By Jean Strauber, Travel Editor
In my “Group Tour” magazine there are several suggested itineraries for visiting Civil War sites. Here are two of them:
Through 2015, the war-torn south-central Pennsylvania region is planning re-enactments, living history programs, tributes and parades to mark the 150th anniversary of the War Between the States.
These events began in April with the Skirmish on the Square in Greencastle, where more than 70,000 troops led by General Robert E. Lee entered Pennsylvania. On the Gettysburg battlefield one will find more than 1,450 monuments, markers, and plaques erected on the 10,000-acre battlefield. Bradley Hoch, chairman of the 150th Anniversary Steering Committee, states “Gettysburg is a town where men sacrificed and died so that our nation might continue,” he said. “The result is hallowed ground in my mind and in many people’s minds.”
The American Civil War Museum Complex’s wax museum shows dioramas retelling some of the era’s most impacting stories. You’ll find abolitionist John Brown walking to the gallows rope-bound, slaves journey toward freedom via the Underground Railroad, and more. There are more than 35 scenes and 300 life-size wax figures in all.
At the Gettysburg National Military Park the visitor can walk the battlefield or even attend evening campfire programs. A 139,000 square-foot museum and visitors center invites the Gettysburg guest to stroll through 11 exhibit galleries with period clothing, uniforms, vintage objects and artifacts. Equestrians may opt for a one or two-hour trail ride to learn the history. There is also a guided bus battlefield tour on a restored 1930s classic Yellowstone bus. The more adventuresome can go with a tour on a Segway Personal Transporters.
Also, one will find the General Robert E. Lee’s Headquarters Museum. The house, built in 1834, was situated at the center and rear of Lee’s battle lines. He shared the space with Mary Thompson, a widow, who reportedly found him gentlemanly, but did not feel the same about his guests.
For more information about the Gettysburg 150th Anniversary, contact the Gettysburg Convention and Visitors Bureau please call (800) 337-5015 or go to www.gettysburg.travel.
Day One — Tour the Little Rock National Cemetery, originally a Union campground. Then, visit the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History. The exhibits will relate the Little Rock Arsenal’s contribution tot he Civil War during the Confederate and Union occupations.
You can next visit the Old State House where on May 6, 1861 Arkansas voted to secede from the Union.
Your day continues with a visit to the Old Mill in North Little Rock, featured in the opening scenes of the movie, “Gone With the Wind.”
There is time to tour the William J. Clinton Presidential Library before returning to your hotel. After a rest you can depart for the Marlsgate Plantation for dinner and be entertained by David Garner and the story of how his ancestors dealt with the Civil War and saved their home.
Day Two — After a breakfast at your hotel, depart for Old Washington Historic State Park and learn about the capture of Little Rock by Union troops in September 1863. The Arkansas Confederate government fled to Hot Springs for a short time, but eventually settled in the park’s courthouse.
The park was a major stop on the old Southwest Trail to Texas. While at the park enjoy lunch at the Wilharm Tavern Restaurant.
Spend the afternoon in Hot Springs and enjoy a walk down Bathhouse Row. While in Hot Springs visit the Gangster Museum of America. In the evening why not dine on the Belle of Hot Springs riverboat.
Day Three — Today you can head for Northwest Arkansas and learn more at the Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park. Visit the Fayettesville National Cemetery or enjoy a taste of the Wild West in Fort Smith. Today, you can tour the Arkansas Post National Memorial which includes the site of the January 11, 1863, Vicksburg campaign battle or explore more Civil War history at the Battle of Helena site.
For more information about the Civil War in Arkansas please contact the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism (800) 872-1859. or go towww.arkansas grouptravel.com.