Hallowed Ground tour takes visitors to W.Va. and nearby states

WATERFORD, Va. – With 400 years of American history, the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area is a tour of the most eventful corner of the United States.

The 180-mile long, 75-mile wide swath from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, Va., to Gettysburg, Pa., has an unparalleled historic, cultural and natural landscape.

The Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area contains more history than any other region in the nation including nine presidential sites, 13 national park units, hundreds of African-American and Native American heritage sites, 30 historic Main Street communities, sites from the Revolutionary War, French and Indian War, the War of 1812 and the largest collection of Civil War sites in the nation, among others.

This is the land of leadership as it includes the homes and birthplaces of eight U.S. presidents including three of the first five, numerous senators and governors, delegates to the Constitutional Convention of Virginia and the United States. Here world leaders have often found respite and inspiration in the creation of some of the most important doctrines of our time: the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, the Monroe Doctrine, the Gettysburg Address, the Emancipation Proclamation and the Marshall Plan.

But this is also the land of conflict and reunification. The greatest battles of the Civil War, Harpers Ferry, Manassas, Gettysburg, Antietam, Wilderness, Monocacy and dozens of others took place on this hallowed ground.

Underground railroad sites dot the land and highlight the struggle for freedom.

Designated the 38th National Heritage Area in the country, the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area consists of patriotic and historic destinations that will inspire any traveler.

Here are a few suggestions that will help decide where to Take the Journey.

Start at the southern terminus of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area in Charlottesville, Va., located off Interstate 64.

The first stop on the trip must be Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, third President of the United States and noted architect and inventor. Jefferson began construction on his “little mountain” home in 1769 and, after remodeling and enlarging the house, finally finished 40 years later in 1809.

Jefferson’s friend and neighbor, James Monroe, also a U.S. president, owned Ash Lawn-Highland, along with his wife Elizabeth Kortright Monroe, from 1793 to 1826 (which acted as their official residence from 1799 to 1823). Ash Lawn-Highland is an historic house museum and 535-acre working farm of the president and Revolutionary War veteran.

These two presidential homes are within just a couple of miles of each other. Also nearby is Michie Tavern, a fabulous place to have lunch. Located a half mile below Monticello, Michie Tavern has accommodated travelers with food, drink and lodging for more than 200 years. Today, visitors experience the tavern’s past through an historical journey, which recreates 18th-century tavern life.

Servers in period attire offer bountiful Colonial Midday Fare.

Another founding father’s home known, Montpelier near Orange, Va., is the lifelong home of James Madison, the “Father of the Constitution” and fourth President of the United States. The mansion core was built by Madison’s father circa 1760. The house has been restored to the way it looked when James and Dolley Madison returned from Washington in 1817, following Madison’s two terms as President.

The 2,650-acre estate features the Madison mansion, 135 historic buildings, a steeplechase course, gardens, forests, the Gilmore Cabin, a farm, two galleries and an Education Center with permanent and changing exhibits, many archaeological sites and an archaeology laboratory.

From Orange, travel north up the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Scenic Byway until Culpeper is reached. The Culpeper National Cemetery was established in 1867 after several Civil War soldiers fought at the nearby Battle of Cedar Mountain and Battle of Chancellorsville.

Like Arlington National Cemetery and others, veterans from the Civil War to present-day are buried here.

Warrenton, Va., just 30 minutes north is one of many historic downtowns that now play home to great shopping and dining establishments. A Warrenton landmark is the statue of U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall on Main Street to the left of the Old Courthouse.

Marshall was a Fauquier County native who began his law practice in Warrenton.

Before continuing the journey north, a side trip should be taken to Manassas where two Civil War battles were fought. The National Museum of the Marine Corps is nearby.

Tucked inside the Manassas Regional Airport is the Freedom Museum which honors Americans who made the supreme sacrifice in defense of freedom and pays tribute to those who served our country with honor and distinction. The thrust of this Smithsonian affiliate focuses on the 20th Century.

The Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Scenic Byway also is known as Route 15 to Leesburg, Va. Near the heart of historic Leesburg sits Dodona Manor, the home of Gen. George C. Marshall and his wife Katherine.

The Marshall House, which served as the Marshalls’ residence from 1941 until the general’s death in 1959, showcases artifacts that belonged to the Marshall family and provides visitors with a look into the role of diplomacy and the world at that time. Another historic home in the area is Morven Park, once the home of Virginia Gov. Westmoreland Davis and his wife Marguerite.

More than 70 years after his death, the accomplishments and ideals of Davis resonate within the 1,000 acres of this one-of-a-kind place.

Cross over the Potomac River into Maryland for the historic town of Frederick. This town has so much history dating back to the Revolutionary War through the Civil War and beyond, but September marks the 200th anniversary of the Star Spangled Banner, the national anthem written by Francis Scott Key of Frederick.

In the city, travelers can take a self-guided tour of 10 sites with connections to the town’s native lawyer and poet.

Travel into Pennsylvania to wind up at the northern end of the 180-mile journey in Gettysburg where the famed battlefield and national park is located.

It is also home to the oldest national cemetery, Soldiers’ National Cemetery, made famous by President Abraham Lincoln’s famous 272 word Gettysburg Address speech on Nov. 19, 1863.

The Eisenhower National Historic Site is the home and farm of general and President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

It was a weekend retreat and a meeting place for world leaders. With its peaceful setting and view of South Mountain, it was a much-needed respite from Washington and a backdrop for efforts to reduce Cold War tensions.

Before heading back to West Virginia, in Washington County, Md., are located Antietam National Battlefield and Fort Frederick State Park. Antietam is the site of the bloodiest one day battle in American History. Antietam ended the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia’s first invasion into the North and led to Abraham Lincoln’s issuance of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.

American history from the colonial period to the present can be discovered at Fort Frederick State Park. The 585-acre park features a stone fort that served as Maryland’s frontier defense during the French and Indian War. The fort’s stone wall and two barracks have been restored to their 1758 appearance.

Maps, suggested itineraries, and other travel resources are available at hallowedground.org.

(Editor’s Note: Shuan Butcher, a native of Parkersburg, is director of communications for the nonprofit Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership in West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia. He has written for local, regional and national publications. A member of the National Press Club, he also has written or contributed to several books. He lives in Frederick, Md., with his wife, Cindy, also a Parkersburg native.)