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American Battlefields: History and Heritage

Visit Battlefields and Monuments in the U.S.

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American Battlefields: History and Heritage

Bunker Hill Monument, Charlestown, Mass.

Photo © National Park Service

Bunker Hill. Gettysburg. Pearl Harbor. Battlefields stand as silent witnesses to the history of nations and as memorials to those who bravely fought for their country.

Battlefields are popular tourist attractions, too. Byways magazine, published by the National Motorcoach Network, included several battlefield cities in its list of “Top Motorcoach Destinations of 2008,” including San Antonio, Charleston, Gettysburg, Baltimore and Boston. Many battlefields and historic parks are located near cities with top hotels and restaurants, or are situated in areas of great natural beauty.

As you plan your next trip, why not include a visit to a nearby battlefield or memorial? Our list of famous American battlefields, organized by region, can help you plan a memorable vacation.

Northeastern U.S.

Bunker Hill Monument/ Boston National Historical Park

Boston, Massachusetts – Revolutionary War

Just two short months into the Revolutionary War, British regulars faced off against colonial militiamen on Breed’s Hill in Boston. Although the British won the battle, their victory came at a cost. The British forces lost 228 men, and over 800 more soldiers were wounded. The colonists proved they were able to stand firm against a British assault, contradicting the British assumption that the militiamen would falter. Although the fighting took place on Breed’s Hill, the battle takes its name from nearby Bunker Hill.

Today, you can climb to the top of the Bunker Hill Monument to get a panoramic view of the Boston area. The Bunker Hill Monument is part of Boston’s famous Freedom Trail.

Nearby attractions: USS Constitution, Boston Aquarium, Faneuil Hall Marketplace

Saratoga National Historical Park

Stillwater, New York – Revolutionary War

In 1777, things looked bleak for the breakaway American colonies. American General Horatio Gates, entrusted with defending the Hudson River highlands, faced 7,500 British regulars under the command of General John Burgoyne. Burgoyne’s plan was to invade New York from the north and to cut New England off from the rest of the colonies. Thus isolated, the British believed, the upstart New Englanders would lose colonial support, and the rebellion would be over.

Burgoyne’s army moved south and faced off against the 8,500 American soldiers, who had fortified Bemis Heights. On September 19, American and British soldiers clashed for the first time at Saratoga. Neither side was able to gain much ground, and Burgoyne dug in to wait for reinforcements. Unfortunately, he began to run out of food before any help arrived, so Burgoyne decided to attack the American forces on October 7. Burgoyne’s army, which had been living on half-rations, could not beat back the Americans, and Burgoyne was forced to surrender on October 17. This victory proved, not only to the colonists, but also to all of Europe, that the American forces were more than a band of rag-tag militiamen. They were an army, capable of beating the British forces. The French recognized and allied themselves with the new nation, sent troops and ships, and, as they say, the rest is history.

When you visit Saratoga, you can take a self-guided battlefield tour and see the British and American positions near the Hudson River. The home of American General Philip Schuyler is part of the park and is open for weekend tours. About 7 miles north of the battlefield, you can climb the Saratoga Monument, which stands 155 feet high. The park presents many special events and programs throughout the year, including concerts, historical re-enactments and nature hikes.

Nearby attractions: Albany Saratoga Speedway, Saratoga Spa State Park, National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame (Thoroughbred racing)

In Part 2, we'll cover battlefields of the Mid-Atlantic states.

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