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Hiking and learning on the Civil War battlefields

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 6, 2014 at 9:36 am •  Published: May 6, 2014
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FREDERICK, Md. (AP) — About 150 years after the "Battle that Saved Washington," journalist and Civil War buff Keith White leads a dozen friends on a tour of the farmland south of here where Union forces led by Maj. Gen. Lew Wallace were credited with delaying the Confederate advance toward the nation's capital.

The group will spend nearly three hours hiking many of the half-dozen or so miles of trails at the Monocacy National Battlefield, listening as White relays details of the July 9, 1864, battle, which resulted in more than 2,000 casualties in a Confederate victory.

"It's not just a hike, but there's something additional," he says in an interview later. "You can go to a battlefield and get a little sense of that history."

There are more than 300 miles of trails to explore in the 24 national parks designated as significant battlegrounds of the Civil War, according to figures provided by the National Park Service. The Manassas National Battlefield in Virginia, for example, has more than 40 miles of trails; Pecos National Historical Park in New Mexico has just two.

The 24 battlefields drew nearly 10 million visitors last year.

"Each one is unique, yet the vast majority share things in common," says Mike Litterst, a National Park Service spokesman. Most have a visitor's center and a museum to help put the site in context. Many have park rangers or volunteers who give walking tours.

And these aren't the only preserved Civil War battlefields. Others are under state, local or private jurisdiction.

"Some 10,500 armed conflicts occurred during the Civil War, ranging from battles to minor skirmishes," the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission said in a report to Congress in 1993. Of those, 384 were determined to be "principal battles" that had a significant impact on the course of the war. Those battles occurred in 26 states.

"The war really did touch pretty much every corner of America," said Mary Koik, deputy director of communications for the Civil War Trust, an organization that works to preserve the battlefields. "You have battles fought from Pennsylvania all the way out through New Mexico."

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