6 Great Destinations to Visit on Veterans Day

Honor the men and women of the armed forces at these special sites

From Boston, Massachusetts and Saratoga, New York to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to Mobile, Alabama, our list of great destinations to visit on Veterans Day offer new perspectives on being a veteran and the opportunity to honor those, current and past, who have served in the US military.

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.

Boston Freedom Trail

Boston Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As the “Cradle of the Revolution”, Boston is full of history like no other city in America. A trip to Boston is necessarily a trip into American history. Boston was the center of the revolutionary movement in the 1770s, and the monuments to those glorious times still stand.

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

Freedom Trail, the red-brick line through the city takes us on a tour of 16 sites in Boston’s history for two and a half miles, including Boston Common, the State House, Granary Burying Ground, Old South Meeting House, the Old Statehouse, the Boston Massacre Site, Paul Revere’s House, the Old North Church, Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, the USS Constitution (Old Ironside). and Bunker Hill Monument.

Saratoga National Historical Park

Saratoga National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The first significant American military victory during the Revolution, the Battles of Saratoga (September 19 and October 7, 1777) 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.

Gettysburg Battlefield

Gettysburg National Military Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The last war to be fought on American soil was the Civil War, and one of its most renowned battles was that of Gettysburg, where around 50,000 casualties were suffered. Now visitors can step back in time and stroll through the battlefields, see where Lincoln delivered his famous “Gettysburg Address” at the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, tour the museum and even horseback ride along the trails. For a war that was so long ago, Gettysburg is the place where it becomes real and the sacrifices soldiers made become tangible.

Appomattox Court House National Historic Park

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

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.

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.

USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park

USS Alabama National Memorial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stretching longer than two football fields, this World War II battleship today welcomes visitors to explore its deck, guns, machinery and bunks. Home to 2,500 sailors, it won numerous battle commendations, and led the American Fleet into Tokyo Bay as the war ended. The park also has the World War II USS Drum submarine.

Alamo

The Alamo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Remember the Alamo? Once you’ve been there, it’s impossible to forget.

The Alamo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The story is well known, passed down from one generation to the next. For nearly two weeks, 189 Texans stood tall against the assembled army of Mexican General Lopez de Santa Anna at a small mission and fortress compound in San Antonio. On the 13th day—March 6, 1836—the Alamo finally fell, and its defenders became American legends.

The Alamo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The aftermath has inspired Americans for almost 180 years, and the battle cry “Remember the Alamo?” has been repeated over and over again.

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

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.

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

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.

Battle of Sarasota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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