Our state’s Civil War legacy is preserved along four carefully mapped driving routes, parts of which are highlighted within this itinerary. We’ll learn about the first casualties of the war, the battle that saved Washington, and the bloodiest single day ever on American soil. We’ll also explore the Underground Railroad, a secret network of trails, waterways and sanctuaries that aided enslaved people fleeing north to escape bondage. Additional details about Maryland’s Civil War Trails and Underground Railroad routes are available in a new Maryland Byways guide.
1. The 125-mile-long “Finding a Way to Freedom” driving tour includes Underground Railroad-related sites in and around CAMBRIDGE. Look for a museum dedicated to Harriet Tubman, known as “The Moses of Her People,” and a country store where she is said to have performed her first act of defiance by helping a slave avoid capture.
2. East of the 2,700-acre Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, a marker is placed in the vicinity of where Harriet Tubman spent her early childhood years. North in EASTON, another sign stands near the birthplace of statesman Frederick Douglass.
BREAK TIME: Stay around Easton for golfing, entertainment within an art-deco theater, and art exhibitions.
3. Cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and enter ANNAPOLIS to find an Alex Haley Memorial Statue honoring the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer of Roots. Haley’s African-born ancestor, Kunta Kinte, arrived here on a slave ship in 1767. Underground Railroad exhibits occupy the Banneker-Douglass Museum.
4. In April 1861, five soldiers and 11 civilians were killed during riots in BALTIMORE. Visit the Baltimore Civil War Museum-President Street Station and also explore the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture.
BREAK TIME: Shops, markets, performing-arts venues and a variety of cuisines accentuate the charm of the scenic Baltimore waterfront.
5. Humble slave quarters are dwarfed by an elaborate Georgian mansion at the Hampton National Historic Site in TOWSON. The Maryland governor who lived here kept as many as 338 slaves, but they were freed in 1829.
6. A B&O Railroad Museum in ELLICOTT CITY plays up the area’s role as a major transportation hub for Civil War troops and supplies.
BREAK TIME: Columbia is home to a popular dinner theater, an open-air concert pavilion that hosts national recording stars, and an African art museum.
7. Trace troop movements through WESTMINSTER toward the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg. The Union Mills Homestead and Grist Mill was a stop-off for both Confederate and Union soldiers before and after the battle.
8. At the Monocacy National Battlefield in FREDERICK, investigate the 1864 engagement dubbed “The Battle that Saved Washington.” Frederick also features the National Museum of Civil War Medicine and the residence of Barbara Fritchie, whose belligerence toward passing Confederate soldiers was immortalized in a poem by John Greenleaf Whittier.
BREAK TIME: Admire the award-winning Community Bridge Mural, one among many pieces of outdoor art around Frederick.
9. A War Correspondents Arch, built by Civil War-era author George Alfred Townsend, stands within BOONSBORO-based Gathland State Park (part of the South Mountain Recreation Area). Farther north, Washington Monument State Park includes a 180-year-old monument to George Washington that was used as a signal station for troop movements. The battle was a turning point for the Union, encouraging President Abraham Lincoln to deliver his Emancipation Proclamation.
10. On September 17, 1862 – a date remembered as the bloodiest single day of the Civil War – two armies clashed in SHARPSBURG, on land preserved as the Antietam National Battlefield. Casualties along landmarks like Bloody Lane and Burnside Bridge numbered about 23,000.
BREAK TIME: Explore Crystal Grottoes, Maryland’s only public-access underground caverns.
EXTEND YOUR TRIP:
Back toward Washington, D.C., the Clara Barton National Historic Site in GLEN ECHO is a tribute to the “Angel of the Battlefield” who started the American Red Cross. Two sites tied into John Wilkes Booth’s plot to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln are the Surratt House Museum in CLINTON and the Dr. Samuel Mudd Home Museum in WALDORF. Deeper into Southern Maryland, the HOLLYWOOD-based Sotterley Plantation features an 18th-century manor house and a rare slave cabin. And in SCOTLAND, picturesque Point Lookout State Park was the site of a notoriously overcrowded camp for Confederate prisoners.