The Battle of Five Forks was fought on April 1, 1865, southwest of Petersburg, Virginia, at junction of Five Forks in Dinwiddie County, Virginia between Confederate units under command of Maj. Gen. George Pickett and Union Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan’s V Corps in the American Civil War. The battle was a decisive Union victory and resulted in approximately 3,700 total casualties, most of which were Confederate.
Mostly forgotten today, the Great Salt Springs (or Illinois Salines) deep in the woods of Gallatin County were once the center of a thriving industry. Looking at the large, wood-lined wells, it’s hard to imagine American Indians once fought and slavery was justified over these murky pools.
Indigenous people first settled this area in the Woodland Period (1000 BC – 1000 AD). They used salt from the springs to preserve and flavor food and trade with other settlements. To extract the salt, they wove reed baskets, lined them with clay, and allowed them to dry before burning. Then they filled the jugs with saline water and allowed it to evaporate, leaving behind a layer of salt. The intricate weaving also left behind a crosshatch pattern on the jugs. Today, thousands of broken pieces of this pottery are scattered around the site.
The French, arriving in 1735, were the first Europeans to claim the site, but lost it in the French and Indian War. In 1802, the Shawnee fought the Kaskaskia tribe in the Great Salt War, soundly defeating them and gaining control of the springs. A year later, Gov. William Henry Harrison signed a treaty with several American Indian tribes, promising to give them 150 bushels of salt a year. In return, the Indians virtually abandoned Southern Illinois.
Lighthouses have long attracted strange tales. As guides for sailors weary of smashing against hidden rocks and shoals, they were a matter of life and death for centuries. Tragically, maritime accidents still occurred with frightening regularity. Nearly every lighthouse, like the one at Pensacola, is thought to have a ghost or two. The St. Augustine Light is probably the most famous haunted lighthouse in America.
Spanish conquistador Pedro Menéndez de Avilés founded the city of St. Augustine in 1565, making it the oldest continuously-occupied European city in North America. In the eighteenth century, the Spanish built a lighthouse at the coast of St. Augustine to guide trade ships coming into port. The US government erected a lighthouse there in 1824, after the territory was ceded to the US in the Adams–Onís Treaty of 1819. The current lighthouse was built on Anastasia Island in 1874 and is St. Augustine’s oldest surviving brick structure.
In 1970, the lighthouse keeper’s house, which by then was being rented to local residents, was gutted by fire. The lighthouse was boarded up and surrounded by a chain link fence. A decade passed, until a group of women in the Junior Service League of St. Augustine leased the property and began restoration. They raised $1.2 million for the effort. Sadly, in 1986 someone shot the light and damaged 19 original prisms, but that too was restored.
Monocacy National Battlefield is located along Urbana Pike, outside Frederick, Maryland. Fought July 9, 1864, the battle pitted Confederate Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early’s Corps against Maj. Gen. Lew Wallace’s VIII Corps in the American Civil War. The battle resulted in approximately 2,200 total casualties.
While Antietam is a well-known and popular battlefield, many are unaware that a second battle took place in Maryland. This battle was part of Jubal Early’s 1864 campaign to threaten Washington, D.C. and draw forces away from Ulysses S. Grant’s siege of Petersburg, Virginia.
While the battle was a Southern victory, Union forces delayed the Confederates long enough for reinforcements to arrive in Washington, D.C., earning Monocacy the moniker “the Battle that Saved Washington.” Nicely-designed interpretive signs explain various stages of the battle along a six-mile driving tour route.
The First Bull Run battlefield is part of Manassas National Battlefield Park, located north of Manassas in Prince William County, Virginia. Fought July 21, 1861, the First Battle of Bull Run (First Manassas) pitted Confederate Brig. Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard’s Army of the Potomac and Brig. Gen. Joseph E. Johnston’s Army of the Shenandoah, against Union Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell’s Army of Northeastern Virginia in the American Civil War. The battle resulted in approximately 4,700 total casualties.
The Battle of Bull Run was almost a minor skirmish compared to later engagements, but it was the first major battle of the war. Both sides believed they would achieve an easy victory. In the end, the Union army was routed from the field.
The battlefield centers on Henry House Hill, where the thickest fighting occurred. Here, as the Confederates began to waver, a brigade led by Thomas J. Jackson arrived on the field just in time. He earned the nickname “Stonewall” for stopping the Union assault and helping to turn the tide.
The Second Manassas battlefield is part of Manassas National Battlefield Park, located north of Manassas in Prince William County, Virginia. Fought between August 28–30, 1862, the Battle of Second Manassas (Second Battle of Bull Run) pitted Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia against Union Maj. Gen. John Pope’s Army of Virginia in the American Civil War. The battle resulted in approximately 21,700 total casualties.
The Brawner Farm Interpretive Center is where fighting began on August 28, when Confederate artillery opened up on the Union army’s Iron Brigade as it marched east along the Warrenton Turnpike. Nearby, on Battery Heights, Confederate artillery swept the field on August 30, devastating Union infantry attacking Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s corps in an unfinished railroad cut.
Unlike the First Bull Run battlefield, which is walkable, the Second Manassas battlefield driving tour is 18-miles long, with separate walking trails. Each tour stop has a parking lot or pull off and interpretive markers.