National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, Maryland

The last Civil War-related stop on our trip was the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in quaint Frederick, MD. Civil War Medicine is of particular interest to me because of my training in medicine, so we scheduled an extra day in our itinerary to be able to visit.

I wasn’t sure, however, if the children would find it especially interesting. Perhaps it would be a bit too complicated for them? Not at all. It turns out they were very interested. And the museum itself had exhibits for many different interest levels.

Civil War medical supplies
Civil War stretcher

One of the things my children enjoyed learning was that once an enemy was wounded, he was no longer considered an enemy. That wounded soldier would be treated at whatever makeshift hospital was nearby.

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My two 6-year-olds were already familiar with this idea after reading the book Civil War on Sunday by Mary Pope Osbourne (part of the Magic Treehouse series). The characters in this book travel back in time to meet Civil War nurse Clara Barton and end up offering help to a confederate soldier, even though they were part of the Union side in the story.

Life-size diorama of Civil War-era ambulance

One important link from the past to the present that the children were able to grasp was that the idea of the ambulance was not very widespread before the Civil War. I asked them the following: “If you have a hospital and everything you need in one place, and a sick person in another, what else would you need?” They really didn’t get it at first. They came up with the answers: “A doctor.” “A nurse.” “Medicine.” But they did not understand that they would need a way to transport the sick person to the hospital. I love making these interesting little connections in their brains.

Life-size diorama of an amputation

The thing that my kids liked most about our visit to the National Museum of Civil War Medicine was the life-size dioramas. Some of them had buttons that you could push to hear what might have been being said by the people in the diorama.

My favorite exhibit was one containing this Civil War-era History of Present Illness. We all know this as the questions the doctor asks you when you visit her at the office. There are a few questions on the Civil War HPI that aren’t really used anymore, like “Have you ever had the horrors?” and “Are you subject to the piles?” Interesting.

Civil War-era History of Present Illness

I recommend stopping here if you are in the area.

Epic Washington, D.C.

After leaving Antietam, our next stop was Washington, D.C. We wanted to catch a glimpse of the White House before someone decided to have it gold-plated. Seriously though, my motives for visiting Washington, D.C. were purely tourist in nature. I had never been there and just wanted to see what the place was all about.

Should you drive or take public transportation?

We stayed at a hotel about 15 minutes outside of D.C. in Chevy Chase, MD. We pondered whether it would be better to take public transportation into the city, or drive. Many websites recommended taking public transportation, as parking was said to be very difficult. But, we’re from Chicago, and decided to take our chances that there would be parking garages aplenty, just like in Chi-Town. Well, we were happy to find that there were parking garages, though we did have to pay a premium to park.

We were happy to find that there were parking garages, though we did have to pay a premium to park.


The White House, Washington, D.C

We only had one day in D.C., so our plan was just to see the sights and move on. Our plan was: White House, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and whatever else would be convenient, keeping in mind that we were walking from site to site with little ones.

Where’s the White House?

Our first stop was to be the White House, so we walked in the general direction of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and came upon a whitish house with an American flag on top and a sorry-looking rose garden out front. I thought it was the White House, but was too embarrassed to ask anyone. Turns out, it was the Treasury Building. The White House was on the next block.

Robert Redford in Washington, D.C.

Anyway, while pondering whether the Treasury was, in fact, the White House, we noticed a small crowd gathering just across the way. There were black Suburbans and people with sunglasses guarding someone important looking. We thought we were going to see some Washington insider so we joined the crowd. It turned out to be Robert Redford. Weird. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you never know who you’re going to see on a road trip.

After our sighting of Mr. Sundance himself, we kept walking down Pennsylvania Avenue until we ran into some park rangers (yes, the National Mall is part of the National Park Service). We first asked where we could get our activity books to earn our Junior Ranger badges. Then asked if we were walking in the right direction to find the White House.

The National Mall is part of the National Park service.

We were indeed headed in the right direction. Next, we would be heading to the small museum at President’s Park to earn our badges.

In front of the White House, Washington, D.C.
Protest pins on display at the President’s Park museum, Washington, D.C.
Working on earning our Junior Ranger badges, Washington, D.C.
Being sworn in as Junior Rangers, President’s Park, Washington, D.C.

Feeding Hungry Bellies

My husband was excited because, for some reason, he thought there would be food trucks at the National Mall. He was very disappointed to see that though there were a few food trucks, they were only serving pretzels, hot dogs, pizza, and ice cream.

There are no food trucks on the National Mall, much to my husband’s dismay.

The kids (not to mention the parents) had, by that time, worked up quite an appetite. And we were all disappointed that there were no food trucks to be found on the Mall. But we didn’t want to waste time looking for a restaurant and sitting down for food. So we settled for chicken hot dogs and pretzels to feed our bellies before moving to the next site.

Washington Monument, Washington, D.C.

The Washington Monument

The Washington Monument was the next site to see. And we got a nice view of the Capitol Building as well. I particularly enjoyed watching my children frolic on the lawn in front of the Washington Monument–kind of a “This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land” moment–as we headed off toward the Lincoln Memorial.

Washington Monument, Washington, D.C.


WWII Veteran’s Memorial

We first came upon the WWII veteran’s memorial. The kids were very excited because they had just learned about this memorial on Veteran’s Day in their school.

img_1469The Lincoln Memorial

Abe Lincoln is our favorite president, so we HAD to visit the Lincoln Memorial. As we walked toward it, reflecting in the beautiful reflecting pool, we saw the slightest outline of Abe becoming clearer and clearer. And, as we ascended the steps, the kids grew more excited.

Abe inspiring sibling love, Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.
Bonding with Dad and Abe, Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C,

“I Have a Dream”

At the top of one flight of steps there is an engraved stone that marks where Martin Luther King, Jr. stood to deliver his “I Have a Dream” speech. Standing at that spot and looking out at the reflecting pool with the Washington Monument in the distance, I tried to imagine all the people gathered for that speech. Just amazing. Enough to give me chills and leave me speechless.

The spot from which MLK gave his “I Have a Dream Speech,” Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.

After visiting Abe Lincoln, our legs were all getting very tired, so we decided to make our way back to the car. The sites are quite far apart and we really didn’t realize how much walking we would be doing.

Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial

On our way back, we stopped by the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial. My son was astounded by all the names and did not believe that all the people listed were casualties of that war.

Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial, Washington, D.C.

We stopped for a quick cup of coffee and some smoothies on Pennsylvania Avenue on the way to the car. And returned to the hotel exhausted. But not too exhausted to do a little ballet before turning in for the night.

Epic Antietam, The Bloodiest One-Day Battle

Our next stop was Antietam National Battlefield. Though much smaller than Gettysburg, Antietam was no less powerful.

Our visit started with a movie about the battle. We then went up to the viewing room where we got an amazing view of the battlefield. We also visited the small museum in the visitor center.

This is what we learned:

The battle at Antietam is known as the bloodiest one-day battle in American history. According to the National Park Service, “23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded or missing after twelve hours of savage combat on September 17, 1862. The Battle of Antietam ended the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia’s first invasion into the North and led to Abraham Lincoln’s issuance of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.”

“23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded or missing after twelve hours of savage combat on September 17, 1862. The Battle of Antietam ended the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia’s first invasion into the North and led to Abraham Lincoln’s issuance of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.”

Before embarking on our auto tour of the battlefield, we collected our Junior Ranger activity books. The kids love working on earning their Junior Ranger badges at the National Parks that we have visited.

Dunker Church, Antietam National Battlefield, Sharpsburg, MD

It’s easy to see why this could have been a very bloody battle. The terrain here is very hilly and sightlines are extremely poor. A soldier could not have seen the enemy until he was almost right on top of him.

Our family did an experiment. Dad walked ahead off the trail of Sunken Alley (otherwise known as Bloody Lane). The kids and I stayed behind. It was not too long until he disappeared from view into one of the shallow valleys. Just like that, we had zero visibility of him even though he was relatively close.

The hills and dales of Antietam National Battlefield, Sharpsburg, MD
Sunken Alley (Bloody Lane), Antietam National Battlefield, Sharpsburg, MD
Burnsides Bridge, Antietam National Battlefield, Sharpsburg, MD

Nothing stimulates the appetite of little ones more than a little learning about the Civil War and a little hiking on a beautiful day. The same holds true for Mom and Dad. We, luckily, met up with a cyber friend who recommended going to Sheperdstown, WV to find some food.

Maria's Taqueria, Shepherdstown, WV
Maria’s Taqueria, Shepherdstown, WV

We had a delicious lunch at Maria’s Taqueria. We recommend this quaint little restaurant highly.