The Civil War Discovery Trail links more than 300 sites in 16 states to inspire and teach the story of the Civil War and its haunting impact on America. The Trail includes battlefields, historic homes, railroad stations, cemeteries and parks. Civil War Discovery Trail sites are especially selected for their historic significance and educational opportunities. The Trail is an initiative of The Civil War Trust, in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the National Park Service, state agencies and local communities.
The slavery question, which between 1830 and 1860 tore at the fabric of the nation, left the Commonwealth of Virginia equally as divided. Perhaps the most incendiary of events connected with the slavery issue took place on what is now West Virginia soil, with the seizure of the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry in 1859 by the fiery abolitionist, John Brown. His plan for arming the slaves of northern Virginia and inciting a general uprising, together with the secrecy with which his plan was carried out, threw the South into a panic.
The future of the newly-proposed state of West Virginia depended upon control of western Virginia by the Union. From the outset of the war, both the Union and Confederate governments endeavored to hold West Virginia because of its valuable salt resources, its productive farms and the strategic section of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad which traversed the eastern and northern sections of the state. Moreover, both sides were well aware of the psychological advantages in controlling West Virginia.
Most of the decisive fighting in West Virginia took place before the end of 1861. In the Eastern Panhandle, positions sometimes changed hands with bewildering rapidity. Military action there revolved around efforts to gain or retain control of valuable segments of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. In the campaigns in the Shenandoah Valley, West Virginia’s distinguished Confederate General, Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson, played a vital part. Farther south, the Confederates took the initiative and pushed Union troops out of Fayetteville and Charleston. Other than some daring Confederate raids in central West Virginia, there were few important battles in the state after 1862. With the engagements at White Sulphur Springs, or Rocky Gap, and Droop Mountain in the autumn of 1863, the Confederates had been forced out of most of West Virginia.
All sites are open to the public and more information may be obtained by contacting the group tour department of the West Virginia Division of Tourism at 1-800-225-5982.
For more information, visit the Civil War Discovery Trail