Civil War Heritage Trail

Kentucky's Civil War Heritage Trail was created to observe the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War, and includes 36 historic and interpretive sites around the state – from battlefields and cemeteries to the birthplaces of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis.


Below, we’ve divided up the sites by region to help you plan your journey. Whether you plan on seeing them all or only have time for a few, these historic places will give you a deeper understanding of how the Civil War altered Kentucky, and the nation. 


Western Waterlands Region


Columbus-Belmont State Park Civil War Museum


Perched on a high river bluff, this Confederate fort was strategic in maintaining control of the Mississippi River. See cannons, shells and Confederate General Leonidas Polk’s massive chain and anchor, which were used on the river to block Union forces. The museum is located in a restored antebellum farmhouse. 


Lloyd Tilghman House & Civil War Museum


Learn about Western Kentucky’s role in the Civil War at this Greek Revival house museum, which was once the residence of Confederate General Lloyd Tilghman.

Jefferson Davis State Historic Site


This 351-foot obelisk is located on the birth site of Jefferson Davis, who served as President of the Confederate States during the Civil War. The Kentucky native was also a West Point graduate, congressman and senator. Visitors can ride an elevator to the top of the monument for scenic views, and tour the museum to learn about Davis’ life.


Caves, Lakes & Corvettes Region


Riverview House Museum


Construction on this grand Victorian mansion began before the Civil War, but building was halted at the onset of the conflict and the property was put to use as a munitions magazine. Today, the restored Riverview House Museum offers a rare glimpse into Victorian life during the late 19th century.


Battle For The Bridge Historic Preserve

The Battle for the Bridge Historic Preserve protects 219 acres of the Munfordville Battlefield, site of three Civil War battles, including the 1862 Battle and Siege of Munfordville – perhaps the most strategically important battle in the Commonwealth's Civil War history. A 2.25-mile interpretive trail is available featuring vistas of the Green River railroad bridge and Fort Craig. 


Bourbon, Horses & History Region


Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park


Long before President Abraham Lincoln went on to become one of the preeminent leaders in American history, he spent his earliest years in Hodgenville, and his family had roots all around Kentucky. The Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park is home to the First Lincoln Memorial, which houses a replica of Lincoln’s birth cabin. You can also visit the Abraham Lincoln Boyhood Home at Knob Creek, just 10 miles away.


Hardin County History Museum


Explore the history of Hardin County from its early Native American inhabitants to the pioneers to the present day. Exhibits tell fascinating stories of the county’s Civil War history, including the Battle of Elizabethtown and the John Hunt Morgan Christmas Raid. 


Women Of The Civil War Museum


From nurses to spies to soldiers in disguise, women played many roles during the Civil War. The Women of the Civil War Museum is the only museum of its kind dedicated to exploring women’s involvement in the conflict, with many artifacts to help tell the stories.

Farmington Historic Home


Farmington is the historic home and plantation site of John and Lucy Speed, completed in 1816. Farmington was a thriving 550-acre hemp plantation powered by the labor of nearly 60 enslaved African Americans who lived in cabins on the property. In the summer of 1841, Abraham Lincoln visited Farmington for three weeks, and had enduring relationships with the Speed family during his presidency. The property includes a visitor center with an exhibit room that interprets the plantation's history.


Frazier History Museum


Explore a wide range of permanent and rotating exhibits related to Kentucky’s rich and diverse history. Located in the heart of downtown Louisville, the Frazier History Museum is also the official first stop of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. 


Bluegrass, Horses, Bourbon & Boone Region


Old State Capitol


In September 1862, Frankfort became the only Union capital to be conquered by Confederate troops. That same October, the Old State Capitol – a Greek Revival masterpiece built in 1830 – was the site of the inauguration of Richard Hawes as Confederate governor of Kentucky. However, Union forces advanced on Frankfort just as Hawes was being sworn in, forcing the Confederates to flee the capital. Just days later, tensions erupted at the Battle of Perryville.


Kentucky State Capitol

The current Kentucky State Capitol was built between 1904 and 1910 using $1,000,000 in funds from the federal government for damage sustained during the Civil War and for Kentucky’s services during the Spanish-American War. Inside the ornate rotunda, you can see statues of two prominent Civil War leaders – Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, who were both born in Kentucky less than one year and 100 miles apart. Pick up a Capitol Building and Capitol Rotunda walking tour brochure to learn more about the Capitol’s Civil War history.

Thomas D. Clark Center For Kentucky History


As the headquarters of the Kentucky Historical Society, this is a great place to ground yourself in Kentucky’s Civil War history. Be sure to see Abraham Lincoln's pocket watch, one of the museum's most famous exhibits. Admission includes tours of the Old State Capitol and Kentucky Military History Museum, which boasts a large collection of Union and Confederate uniforms, flags, weapons and other memorabilia.


Daniel Boone's Grave, Frankfort Cemetery


Established in the early 1840s, the Frankfort Cemetery is perhaps best known for being the final resting place of Daniel and Rebecca Boone. It was also the burial site of many soldiers during the Civil War, and is home to the Kentucky War Memorial, which honors fallen Kentucky soldiers from numerous wars.


Leslie Morris Park On Fort Hill

Set on a hill overlooking downtown Frankfort and the Kentucky River Valley, this 125-acre park contains two Civil War earthwork forts built in 1863. On a self-guided tour, visitors can also see the site of an 1864 raid by Confederate General John Hunt Morgan.


Greenhill Cemetery


Established in 1865, this cemetery in east Frankfort features the only monument to Kentucky’s United States Colored Troops (USCT), commemorating more than 140 USCT members from Frankfort and the surrounding area.

Lexington Cemetery


A testament to Kentucky’s bitter divide during the Civil War, both Union and Confederate soldiers are buried in this historic cemetery, which dates to 1849. You can also visit the graves of Confederate General John Hunt Morgan, statesman Henry Clay and members of the Mary Todd Lincoln family. 


Mary Todd Lincoln House

First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln grew up in the heart of downtown Lexington, and you can learn all about her fascinating life before, during and after her time in the White House, at her beautifully preserved childhood home. 

Hunt-Morgan House and Civil War Museum


Explore the lives and legacies of the prominent Hunt-Morgan families, whose members included businessman John Wesley Hunt and “Thunderbolt of the Confederacy” John Hunt Morgan. The second floor of the home contains the Alexander T. Hunt Civil War Museum, and houses a large collection of Civil War artifacts.


Waveland State Historic Site


Located just outside of downtown Lexington, Waveland is a stately antebellum mansion that was built by Joseph Bryan, an ancestor of Daniel Boone, in 1848. During the Civil War, Bryan gave supplies to Confederate – eventually leading to his fleeing to Canada to avoid arrest. The home is now a living history museum that depicts life in Kentucky in the 1840s.


Ashland, The Henry Clay Estate


A magnificent Antebellum plantation home on the outskirts of Lexington, Ashland was built by U.S. statesman Henry Clay and served as his home until his death in 1852. The Civil War brought hard times upon Ashland and the Clay family; in 1862 Ashland was the site of the bloody Battle of Ashland, the war left the Clay family as bitterly divided as the country. 


Civil War Fort At Boonesboro


Visit the remnants of this earthwork fort, which was built by the Union to defend the Kentucky River and deter Confederate raiders. The fort was often manned by African-American soldiers. Explore walking trails for scenic river views, and take a self-guided or cell-phone tour of the fort.


White Hall State Historic Site


This Italianate mansion was the home of Cassius Marcellus Clay, an emancipationist, politician and friend of Abraham Lincoln. The home has been immaculately restored and features period furnishings that offer a glimpse of upper-class life in Kentucky during the 1860s. 


Camp Nelson Civil War National Monument


One of Kentucky’s most historically and culturally significant places, Camp Nelson was the third-largest recruiting and training depot in the nation for African-American soldiers during the Civil War. The camp supplied the Union with more than 10,000 African-American soldiers, and eight United States Colored Troops (USCT) regiments were organized here. Today you can explore interpretive trails, forts, officers’ quarters, cemeteries, replica barracks, an Interpretive Center and more.


Shaker Village Of Pleasant Hill


This sprawling living history park interprets the lives of the Pleasant Hill Shakers, who flourished on this pastoral property outside Harrodsburg for over 100 years. The village played a fascinating role during the Civil War, when the turnpike and river that form its borders served as strategic arteries for soldiers on both sides of the conflict. As pacifists, the Shakers did not participate in the fighting, though they sided with the Union and held anti-slavery views. Nonetheless, a Confederate soldier is the only non-Shaker buried in the village, having died here after being wounded in the Battle of Perryville.


Old Fort Harrod State Park


One of Kentucky’s most significant historic sites, Old Fort Harrod State Park centers around a replica of Kentucky’s first permanent settlement. The park’s Mansion Museum houses Confederate and Union rooms filled with newspapers, firearms, photographs and other Civil War artifacts. You can also view the Lincoln Marriage Temple, the log cabin where Abraham Lincoln’s parents were wed in 1806. 


Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site


The Battle of Perryville was one of the bloodiest battles in the Civil War, and left more than 7,600 soldiers killed, wounded or missing. At more than 1,000 acres, it is the largest battlefield in Kentucky, and one of the most unaltered in the nation. Take a self-guided tour of the battlefield, and visit the museum to learn the story of the Confederacy’s last major attempt to gain possession of Kentucky.


Southern Shorelines Region


Tebbs Bend Battlefield Association


This battlefield on the banks of the Green River was the site of a pivotal victory for Union forces when they defeated Confederate General John Hunt Morgan, who would be captured in Ohio less than a month later. A three-mile driving tour includes the battlefield, the Atkinson-Griffon House Museum – which served as a Confederate hospital – and more sites.


Mill Springs National Battlefield Visitor Center & Museum


This nine-mile battlefield was the site of the first Union victory in the Western theater of the Civil War. Start by learning about the history of the battle at the Mill Springs Battlefield Visitor Center and Museum in Nancy, which is on the site of the Mill Springs National Cemetery. Then take a driving tour of the battlefield, which includes 10 stops and opportunities to hike to more than 14 interpretive signs. Be sure to visit at the West-Metcalfe House, which was used as a hospital, and the Brown-Lanier House, which was a headquarters for three generals during the battle.


Daniel Boone Country Region


Camp Wildcat Civil War Battlefield


Kentucky’s first Civil War engagement occurred here on October 21, 1861, when Confederate and Union soldiers met along the Wilderness Road, an important strategic route into Kentucky. Take a walking tour of the battle site, where you can still see the soldiers’ trenches. 


Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

The Wilderness Road through Cumberland Gap has been an important passageway into Kentucky since Daniel Boone’s days. It was equally important during the Civil War, and multiple fortifications were built all along the road – many of which can still be seen today, including Fort Lyon, which was the site of the final surrender of the Gap to the Union in 1863. The 20,305-acre wilderness park also offers abundant outdoor activities and beautiful scenery.


Northern Kentucky River Region


National Underground Railroad Museum


Known as the “Gateway to the South,” the town of Maysville was also the gateway for many slaves seeking freedom across the Ohio River. This museum is located in the Bierbower House, a documented safe house on the Underground Railroad where you can view artifacts and memorabilia, servants’ quarters and secret chambers where escaped slaves were hidden. 


Kentucky Appalachians Region


Middle Creek National Battlefield


Eastern Kentucky’s largest Civil War battle was fought on the Appalachian ridges surrounding Prestonsburg in January 1862, with Union troops emerging victorious under the command of future U.S. president James A. Garfield. Learn about the battle from both sides with interpretive panels, and walk the Confederate and Union loop trails to see where the skirmish took place.


The Samuel May House 


Located in Prestonsburg, Kentucky, Historical Marker #2018 commemorates the Samuel May House. Built in 1817, the house was the hub of a 350-acre farm that served as a recruiting and supply post for the Confederate Army during the Civil War.