Best Civil War Sites
The National Trust for Historic Preservation
You won’t find battlefields (unless Congress is in session), but Washington’s vital role in the Civil War—from the initial rupture of the Union to President Lincoln’s assassination just five days after the surrender at Appomattox—still looms large. First stop: the Lincoln Memorial, engraved with the texts of the Gettysburg Address and the 16th president’s second inaugural speech. More than a mausoleum for Lincoln’s ideals, the memorial continues to serve as a site for civil rights rallies. Ford’s Theatre and Petersen House, sites of Lincoln’s assassination and death, retain a more funereal hush. A less-visited but emotionally charged monument honors the United States Colored Troops and stands across the street from the African American Civil War Museum, which chronicles the war from the perspective of the African American soldiers, spies, nurses, and families.
Don’t Miss: Lincoln’s Cottage at Soldiers’ Home, where Lincoln and his family retreated each June through November. Though he commuted in to the Oval Office daily—past encamped Union troops, field hospitals, and cemeteries—Lincoln felt most at home here, four miles from the White House.