The ultimate guide to mid-Maryland’s Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area

This content was provided by the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area.

Above the Potomac River and below the Mason Dixon Line, a visit to mid-Maryland’s Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area may tick off a few items on your must-do life list. Whether you base your stay in Frederick, Hagerstown or Westminster – or any of the nearby towns and hamlets – a diverse array of experiences assures there is something for all kinds of travelers.

Explore Civil War battlefields

Home to three major Civil War battlefields (Antietam, Monocacy and South Mountain), and a stone’s throw from several others, there may be no better location to check battlefields off your bucket list. Maryland’s Civil War Trails guide travelers to battlefields along driving routes that are rich with stories offering glimpses into the impact of war in our border state.

In 2023, follow the Gettysburg Invasion and Retreat route on the 160th anniversary of the battle, tracing the path of war through Maryland. Family-friendly events in Carroll County highlight the June 29, 1863 skirmish in downtown Westminster known as “Corbit’s Charge”. Union Mills Homestead has planned a full weekend of activities on July 15 and 16. The site of overnight encampments by both sides, General Stuart’s Confederate cavalry left Union Mills just hours before General Syke’s 5th Corps of the Union army arrived! Living history portrayals, encampments, and historic displays interpreting this period will take place on the Homestead’s scenic and spacious grounds, just 20 minutes from Gettysburg National Military Park. Following the war’s turning point at Gettysburg, Union pursuit of the Confederate Army continued in Maryland for another eleven days, concluding in Washington County with the final engagement of the campaign on July 14, 1863.  No Gettysburg pilgrimage will be complete without a stop at the small Battle of Falling Waters 1863 battlefield, near the Potomac River at Williamsport where southern forces retreated to Virginia.

Discover freedom’s ongoing story

African Americans, enslaved and free, helped forge the nation. Learn about their labors at the Maryland Iron Festival, May 20-21, and encounter stories of escape and freedom at our Underground Railroad Network to Freedom sites, including Catoctin Furnace Historic Site and L’Hermitage Plantation (now part of Monocacy National Battlefield). While at Catoctin Furnace, you could opt to overnight in the unique setting of the Forgeman’s House, an original 1820s laborer’s cottage that accommodates guests in a period setting.  In Sharpsburg stands one of the nation’s most recently designated National Historic Landmarks, Tolson’s Chapel and Schoolhouse, a rare surviving church and Freedmen’s Bureau school that was built by the local African American community  in 1866. Take a weekend walking tour of historic downtown Frederick offered by AARCH (African American Resources Cultural and Heritage Society) where past and present history intertwines.

Enter a house that witnessed the bloodiest single day battle in US history

The Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area visitor information center at the Newcomer House, is the only historic residence on Antietam battlefield that keeps regular public hours. New this year – the front parlor is furnished and interpreted as a Washington County farmhouse in the path of war.  Step into this evocative space and encounter history first-hand. From here, knowledgeable volunteers may help you plan additional excursions in the region.

Wind down over dinner in a historic setting 

With eleven certified Main Streets, the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area has the highest concentration of designated Main Streets in Maryland, all committed to strengthening communities through preservation-based economic development, including great places for dining. Taste our German heritage – an influence since the 18th century – at Hagerstown’s celebrated Schmankerl Stube-Bavarian Restaurant. Or, try Frederick’s Brewer’s Alley, a brew pub and restaurant situated at the City’s historic market place: the site where local leaders scrambled to come up with ransom money to save the city when Confederate General Jubal Early and his Confederate Army threatened to burn Frederick to the ground in July 1864. By 1879 the property had become the Frederick Opera House, where Frederick Douglass delivered his well-known “Self-made Men” lecture.

Finally, for an elegant splurge in a renowned historic hotel, Antrim 1844 in Taneytown won’t disappoint. The Smokehouse Restaurant presents a six-course dinner with an option of wine pairing with each course. A bucket list destination unto itself, consider arranging overnight accommodation at this award-winning member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Historic Hotels of America.

Start planning your trip and request a travel packet on their website.

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