As it teetered on the boundary between free and slave states, Pennsylvania was greatly impacted by the Civil War.
The Keystone State stood as the backbone of the Union arsenal – upheld by industrial achievements, natural resources, railroad systems and agricultural wealth. But more than 360,000 Pennsylvanians wore Union blue, and more African-American soldiers served in the Union Army under Pennsylvania than any other state. The most devastating effect of the Civil War was the total disruption of family and community.
Many of Pennsylvania’s historic sites, museums and monuments not only commemorate famous war personalities like President Abraham Lincoln and General Robert E. Lee, but they also tell the tales of the average soldier, household and community, giving visitors the chance to experience its rich history firsthand.
The National Civil War Museum addresses the war from both the Northern and Southern perspective while showcasing more than 24,000 artifacts, documents and photos, including General Robert E. Lee's personal Bible.
The Lackawanna Historical Society joins the Steamtown National Historic Site to present the Civil War Train to mark each year of the Civil War Sesquicentennial. Costumed Civil War generals will present short programs in Carbondale and Jessup and conclude with a meet and greet at Steamtown.
The Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Reading, which houses The Central Pennsylvania African American Museum, witnessed the Civil War firsthand; the church was a stop on the Underground Railroad and the museum now contains artifacts relating to American black slavery.
Living history demonstrations at Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site near Pottstown show visitors the severity of the Civil War – those who worked there produced pig iron for weapons.
Paying Tribute to the Infantry
Go on a journey through Pennsylvania’s hallowed grounds and discover the tales of the soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the Civil War.
Join re-enactors and living historians as they march in Gettysburg’s annual Remembrance Day Parade and Illumination in November to commemorate those who lost their lives during the Battle of Gettysburg
Downtown Huntingdon is home to two important wartime figures: David McMurtrie Gregg and Horace Porter. Gregg played a pivotal role in securing the North’s victory at the Battle of Gettysburg, and Porter served as a personal aide to Major General Ulysses S. Grant. The nearby Riverview Cemetery is home to the graves of many Civil War Colored Troops, and more than 400 Civil War Veterans.
Bucktail Monument in Driftwood pays tribute to the Bucktails, or 700 soldiers of the 42nd infantry who fought in the Civil War. The Bucktail Regiment was engaged in numerous critical battles including Dranesville; the Seven Days Battles of Mechanicsville, Gaines Mill, New Market Crossroads and Malvern Hill; Second Bull Run; South Mountain; Antietam; Fredericksburg; Gettysburg; the Wilderness and Spotsylvania and finally, Bethesda Church.
All Men are Created Equal
If you find yourself in the city of Brotherly Love, visit the beautiful, historic building that houses the Union League of Philadelphia. There, you will discover Civil War-era collections that reflect the building's founding mission: to support the policies of President Abraham Lincoln.
Follow in President Lincoln’s tracks as he traveled through York County to give one of the most iconic speeches in history – the Gettysburg Address. Steam Into History and the William H. Simpson #17, a faithful-replica locomotive of the period, whisk you along the rails and back in time to relive the experiences of this historic era.
On permanent display at the Columns Museum in the Pocono Mountains is the Lincoln Flag – the 36-star American flag that was draped over the rail of the President’s Box at Ford’s Theater, and after he was shot, was placed under Lincoln’s head.
Visit the town of Columbia, where residents set fire to its bridge to stop the Confederate army’s eastward advance forcing the troops to head west instead – a pivotal change that eventually led to the Battle of Gettysburg and turned the tide of the Civil War.