Explore the Civil War’s 150th anniversary with a unique vacation

Published 6:00 pm Thursday, March 1, 2012

(ARA) – As filmmaker Ken Burns noted in his award-winning documentary, The Civil War, the conflict “was fought in 10,000 places, from Valverde, N. M., and Tullahoma, Tenn., to St. Albans, Vt., and Fernandina on the Florida coast.” But for all the war’s far-flung geography, according to Burns, the physical, emotional and political hub of the war was Washington, D.C.

It’s no surprise, then, that Burns has chosen Washington, D.C. as the location for a very special travel experience coinciding with the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Working with the award-winning travel company Tauck, Burns has designed an all-inclusive, five-day “Ken Burns Civil War” event that explores a wide range of Civil War-related sites within and nearby the city. Following fully-guided daily sightseeing, evening activities during the event include lectures, Civil War-era entertainment, and the chance for attendees to personally meet Ken Burns. Tauck is offering its Ken Burns Civil War Event twice in 2012, beginning on May 20 and Oct. 14.

Washington, D.C. boasts a wealth of sites closely linked to the war, making it the single best place to study the complicated history of the conflict. According to Burns, “There’s simply nowhere else you can so thoroughly and so efficiently explore the places, the people and the events that shaped the Civil War.”

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Some of the Washington-area sites that will be visited during the five-day event include:

* The National Archives. The National Archives displays the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The Civil War’s roots go back to these documents, which proclaimed that “all men are created equal” yet failed to extend the rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” to all.

* Frederick Douglass home. Cedar Hill, the Washington, D.C. home of Frederick Douglass, preserves the legacy of the prominent abolitionist who rose from runaway slave to become a civil rights advocate, author and statesman.

* Arlington House. Arlington House was the pre-war plantation of Robert E. Lee. When Lee opted to side with the Confederacy, his home was seized and its grounds were used as a burial place for deceased Union soldiers (eventually becoming Arlington National Cemetery).

* The African American Civil War Museum. Opened in 1999, the African American Civil War Museum reveals the fascinating stories of the United States Colored Troops and African-American involvement in the Civil War.

* Manassas National Battlefield. Just outside of Washington, Manassas National Battlefield was the site of two important Civil War battles. Here, in 1861, Confederate general Thomas Jackson earned his legendary nickname, “Stonewall.”

* Ford’s Theatre. Less than a week after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, Abraham Lincoln was tragically assassinated at Ford’s Theatre. Today, visitors can tour the theater, as well as a museum devoted to Lincoln and the Petersen House across the street, where Lincoln died.

Along with in-depth daily sightseeing, the Ken Burns Civil War Event includes exclusive evenings at the National Building Museum, the National Portrait Gallery & Smithsonian Museum of Art (which hosted Lincoln’s second inaugural ball) and the former Patent Office Building, which served as a hospital for wounded Union soldiers. The event’s highlight will be an evening with Burns inside the National Archives, featuring a keynote address by Burns, an opportunity to meet and chat with the filmmaker and a private after-hours viewing of the Archives’ Rotunda.

One hundred and fifty years after the Civil War, its echoes and aftershocks still influence American life. From modern discussions about race, to debates about publicly displaying symbols of the Confederacy, to the role of states’ rights, issues surrounding the conflict continue to shape American people, culture and politics. In many ways, understanding America today can only be accomplished by first understanding its tragic and tumultuous Civil War.

For more information on Tauck’s Ken Burns Civil War Event, visit www.tauck.com.