Millions of people travel to see American Civil War sites every year. Some of the most popular landmarks visited annually include big-name battlefields like Manassas in Virginia and Gettysburg. But it’s important to remember that there can be a lot more to Civil War road tripping than just seeing the mega-sites – especially when you’re talking about the coveted border state Kentucky.
More specifically, the very first stop on any Kentucky-centric Civil War sightseeing trip must include a visit to Bardstown’s Civil War Museum and the Women’s Museum of the Civil War. Together, these museums present one of the most compelling, complete museum experiences devoted to the American Civil War anywhere in the country.
They account for more than 8,000 square feet of authentic period exhibits showcasing the legendary war between north and south. Highlights include the flag of the notorious Kentuckian Colonel John Hunt Morgan, and the silver flask of Confederate General John C. Breckinridge.
Next, hop about three miles north of downtown Bardstown and browse the historical artifacts at Heritage Hall with the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. During the Civil War, the Sisters of Charity served as voluntary nurses for wounded soldiers from both Union and Confederate armies.
They were so well known for serving both sides with distinction and expertise that in January of 1865, Abraham Lincoln issued a letter of protection so the sisters at Nazareth would not be disturbed during wartime – a letter that is still on display at Nazareth today.
Rounding out a Civil War enthusiast’s sightseeing trip to Bardstown, is a series of historic walking tours around the downtown area. On these tours, visitors can scope out a number of additional Civil War landmarks like Fairgrounds Battlefield and a Civil War cemetery located approximately 9 blocks north of the courthouse that contains 67 Confederate graves.
While on foot, visitors can also check out Spalding Hall, located right in the heart of downtown Bardstown. Spalding Hall is now home to the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History, but the historic building was hospital from December of 1861 to May of 1863 for both Union and Confederate troops.
With all this and more, it’s clear that if you’re willing to veer just slightly off the beaten path, you too can fall in love with some of the remarkable, vivid stories from beautiful little Bardstown from some 155+ years ago. Kentucky was the birthplace of both Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, after all!