Antietam Field, USA

Where America Happened: Follow The Historic Trail

Antietam Field, USA
You can visit the site of the Battle of Antietam.

Following Steven Spielberg’s BAFTA award-winning movie, Lincoln, there has been a renewed focus on America’s Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area, home to historic sites that were the catalyst behind the Emancipation Proclamation.

Signed by President Abraham Lincoln on 1st January 1863, 2013 celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, which states that all those enslaved in Confederate territory to be forever free.

Discover ‘Where America Happened’

Virginia and Maryland are at the heart of this area known as the region ‘Where America Happened’, which is said to contain more history than any other in the US, including destinations which chronicle the African American experience, from slavery to civil rights, such as the Battle of Antietam which was the catalyst for the order.

The region is home to over 10,000 sites on the National Register of Historic Places, 49 National Historic districts, 9 Presidential homes, 13 National Parks, hundreds of African American and Native American heritage sites, 30 historic main street communities, sites from the Revolutionary War, French-Indian War and the War of 1812.

Oatlands Plantation in Leesburg, Virginia
Oatlands Plantation in Leesburg, Virginia (Photo credit: Virginia Tourism Corporation).

Battlefields and plantations in Maryland and Virginia

Antietam National Battlefield in Maryland is a ‘must see’ for visitors interested in learning more about the Emancipation Proclamation. The Union victory at the Battle of Antietam (1862) led President Lincoln to release the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation five days later and substantially altered the character of the war from restoration of the Union alone, to freedom for all.

Oatlands Plantation in Leesburg, Virginia was formed from 3,408 acres of farmland by a descendant of one of Virginia’s first families, George Carter. In 1804 Carter began building a classic Federal-style mansion here and later added a terraced garden and numerous outbuildings to the property, including a propagation greenhouse, a smokehouse and a three-story bank barn. Just prior to the Civil War Oatlands housed the largest slave population in Loudoun County, numbering 128 people.

Historic sites linked to slavery

Two historic sites in Frederick, Maryland highlight the discourse that occurred over the issue of slavery. At Kemp Hall, members of the state’s legislature fiercely debated the issue as they met to decide whether to secede from the union. Also, the Taney House interprets a property owned by Roger Brooke Taney, the fifth Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Taney was mainly known for his affiliation with the Dred Scott decision.

Gilmore Cabin, Montpelier
Gilmore Cabin, which was home to three generations of the family.

The arc of citizenship from 18th century slavery can be found at Montpelier in Virginia, the former home of President James and Dolley Madison.

George Gilmore and his family were born into slavery here, however by December 1865 the Gilmore’s were freed. The Gilmores eventually purchased land from Madison to establish a small farm and log cabin which would later be home to the family for at least three generations. Montpelier Train Station also houses In the Time of Segregation, an exhibit depicting the lives of the local African-American community who lived in this area throughout the period of segregation when blacks and whites were required to use separate waiting rooms and ticket booths. By the end of the 1950s this was brought an end and all of these services were fully integrated.

The Jefferson School African American Heritage Center preserves the rich heritage and legacy of the African American community of Charlottesville and Albemarle County in Virginia. The centre is located in the heart of the African American community and offers a greater appreciation and understanding of the contributions of peoples of colour locally, nationally and globally.

There are many other historic sites which illustrate the African American experience, Civil War, freedom, or emancipation throughout the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area, such as Harpers Ferry in West Virginia which played a prominent role in the civil rights movement, and McAllister’s Mill, adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park which leads Underground Railroad tours of the site.

If you’re interested in the Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area head online to

For more information on Journey Through Hallowed Ground and other scenic drives around the Capital Region USA, visit

To find out more about Virginia, Maryland and the Capital Region USA, visit

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