Walk in the footsteps of Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Walt Whitman, Clara Barton, and other great Americans whose lives were intertwined with the history of the nation and its capital city during the Civil War. This trail will bring you past a building that not only served as a hospital for wounded Union soldiers but also hosted Lincoln’s second inaugural ball. You will also see “Angel of the Battlefield” Clara Barton’s former home and office, buildings where the Lincoln conspirators met, and the place where civil servants compensated former slave owners for the loss of their human property.
Download the Civil War to Civil Rights audio tour chronicling 34 historic sites in Downtown Washington with words, music, ambient sounds, and special sound effects. Narrated by Korva Coleman of National Public Radio, the tour includes quotes from an array of Washingtonians who add their thoughts along the way as guest narrators.
Watch as Sam Edelstein, Cultural Tourism DC intern, visits sites along the Downtown Heritage Trail and highlights the exciting and fun places and people you will meet along the way.
Indulge your inner Civil War buff in one of DC’s early communities, where you’ll see Fort Stevens, the site of the only Civil War battle to take place within the District of Columbia. President Lincoln and his wife Mary Todd Lincoln witnessed the battle that day. Standing on the parapet, Lincoln came under enemy fire and was admonished: “Get down, you fool!”
On this trail you will also meet Elizabeth Proctor Thomas, a free black woman who owned the land taken by Union soldiers to build Fort Stevens. Her image appears on each trail sign and also on the cover of the free Heritage Trail booklet.
Tenleytown started as a tiny Maryland village centered around John Tennally’s tavern, years before George Washington chose the site of the Nation’s Capital. Because of its elevation, farmland on Point Reno – DC’s highest natural point – was taken by the Union Army for a fort and observation post in 1861, at the start of the Civil War. This is where, in July 1864, Union soldiers spied a Confederate advance from the north in time to defend against the coming attack. Fort Reno’s cannons shelled the enemy nearly four miles away.
Visit Cultural Tourism DC's Neighborhood Heritage Trail page for a complete listing of heritage trails.
During the Civil War (1861–1865) and Reconstruction (1865–1877), more than 25,000 African Americans moved to Washington. The fact that the city was mostly pro-Union and the nation’s capital made it a popular destination.
Dozens of sites on the African American Heritage Trail, Washington DC touch on the Civil War. To find them, click here and enter “civil war” into the search box.
This trail is designed to educate residents and visitors about significant people, places, and events in DC's black history. The trail consists of a database containing more than 200 sites and a free booklet that includes about 100 of the sites. In addition, many of the sites are marked with plaques.
"I looked at the new brochures for the Deanwood and Civil Rights Heritage Trails. I am always astonished and amazed at the work you do and the quality of it. Beautiful."