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7 Historic Battlefields with Must-Have Civil War Collectibles

Although the US had a few other conflicts between the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, the latter is one of the deadliest conflicts our country has fought throughout its history.

Some might argue that the Civil War started over the pull between states' rights and federal law. However, at the core of that issue was the fact that some states thought it should be legal for humans to keep other humans as slaves. When Illinois politician Abraham Lincoln was elected after including abolishing slavery as part of his campaign platform, southern states seceded from the union to form the Confederate States of America. Thus, we were plunged into a four-year war that would redefine what freedom means.

There are dozens of Civil War-era battlefields across the southern and eastern portions of our country, many of which can be found on our Mug Map. While it'd be difficult for us to highlight every single Civil War site where you can find Sunset Hill Stoneware coffee mugs and other collectibles, we've included a few of the highlights that can be found across the country.

Fort Sumter National Monument

IMG_9731-smSituated on the water near the mouth of the Charleston Harbor in South Carolina, Fort Sumter is the site of the first battle of the U.S. Civil War. In April 1861, hundreds of Confederate soldiers bombarded the barely occupied Union fort, forcing it to surrender the next day.

Although there were no known deaths, this was the battle that catapulted America into a state of civil war. Without the fort in Union hands, the rebellion would be more difficult to defeat as it blasted a hole in the Union's naval defenses. 

To visit Fort Sumter National Monument today, you'll need to take a ferry from the visitor center at the intersection of Freedom Lane and Liberty Way. From there, you'll be able to tour the famous fort in person and explore the fort as it looked during the height of the Civil War. You also might find reenactors in costume there who can show you more about life in the fort or even recreate the battle itself.

Those looking to bring a piece of Fort Sumter's legacy home with them can visit the monument's bookstore. There, you might not only find books and movies about the start of the war, but also handcrafted mugs unique to the fort to bring home with you. Some of the designs you'll find on these custom pottery mugs feature the distressed Union flag found at the fort, or even Fort Sumter itself depicted in multiple color options.

Manassas National Battlefield Park

Manassas National Battlefield ParkDepending on where you're from, this battle goes by two different names; Bull Run or Manassas. The Union and Confederacy fought at this site outside of Washington, D.C. twice—both battles were Confederate victories.

In the first battle, both sides were quite disorganized. Union forces arrived at their positions too slowly, which allowed the Confederates time to bring in reinforcements by train. Their victory was a wake-up call for both sides, as they realized this war was going to be longer than anyone had hoped.

The next year, the two sides clashed again in the same spot, with nearly the same results on a larger scale. It was here again that Union mismanagement allowed the Confederates to take an important tactical victory that would embolden them to invade Maryland, leading to the Battle of Antietam.

This now-quiet battlefield is preserved on the outskirts of Washington, D.C.'s suburban sprawl. Visitors can find monuments, plaques and exhibits all throughout the peaceful fields to learn more about what led up to that historic battle, the aftermath and what life was like for the soldiers in their own words.

You might also find stoneware coffee mugs available for purchase in the bookstore at the Henry Hill Visitor Center, including the Executive Slim in Brick Red and the Wide Mouth mug in Royale Frost. Both of these stone coffee mugs show details unique to the battle at Bull Run and support the battlefield's preservation.

Wilson's Creek National Battlefield

Morning Rambler mug in Copperhead Run from Wilson's Creek National BattlefieldLocated in Republic, Missouri, the Battle of Wilson's Creek was the first major battle of the war fought west of the Mississippi River.

Although this wasn't the most decisive battle in the course of the Civil War, it forced the Union to pay attention to "border" states like Missouri that were considered armed neutral. It also brought the war westward, expanding what was thought to be a minor rebellion into a large-scale conflict.

Today, Wilson's Creek National Battlefield is preserved almost to its original state in 1861. Homes and farms that were in the area at the time of the battle still stand in excellent condition. Living history programs can also show visitors how the soldiers and civilians from this pastoral part of Missouri lived and passed the time.

There are also some unique souvenirs you can find at the battlefield's bookstore. Some of the more distinctive finds include lapel pins bearing the Confederate seal, atlases of the war's major sites, and a diverse selection of unique mugs. On the front medallion, you'll find an image of the battle in progress, complete with Union forces on horseback charging over the fields. There's also a hidden fact on the bottom of each mug that's unique to Wilson's Creek National Battlefield.

Shiloh National Military Park

IMG_0061-smThe backwoods of southwest Tennessee was the stage for one of the bloodiest battles in the course of the war, the Battle of Shiloh. In April 1862, the battle began when Confederate forces launched a surprise attack against Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's forces in the area. However, by the time the battle had ended, Grant brought in reinforcements and launched a counterattack that won the battle for the Union.

Because the battlefield is in such a rural area and was recognized for its historical significance, Shiloh was one of the first Civil War sites to be preserved after the conflict ended. Today, visitors can take car tours through the military park, as well as take tours with park rangers and living history groups throughout the year.

Even with all of the preservation efforts it has undergone, Shiloh National Military Park's continued maintenance is supported in part through buying gifts related to the park at its two bookstores. You can find some unusual souvenirs like stoneware crocks and mugs in our newest glazes like Night Sky and the Southern-inspired Spanish Moss, all of which depict symbols of this historic battle in intricate detail on the front medallion.

Antietam National Battlefield

Battle of Antietam by ThulstrupDespite being a peaceful setting near a creek in the rolling fields north of Sharpsburg, Md., this was the site of the single bloodiest day in military history. In the Battle of Antietam, the Union Army met General Lee's forces at dawn to gain control of an area perilously close to Washington, D.C. By dusk, almost 23,000 soldiers were dead, wounded or missing.

In the wake of this horrific battle with a strategic Union victory, President Lincoln was able to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. With this proclamation, he officially freed every African American slave in the country, beginning the process of turning the page on one of the darkest chapters of America's history.

Today, anyone wanting to see where tide of the war began to turn can do so at Antietam National Battlefield. Many of the buildings and weapons seen during the war are preserved there, along with walking trails where anyone who visits can follow the course of this bloody battle up close.

To support the efforts to preserve this historic battlefield, the visitor center has souvenirs available like stoneware mugs, pins, patches and other collectibles. These pieces feature the Union and Confederate flags with two crossing rifles, making for a great addition to your mug and stein collection.

Gettysburg National Military Park

Perhaps one of the most famous battles of the Civil War took place on Union soil in southern Pennsylvania. Hundreds of thousands of troops from both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line descended upon the town of Gettysburg as General Lee tried to invade the north. Over the course of three days in July, tens of thousands of soldiers would die in the Battle of Gettysburg before the Union was able to halt Lee's march northward.

IMG_0513The carnage was unimaginable. A nurse serving after the battle described the smell that lingered over town as, "an oppressive, malignant force, capable of killing the wounded men who were forced to lie amid the corpses until the medical corps could reach them." It would remain that way for weeks, possibly even after President Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg Address at the site some months later.

Historians would later call this the turning point of the war. General Lee was forced to retreat to Virginia. From here, Union generals were able to go on the offensive and wage several campaigns through the South, cutting the Confederacy off from supplies.

Today, Gettysburg's historical importance can be seen in every corner of the city. Gettysburg National Military Park surrounds the city limits and is full of opportunities to explore, with miles of trails and guides to help you along the way.

At the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum, you'll find artifacts from the battle and plenty of history lessons, plus memorials for regimens and battalions from multiple states. While there, you might find the Potbelly or Tom's Mug in Sunfire Red with patriotic stars proclaiming the area as our nation's common ground. It's a design that won't be found at any other battlefield or museum in America and is perfectly at home with your morning cup of coffee.

Appomattox Court House National Historical Park

It was a long few years while Union forces campaigned to regain control of the South. Dozens of commanders marched through Georgia, Tennessee and Mississippi in a state of total war, destroying everything in their paths. The war came to its dramatic conclusion when the Confederates retreated from their capital of Richmond, Virginia, only for Union forces to cut them off before they could get any further west than this village.

Appomattox Court House ReenactmentThe house in which General Lee officially surrendered tells an unusual tale. Its owner was a man named Wilmer McLean, a grocer who originally lived in Manassas Junction, Va. However, after the First Battle of Bull Run brought a cannonball crashing down McLean's kitchen fireplace, he and his family moved to the small community of Appomattox Court House.

In perhaps the worse case of luck in American history, the war came back to McLean's front step as soldiers knocked on his door and asked to use his home to negotiate the terms of surrender. McLean agreed, and his story is now one of the odd final pieces in a war that redefined freedom.

At Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, visitors can see the inside of McLean's home and witness the space that helped change the meaning of America's title as the Land of the Free.

As you follow the trail of the Civil War, this might be one of your last stops—celebrate getting this far with a souvenir from the park's bookstore. Among the collectible pins and patches you might find at all of America's national parks, there are a few more unusual offerings. Some of these include bronze busts of Generals Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee, along with a stoneware mug in Brilliant Blue or Brick Red, depicting the final moments of the war as Lee surrendered.

The Civil War was a major turning point in American history. Although it did not fix all of the issues the United States faced around equality at the time, this deadly war marked a point at which we began to see all men and women as created equal. Supporting these battlefields and historical parks through their collectibles helps to ensure that these lessons can be taught for generations to come.

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