National Park Service Launches Civil War Website
Our country is entering year two of the Civil War Sesquicentennial, and many Americans still have a deep interest in the events—and people—connected with that conflict. The National Park Service has launched a new Civil War website that provides a wealth of information and useful tools for both exploring and learning.
“More than a quarter of all national parks preserve Civil War sites or tell stories related to the war. This website offers a single online point of reference for the National Park Service’s Civil War resources and will be an invaluable tool for both students of the Civil War and visitors to our historic sites,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “It also gives the war and events that occurred a century and a half ago meaning to 21st-century Americans.
The new website includes several new features that can be helpful, whether you're a prospective visitor to a Civil War site, a stay-at-home history buff or even a genealogist.
Plan Your Visit.
This interactive trip planning tool includes more than 1,700 Civil War sites around the country, including more than 100 national parks with Civil War themes and numerous state and local sites. Enter any zip code in the box on the home page, and the site displays a map with both NPS and partner sites with Civil War connections.
A second "Plan Your Visit" link, found on the left-side of the home page under "Subject Tools," provides an interactive map of Civil War sites across the entire country, and the option to search for a specific site by name. According to an NPS spokesperson, "The Plan Your Visit tool provides maps, distances, turn-by-turn directions, and a description of and links to additional information about each of the sites."
If your memory of "what happened when" during the War has gotten a bit hazy, this feature will be a big help. Many of us recall, for example, that the Confederate bombardment of Fort Sumter is generally considered the beginning of the Civil War, but it's easy to lost track of the sequence of key events. Was the battle at Antietam—"remembered as the single bloodiest day in U. S. History"—before or after Gettysburg? The timeline will help you sort it all out. If you're looking for the short refresher, click on the "Explore 50 Key Events" link on the timeline.
The "Full Timeline" offers a very comprehensive look at "the causes, events and Civil Rights legacies of the Civil War spanning nearly 400 years of American history, from the foundations of slavery with the arrival of the first Africans in America in 1619 to the present day."
We're reminded, for example, that the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 not only provided for the first major expansion of the United States, but also prohibited slavery in the new territory. The result: the Ohio River "was essentially established as the boundary between slave and free states."
Even a quick look at the full timeline will likely include a surprise at the number of events which are unfamiliar to most of us today. The Battle of Richmond in August 1862, for example, was a major Confederate victory early in the War…but it was fought at Richmond, Kentucky—not Richmond, Virginia.
Yorktown, Virginia, is best-known today for a key battle that effectively ended the American Revolution, but it was also the site of 30 days of fighting in April and May of 1862 that stalled an early attempt by the Union to capture the Confederate capitol at Richmond…Virginia.
Civil War Reporter.
Beglan O’Brien is a fictional Civil War era correspondent, and his daily reports on events from 150 years ago are streamed to the website via Twitter. In addition to the NPS Civil War website, he can also be followed directly on Twitter (search for "CivilWarReportr") and Facebook (search for "Civil War Reporter"). "From the politics of the day to eyewitness accounts of events to fashion of the Civil War, O’Brien’s nose for news promises to deliver fascinating updates, rumor and information of the Civil War era."
A quick spin around the site's home page will reveal some additional resources. Searching for an ancestor who fought in the Civil War?
Try the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Database; you can access it via the "People" link on the Civil War website. Other links provide details about places and stories associated with the War.
The new Civil War website was released in early April, and it's apparently attracting considerable traffic. I found a few links from the home page had difficulty loading in a timely fashion, but if you have even a passing interest in the Civil War Sesquicentennial, you'll find this to be a useful resource.