The American Civil War - Stalemate in the East
In the early days of the war, people North and South felt the conflict would be decided by one major battle. Unfortunately, that first battle was only the beginning. The Eastern Theater would become the scene of essentially a stalemate, with neither the Confederate forces nor the Federal forces able to deliver a decisive blow and end the conflict. As the war ebbed and flowed across northern Virginia and Maryland it only produced horrendous casualties, mounting by the thousands as the war dragged on through four long, bloody years.
Our tour visits the sites of the major engagements from the beginning to the end of the American Civil War. We’ll discuss the strategies and explore the tactics of the battlefields. The leaders, troops and civilians caught up in the whirlwind of the most intense conflagration ever seen on American soil.
Day 1 – Welcome/Orientation
Guests arrive at Dulles International Airport and meet at the hotel. After check-in, join us for a welcoming and orientation to the tour. Afterwards, we repair to dinner.
Day 2 - Manassas, VA
Today we travel to the site of the first major battle in the Eastern Theatre.
After the shock of one major battle not ending the entire affair the war continued. The clash at Manassas in July 1861 was a clumsily coordinated brawl that sent Federal forces reeling back to Washington. During the second meeting of North and South at Manassas the Confederates stopped another Federal “On to Richmond!” drive. With larger armies and more experienced in killing, the casualties were far greater than the first clash.
Day 3 – Harpers Ferry, WV
Steeped in history, the arsenal at Harpers Ferry played a significant role in the American saga. Surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, at the junction of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, Harpers Ferry is one of the most scenic locations in the eastern United States. From its role in escalating tensions between North and South to its changing hands fourteen times during the war, Harpers Ferry always played a prominent role in the American Civil War.
Day 4 – Sharpsburg, MD
Today we make our way to Sharpsburg in Maryland, where the bloodiest single-day in American history occurred on the banks of Antietam Creek. Tactically a stalemate, the Confederates retreated due to the heavy casualties they sustained. Though strategically a Union victory, the failure to follow-up the battle represents yet another missed opportunity to end the war. The use of new technology accentuates the battle’s role in conveying the carnage of the war thus far – a very sobering effect on the American people, particularly in the North.
Day 5 – Gettysburg, PA
The Battle of Gettysburg is the largest land-battle ever fought in the Western hemisphere. Over three days the Confederate and Federal forces struggled to achieve an advantage over the other and deal a decisive blow. Instead, the three days of intense struggle merely produced horrendous casualties – over 53,000. We will begin to explore this expansive battlefield from its quite unintentional beginnings. Lunch is at the oldest building in Gettysburg.
Day 6 – Gettysburg, PA
Today we explore more of the battlefield that many consider the turning point in the war. Our battlefield tour concludes with ‘Pickett’s Charge’ the climatic action that ended the battle and probably the most famous charge in American history. At the Shriver House we will learn of the impact two large field armies battling each other had on the small hamlet of Gettysburg. After the battle, President Abraham Lincoln delivered what would become known as one of the most emotionally powerful and legendary speeches in American history. The aftermath of the battle and the course of the war shaped by it is explored as we make our way south.
Day 7 – Fredericksburg, VA
This historic city by the Rappahannock River was the scene of much action during the war. On the main road between Washington and Richmond, Fredericksburg became the focus of several Federal campaigns to capture the Confederate capitol. From the disastrous Fredericksburg campaign to the tactically monumental Chancellorsville campaign, the Confederates thwarted the Federal offenses. By 1864, Grant’s Overland Campaign produced major battles around the city that the Confederate forces could not overcome and were forced to withdraw. This period represents an entirely new phase of the war in the East.
Day 8 – Appomattox, VA
Grant’s Overland Campaign forced Lee continually southward. Deflecting the Federals around the Confederate capitol, the Federals determined to attack Richmond from the south through Petersburg. From the late summer of 1864, the two armies became bogged down into a stalemate and a form of trench warfare developed. In the morning we explore the Siege of Petersburg – the portents of things to come in World War I. In the afternoon we travel to Appomattox where Lee surrendered to Grant in the front parlor of the McLean House. McLean had moved from Manassas after the First Battle of Bull Run to escape the war; now it had caught up to him and ended in his house. The chain of events had come full circle. Within a month all Confederate forces had surrendered, thus ending the most tragic episode in American history.
Day 9 – Departures
After breakfast we’ll say our goodbyes and take a shuttle to the Richmond International Airport.