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8 Civil War Anniversaries and Why They're Important

There is perhaps no chapter in our nation’s history that bears the same weight as our Civil War. It was during that time that the fate of our country forever changed.

The battles that define that story mark our calendar with important moments that we should take the time to commemorate. That’s exactly what we’ll do in this post.

Today, we are highlighting upcoming Civil War anniversaries, providing background information on why they are worth remembering. We’ll also give you lists of places to see if you are interested in visiting any of these battlefields for the anniversary or any other time of year.

The 160th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1)

Little Round Top at Gettysburg, PA
Little Round Top at Gettysburg, PA

The Battle of Gettysburg proved a devastating loss for Confederate forces. And according to many historians, the ripple effects of this single defeat helped turn the tide of the war.

The sheer human cost of the battle and the massive implications of its outcome have made it the most talked about event in the entire American Civil War.

To celebrate this anniversary, there will be informational presentations, tours, and guided hikes.

  1. Gettysburg National Military Park: This is the battlefield where it all happened. Gain a richer understanding of the battle by seeing this land and looking at its monuments.

  2. Gettysburg National Cemetary: Visiting here allows you to pay your respects to the fallen, just as President Lincoln did at his historic Gettysburg Address.

  3. Seminary Ridge Museum: See one of the biggest battlefields of the battle, learn about the history of the Civil War, and discover information about the battlefield itself.

The 161st Anniversary of the Battle of Antietam (September 17)

The Battle of Antietam stands out as the deadliest single day in the entire war. The combined dead numbered over 22,000 souls.

But the fighting was not in vain. In fact, it was in light of this victory that the Emancipation Proclamation was established, giving hope to countless people that their slavery would end.

The anniversary celebrations include demonstrations, hikes, educational talks, and caravan tours.

  1. Antietam National Battlefield: This spot in Washington Country, Maryland is where it all happened.

  2. Dunker Church: This humble church played the backdrop to some of the fiercest fighting in the battle, and it was here that a truce was arranged between the Union and Confederate forces.

  3. Burnside Bridge: It was here that the Confederates held off the Union soldiers under Ambrose Burnside’s leadership. Three hours of fighting ensued. Today, it is the perfect place to reflect.

The 161th Anniversary of the Battle of Shiloh (April 6)

The Battle of Shiloh opened up a path for Union troops to move down into the deep South.

Though just past, the anniversary was celebrated with several events. These ranged from learning about the invention of the Howitzer cannon to field demonstrations.

  1. Shiloh National Military Park: Tour the battlefield, monuments, and the National Cemetery to honor the fallen.

  2. Shiloh Indian Mounds: Explore the prehistoric Native American site that thrived 800 years ago.

  3. Shiloh Museum and Visitor Center: Immerse yourself in the history of the battle and view artifacts and exhibits.

The 162nd Anniversary of the Battle of Bull Run (July 21)

US Capital Building
US Capital Building

This stands at the first land battle of the American Civil War. It was so close to Washintgon, DC that senators watched the battle.

Also called the Battle of First Manassas by Confederate troops, the 162 anniversary will include reenactments.

  1. Manassas National Battlefield Park: Explore the well-preserved battlefield and learn about the significance of the first major battle of the Civil War.

  2. Stone House: This historic structure, used as a field hospital during the battle, now serves as an interpretive center.

  3. Henry Hill Visitor Center: View exhibits and artifacts, attend ranger-led programs, and watch the orientation film to enhance your understanding of the battle.

The 161st Anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg (December 11)

The Battle of Fredericksburg holds the distinction of having the most combatants on the ground at once, with over 200,000 soldiers fighting.

Like last year, there will likely be educational programs discussing the larger context of the battle, acts of self-emancipation, and the politics of the era.

  1. Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park: Discover the four major battlefields in this one vicinity, including Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Wilderness, and Spotsylvania Court House.

  2. Marye's Heights: Visit the site of the Confederates' impregnable defensive position and take in the view from the heights.

  3. Sunken Road: Walk along this historic road, which played a crucial role in the Confederate defense during the battle.

The 160th Anniversary of the Battle of Chancellorsville (April 30)

The 160th Anniversary of the Battle of Chancellorsville (April 30) - General "Stonewall" Jackson
General "Stonewall" Jackson

It is here that General “Stonewall” Jackson met his demise, but it is also here that General Robert E. Lee secured his reputation as a brilliant military mastermind.

We just missed this anniversary extravaganza, which took place in early May and included free, all-ages programming that took visitors on an educational tour through the battlefield.

  1. Chancellorsville Battlefield Visitor Center: Learn about the battle's history, view artifacts, and attend ranger-led programs.

  2. Jackson's Flank Attack Site: Visit the location where “Stonewall” Jackson executed his famous flank attack against Union forces.

  3. Wilderness Battlefield Exhibit Shelter: Explore the area where the Battle of Chancellorsville and the Battle of the Wilderness overlapped.

The 160th Anniversary of the Battle of Chickamauga (September 18)

Chickamauga was a major battle in Georgia, one that saw a major defeat for the Union. It also included a staggering amount of casualties, second in the war only to Gettysburg.

Reenactments are planned to celebrate the anniversary of this gruesome battle, but details are not entirely clear yet.

  1. Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park: Explore the battlefield, monuments, and Visitor Center to learn about this significant battle.

  2. Wilder Tower: Climb the 85-foot tall observation tower for a panoramic view of the battlefield.

  3. Brotherton Cabin: Visit the restored cabin, which served as the backdrop for fierce fighting during the battle.

The 159th Anniversary of the Battle of Spotsylvania (May 8)

Though it was not definitive, the Battle of Spotsylvania saw General Ulysses S. Grant in pursuit of Robert E. Lee, making this a dramatic late chapter in the story of the war.

The nearby battlefields held commerations for Spotsylvania last November, leaving little on the schedule this year. But visitors can still come pay their respects.

  1. Spotsylvania Courthouse Battlefield: Explore the historic battlefield, walking trails, and interpretive exhibits that detail the fierce fighting that took place here.

  2. Bloody Angle: Stand at the site of one of the most intense and prolonged combats in American history, where soldiers clashed for over 20 hours.

  3. Confederate Earthworks: Walk along the well-preserved trenches and earthworks that played a crucial role in the Confederate defense.

Final Thoughts

These upcoming Civil War anniversaries offer a unique opportunity to remember and honor the bravery and sacrifices made by the soldiers who fought in pivotal battles.

When we visit these historic sites and attend commemorative events, we can appreciate a more profound understanding of the tragedy and triumph that made the United States the country it is today.

That’s why it is so crucial to visit these sites, immerse yourself in the history, and take part in the events that pay tribute to those who fought in the American Civil War.

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