Civil War Road Trip
Visit some of the lesser-known sites of the blue and the gray
In Washington, Virginia (known by tourists as “Little Washington”), on Old Mill Road (Route 683)—near the library and visitors center, where Avon Mill still stands and Jett Mill once stood—was a neutral trading site or truce zone for the blue and the gray. There, soldiers took a timeout and traded coffee, tobacco and newspapers. Unofficial “soldiers’ truces,” as well as official truces requested so each side would have time to bury their dead, demonstrated moments of humanity. “They forget that they are enemies, and a kind of chivalric honor and courtesy are strictly observed,” one reporter noted in The Soldier’s Journal in October 1864. Through the Rappahannock County Civil War Trails, visitors can trace 32 other wartime sites throughout the county, such as camp, drill and skirmish sites and three well-preserved slave cabins.
Arlington and Falls Church
The water tower that today stands along Wilson Boulevard near the intersection of John Marshall Drive and McKinley Road is on “Upton’s Hill,” the site of the former Fort Upton/Fort Ramsay—an ideal high point for both the Union and the Confederates at different times, for “spying, signaling, and controlling the surrounding terrain.” Halfway between the batting cages and a picnic pavilion at Upton Hill Regional Park is a historical marker about the fort and its artillery. Down the hill in the broad, flat plain of Bailey’s Crossroads, on Nov. 20, 1861, Union commander George McClellan held a 70,000-man Grand Review of the Army of the Potomac. One witness said that Gen. McClellan, Lincoln and the Cabinet, “were welcomed with loud huzza’s from the soldiers, and bands playing ‘Hail to the Chief.’ It was a sight that made the pulse beat quick.” Julia Ward Howe attended this event, along with 20,000 to 30,000 other people, and it was her inspiration for writing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” At Arlington National Cemetery, visit the Civil War Unknown Monument, which holds the remains of 2,111 unknown soldiers gathered from the fields of Bull Run. In addition, Sections 23 and 27 of the cemetery are where more than 1,500 U.S. Colored Troops from the Civil War are buried. Nearby Roosevelt Island is one of the places the 1st United States Colored Troops, an infantry regiment of soldiers recruited in D.C. in 1863, engaged in (segregated) training.