Instead of heading to overcrowded beaches and boardwalks for Spring vacation, try something different this year – go back in time.
While the United States is still commemorating the people, their arguments and their actions during the American Civil War of 1861 to1865, visit Springfield, Illinois where an excellent museum on Abraham Lincoln features his life and difficult presidency.
Or go visit Western Tennessee and Corinth, Mississippi where you can picture the confrontations that took place on the strategic battlefields that make up the Shiloh National Military Park.
Shiloh marks its 150th Civil War anniversary March 29 through April 8 with special events but is an interesting destination throughout the year.
It doesn’t matter whether traveling alone or as a family, there is enough to do and see in Springfield and at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum to satisfy all ages.
What to expect at the museum
Movies, live performances, a log-cabin replica, a White House replica, gallery exhibits all tell different aspects of Lincoln’s life.
Here is a rundown of the major attractions: The Treasures Gallery, The Illinois Gallery, Mrs. Lincoln’s Attic, Journey One: The Pre-Presidential Years, The Union Theater, Live Performance Theater, Journey Two: The White House Years, Ask Mr. Lincoln, Ghosts of the Library and The Gateway
Plan to spend half a day or at least two hours to do everything.
The museum is across the street from the library and typically a destination for researchers. However, an “Illinois Answers the Call: The Boys in Blue” exhibit that includes the U.S. Colored Troop regiments and features the people, letters and music of the Illinois Civil War regiments are on exhibit.
What to expect downtown Springfield
The town is a mix of the Old State Capitol and historic buildings and the newer, in-use State Capitol Building with its governing and lobbying spinoffs and restaurants. If time allows, visit both beginning with the Old Capitol.
Lincoln gave his “House Divided” speech here and tried cases before the Illinois Supreme Court. An original flag carried by the 95th Illinois Infantry during the Civil War is on display next to the Adjutant General’s office.
Across the street from the Old Capitol is the Lincoln-Herndon Law Office.
If up to walking, there is a reasonably priced 90-minute, 10 block evening tour beginning from Lincoln’s law office at 6th and Adams, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For information call 217-502-8687.
Be sure to stop at the Lincoln home (1844-1861) and its Visitor’s Center operated by National Park Service Rangers.
Go over to the Capitol Building where the legislature meets. A mix of baroque and classic, the Capitol has an impressive rotunda and is worth a tour.
What is nearby
Drive about 20 minutes north to historic New Salem, a recreated village with costumed interpreters that looks like it did when Lincoln worked there.
Where to stay:
Both places have complimentary breakfasts and that scarce commodity: parking. They are within walking distance of most attractions.
On the edge of town is the Crowne Plaza Hotel, a conference-style facility that features a pool, sauna and WiFi coffee shop.
Travelers who like the old Route 66 will find that Springfield is on the “Mother Road” and has some landmarks. See Shea’s Gas Station, 2075 Peoria Road and Cozy Dog Drive In, 2935 S. Sixth Street.
A year after the Fort Sumter attack, Union forces beat the Confederacy at Shiloh, April 6-7, 1862.
The Union victory was a decisive battle on the Civil War’s Western Theater because of its river placement and location near Corinth, Miss. Which had an important rail junction.
Grant needed Corinth before he could move on Vicksburg and control the Mississippi Valley. Confederate General P.T.G. Beauregard was on record saying: “If defeated here we lose the Mississippi Valley and probably our cause.”
What to expect
Shiloh National Military Park is about 3,996 acres with marked and preserved strategic land forms and monuments to both sides. Its battle sites are in Hardin County, Tenn. and in Corinth, Miss. The main section is in the unincorporated town of Shiloh south of Savannah, Tenn. Iron plaques mark both sides’ advance and retreat positions. The rest is about 23 miles southwest of Shiloh in Corinth, Miss.
Take the 12.7 mile auto tour or a guided tour. You will learn that the Battle of Shiloh is also known as the Battle of Pittsburg Landing named for “Pitts” Tucker, a saloon owner and that Shiloh is named for the Shiloh Church on the battlefield.
If you go during the 2012 Sesquicentennial celebration, time the visit to see two reenactments by more than 6,000 re-enacters using more than 100 cannons, March 29-31.
Organized by The Armies of Tennessee and the Blue-Gray Alliance, the event features The Armies of Tennessee march to Shiloh from Mississippi and The Blue-Gray Alliance transport of soldiers to the battle by rail and river.
If in the area April 4-5, go to nearby Pickwick Landing State Park at Pickwick Dam, Tenn. for “Invasions by Rail and River: The Battle of Shiloh” The Story of Shiloh: Fiery Trial will premier at 7 p.m. April 4. A forum with historians will be held there at 9 a.m. April 5. In addition there will be an exhibit of Civil War artifacts from the Battle of Shiloh.
Or go to Shiloh for ranger led hikes at specific strategic sites 150 years after their particular confrontations, April 6-8. Also be on hand for the “Grand Illumination,” April 7 from dusk to 10 p.m. when luminaries are placed around the battlefield representing the 23,746 killed, wounded or missing at Shiloh. For more special event information visit Shiloh 150.
What to expect at Corinth
See the interpretive center movie and ask about auto and walking tours to see homes used by the generals and the Civil War fortifications and Corinth Battlefield. (http://corinth.net/)
Corinth is a historical town that has antique shops, bluegrass jamming and historic homes.
Where to stay
Pickwick Inn, at Pickwick Landing State Park, (Park Road, Pickwick Dam, TN 38365 is a vacation spot southeast of Shiloh on the Tennessee River.
Another choice is Generals Quarters B&B at 924 N. Fillmore St. Corinth, MS 38834.
All photos by Jodie Jacobs