S. history.

Appomattox Court House National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many people think that the meeting between the two generals took place in the courthouse, which is now the park’s Visitor Center, but the historic rendezvous really happened in the parlor of the McLean house nearby. The reason for the confusion is that the town’s name was Appomattox Court House. If you spell courthouse as two words, it means the town. Many county seats in this area had Court House as part of their names, and some still do, like Amelia Court House. But if you spell courthouse as one word, then you’re talking about the building.

Appomattox Court House National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Approximately 9,000 men under Gordon and Fitzhugh Lee deployed in the fields west of the village before dawn and waited. The attack, launched before 8:00 a.m. and led by General Bryan Grimes of North Carolina, was initially successful. 

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The outnumbered Union cavalry fell back, temporarily opening the road. But it was not to be.  Union infantry began arriving from the west and south, completing Lee’s encirclement.  Meanwhile, Longstreet’s troops were being pressed from the rear near New Hope Church, three miles to the east. General Ulysses S. Grant’s goal of cutting off and destroying Lee’s army was close at hand.

Appomattox Court House National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bowing to the inevitable, Lee ordered his troops to retreat through the village and back across the Appomattox River. Small pockets of resistance continued until flags of truce were sent out from the Confederate lines between 10:00 and 11:00 a.m. Rather than destroy his army and sacrifice the lives of his soldiers to no purpose, Lee decided to surrender the Army of Northern Virginia.

Appomattox Court House National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Although not the end of the war, the surrender of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia set the stage for its conclusion. Through the lenient terms, Confederate troops were paroled and allowed to return to their homes while Union soldiers were ordered to refrain from overt celebration or taunting. 

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These measures served as a blueprint for the surrender of the remaining Confederate forces throughout the South. Although a formal peace treaty was never signed by the combatants, the submission of the Confederate armies ended the war and began the long and difficult road toward reunification.

Appomattox Court House National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visiting Appomattox Court House National Historical Park is largely a self-guiding experience. For this reason it is recommended that you begin your tour at the visitor center and get a map of the park. The visitor center is in the reconstructed courthouse building. 

Appomattox Court House National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Although the park consists of nearly 1700 acres, most visitors focus on the old village. Using your cell phone you can learn more about nine specific sites around the park. There are four cell phone sites in the old village and five sites beyond the village core. These sites can teach about the military activities that occurred here in 1865 and about the people and county that played host to these events.

Visitors will not be charged an admission fee to visit the park.

Appomattox Court House National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

The war is over — the rebels are our countrymen again.

―Ulysses S. Grant, after stopping his men from cheering Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse

Death Knell of the Confederacy: Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park commemorates the site of two seminal 1863 American Civil War battles, the Chattanooga Campaign and the Battle of Chickamauga

When the Civil War raged throughout the Union and Confederate lands from 1861 to 1865, it ranged to Tennessee, from the fields of Shiloh to the town of 5,545 citizens at the time of the Great Rebellion along the bend of the Tennessee River, Chattanooga, and into the state just south, at Chickamauga.

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Now interpreted at the national battlefield park that bears both names, the battles of Chickamauga and Chattanooga, it almost seems fitting to twin these two names, the second of which stems from the first battle of Chattanooga when the branch of the Cherokee Indians, known as the Chickamaugua were moved west in the Trail of Tears from the area only two decades before.

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The oldest and largest of America’s Civil War military parks, Chickamauga and Chattanooga encompasses land in north Georgia and south Tennessee. 

In the fall of 1863, with the outcome of the Civil War still in doubt, more than 150,000 Union and Confederate soldiers fought in a series of battles on the fields of this park. These battles were remembered as some of the hardest fighting of the war.

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Union campaign began in June and didn’t end until late November. When the battles were done, the Union had seized Chattanooga, and with it a gateway into the deep South. Chattanooga was a major railway center, and the following spring Sherman used it as his launching-pad to begin his march to Atlanta and the sea.

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

During the Civil War, Chattanooga was considered to be an attractive area for its railroads and location, earning the title of the “Gateway of the Deep South.” In 1843, battles broke out in various areas in Chickamauga and Chattanooga with both the Union and Confederate troops experiencing victories and losses.

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The park is headquartered at Chickamauga, Georgia, about 9 miles south of downtown Chattanooga. We were impressed by the preservation of the national park and appreciated the amount of information available to visitors, both laid throughout the park and within the visitors center, home to several museum exhibits about the Civil War and campaign for Chickamauga. Also, inside the visitor center is an Eastern National Park bookstore, and the Fuller Gun Collection, an impressive collection of military muskets and rifles from the colonial era through the early 20th century.

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Throughout the seven-mile auto tour we saw monuments and memorials honoring those who fought there. We also noticed tablets, blue for Union and red for Confederate, that describe the soldier’s actions; they date from around 1890 when the U.S. Congress authorized Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, the first such park in the United States.

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You’ll walk where Confederate and Union soldiers fought in the bloodiest two-day battle of the war on September 19-20, 1863.

In September 1863 the Union Army of the Cumberland was routed and the Battle of Chickamauga was over. In its wake were a broken Union army and 35,000 men killed, wounded, missing, and captured.

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The victorious Confederates controlled the field, and soon followed the Union Army to Chattanooga. Over the next two months Confederate forces besieged the trapped Union army. In November 1863 the Union Army, reinforced by Generals Ulysses S. Grant, William Sherman, and Joseph Hooker, defeated the Confederates at Orchard Knob, Lookout Mountain, and Missionary Ridge.

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The Union army may have lost the Battle of Chickamauga, but they won control of Chattanooga and drove the Confederates south into Georgia opening the war for union operations into the Deep South. As one Confederate soldier ominously wrote after the Battles of Chickamauga and Chattanooga, “This is the death-knell of the Confederacy.”

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This Park was the first Military Park of its kind. In 1888, former members of the Cumberland Army General H. V. Boynton and Ferdinand Van Derveer revisited the area, and were impressed to protect and commemorate the memory of the area. Two years later, this Park was established, and became the largest of the first four military parks, the others being Shiloh, Gettysburg, and Vicksburg.

The Chickamauga section of the park is free.

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Where to Stay: Holiday Travel Park of Chattanooga, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Worth Pondering…

Traveling is almost like talking with men of other centuries.

Top 12 Veterans Day Destinations

In honor of Veterans Day, celebrated annually on November 11, we’ve found some great destinations that are steeped in military history

Veterans Day, first celebrated in 1919 under the proclamation of Woodrow Wilson, Veterans Day was originally called Armistice Day and was in honor of the end of hostilities at the end of World War I (which formally ended in the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918). The holiday changed to its modern form in 1954.

USS Alabama in Mobile, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some of the best places to visit for a sense of what a veteran has experienced are museum ships. You can visit the Midway in San Diego, California; the Lexington in Corpus Christi, Texas; the Yorktown in Charleston, South Carolina; the Hornet in Alameda, California; the Intrepid in New York, New York; USS Alabama in Mobile, Alabama; and USS Constitution (Old Ironside) in Boston, Massachusetts.

USS Constitution (Old Ironside) in Boston, Massachusetts © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On January 17, 1781, the Americans won a decisive battle against the better-trained British Army. The Battle of Cowpens (South Carolina) was over in less than an hour. This battle was the event which started British General Cornwallis on his march north to his eventual surrender at Yorktown just nine months later.

The Battle of Cowpens © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It was one of those special moments in time when destiny is forever changed. The march to Yorktown had begun.

Cowpens National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The first significant American military victory during the Revolution, the Battles of Saratoga ranks among the fifteen most decisive battles in world history. Here in the autumn of 1777 American forces met, defeated, and forced a major British army to surrender. This crucial American victory in the Battle of Saratoga renewed patriots’ hopes for independence, secured essential foreign recognition and support, and forever changed the face of the world.

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The Battles of Saratoga (September 19 and October 7, 1777) marked the climax of the Saratoga campaign giving the Americans a decisive victory over the British forces. British General John Burgoyne led a large invasion army up the Champlain Valley from Canada, hoping to meet a similar force marching northward from New York City; the southern force never arrived, and Burgoyne was surrounded by American forces in upstate New York.

Gettysburg National Military Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Gettysburg National Military Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Though all the survivors from the Civil War are now gone, it’s still a great way to honor veterans and learn some history at the same time. Gettysburg, in Pennsylvania, is perhaps the epitome of Civil War battlefields. It was the largest, bloodiest battle of the Civil War with 50,000 casualties. Though the conflict took place more than 150 years ago, it’s still a powerful reminder of the sacrifice and strife that took place and that almost tore apart the nation.

Gettysburg National Military Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fought over the first three days of July 1863, the Battles of Gettysburg was one of the most crucial battles of the Civil War. The fate of the nation literally hung in the balance that summer of 1863 when General Robert E. Lee, commanding the “Army of Northern Virginia”, led his army north into Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Appomattox Court House National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Union victory at the Battle of Gettysburg resulted not only in Lee’s retreat to Virginia, but an end to the hopes of the Confederate States of America for independence.

Appomattox Court House National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Appomattox Court House National Historic Park commemorates the heroic acts which took place in April of 1865 in this, the original village, to bring about the end of the Civil War.

Appomattox Court House National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Walk the old country lanes where Robert E. Lee, Commanding General of the Army of Northern Virginia, surrendered his men to Ulysses Grant, General-in-Chief of all United States forces, on April 9, 1865. Imagine the events that signaled the end of the Southern States’ attempt to create a separate nation.

Appomattox Court House National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The nation’s capital is teeming with monuments dedicated to the brave men and women who fought in wars both present and past. Some honor those who fell and some honor those who fought. Regardless, there are plenty of stunning monuments to see and places to visit. If you can, it’s a wonderful place to spend Veterans Day.

Thank you veterans!

Worth Pondering…

While only one day of the year is dedicated solely to honoring our veterans, Americans must never forget the sacrifices that many of our fellow countrymen have made to defend our country and protect our freedoms.

—Randy Neugebaue

Memorial Day: Honoring Those Who Served Their Country

Memorial Day is a time to revisit the stories of those who gave their life for freedom and remember the significance of their actions

Each May, America commemorates those who have died while serving in the armed forces by organizing parades, picnics, and visits to cemeteries and national memorials across the country.

This Memorial Day, honor those brave men and women by exploring the country’s national parks, many of which are home to preserved historic sites, monuments, and memorials dedicated to celebrating military history.

Gettysburg National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

In an earlier post we commemorated the sacrifices made for a revolutionary idea by exploring some of the significant landmarks that witnessed the beginning of the new nation.

In today’s post we’ll dig a little deeper into American history and find a wealth of other national parks and programs throughout the U. S. that are equally exciting. This Memorial Day, take a moment to learn more about the incredible men and women who have fought for and supported America throughout its history.

Gettysburg National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

From the soldiers that fought in the Civil War to the men and women who sacrificed their lives during the Cold War, Memorial Day is a time to revisit the stories of those who gave their life for freedom and remember the significance of their actions. 

The American Civil War

Gettysburg National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

From 1861 to 1865, the American union was broken in a Civil War that remains a defining moment in America’s history. Its causes and consequences, including the continuing struggle for civil rights for all Americans, reverberate to this day. From the war’s outbreak at Fort Sumter, to the largest battle fought at Gettysburg, to the closing chapter at Appomattox Court House, more than 40 Civil War battlefields are preserved by the National Park Service.

Gettysburg National Military Park, Pennsylvania

Gettysburg National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The bloodiest battle of the civil war, which served as inspiration for Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, was fought on the beautiful grassy knolls of this Pennsylvania battlefield.

Start at the National Park Service Museum and walk the trails on foot or experience them on horseback. Complete your visit with a stop at Soldiers National Cemetery, the resting place for many Union soldiers as well as those who perished in all American wars since 1865.

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, Georgia and Tennessee

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

In 1863, Union and Confederate forces fought for control of Chattanooga, known as the “Gateway to the Deep South.” The Confederates were victorious at nearby Chickamauga in September. However, renewed fighting in Chattanooga that November provided Union troops victory and control of the city.

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Appomattox Court House National Historic Park, Virginia

Appomattox Court House National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Walk the old country lanes where Robert E. Lee, Commanding General of the Army of Northern Virginia, surrendered his men to Ulysses Grant, General-in-Chief of all United States forces, on April 9, 1865. Imagine the events that signaled the end of the Southern States’ attempt to create a separate nation.

Appomattox Court House National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The American Indian Wars

During the late 19th century, as the United States sought to expand its territory further west, a policy of removing the American Indians from tribal lands was adopted. The resulting distrust and broken promises ultimately led to violence, and more than 1,500 armed conflicts were fought during the Indian wars. Today, the National Park Service preserves several of the battlefield sites of the Indian War and interprets its effect on native peoples and their cultures.

Fort Davis National Historic Site, Texas

Fort Davis National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Set in the rugged beauty of the Davis Mountains of West Texas, Fort Davis is the best surviving example of an Indian Wars frontier military post and one of the best preserved Buffalo Soldier forts in the Southwest. Fort Davis is important in understanding the presence of African Americans in the West and in the frontier military.

Fort Davis National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The Cold War

The nearly 50-year period of political and military tension between the Western world and communist countries known as the Cold War led to the development and proliferation of nuclear weapons by both sides. Minuteman Missile National Historic Site tells the story of these weapons that not only held the power to destroy civilization, but also served as a nuclear deterrent which maintained peace and prevented war.

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, South Dakota

Minuteman Missile National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve


During the Cold War, a vast arsenal of nuclear missiles were placed in the Great Plains. Hidden in plain sight, for thirty years 1,000 missiles were kept on constant alert; hundreds remain today. The Minuteman Missile remains an iconic weapon in the American nuclear arsenal. It holds the power to destroy civilization, but is meant as a deterrent to maintain peace and prevent war.

This Memorial Day weekend take time to thank those who have served and protected America.

Worth Pondering…

Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.

—John F. Kennedy