Virginia History Trails: Northern Virginia

By August 10, 2018 No Comments

August 10, 2018


Gadsby’s Tavern- One of America’s most famous landmarks, Gadsby’s Tavern was a center of political, commercial, and social life in early Alexandria. George Washington, George Mason, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, and the Marquis de Lafayette were among the colonial luminaries who regularly enjoyed the hospitality of the tavern. The Fairfax Resolves were partially drafted here, the Alexandria Library was founded here, Washington reviewed the troops for the last time on these steps, and during the Civil War, Francis Pierpont lived here while serving as governor of the Restored Government of Virginia.


Carter v. School Board of Arlington County- The NAACP’s campaign against separate but equal leapt forward when the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Carter v. School Board of Arlington County (1950) that segregation in local high schools constituted unlawful racial discrimination. This pivotal victory would not have been possible without the leadership of activist Esther Cooper, who organized and became the first president of the NAACP Arlington County branch in 1940. Two years later, she joined the state NAACP executive board and continued to fight for equality in education, employment, health care and voting rights.

Fort Myer

Arlington National Cemetery- Arlington National Cemetery traces its roots to land once owned by George Washington Parke Custis, grandson of Martha Washington, and later Robert E. Lee and his wife Mary Custis Lee. During the Civil War, the land served as a camp and headquarters for the Union Army, Freedman’s Village (an important contraband camp) and 200 acres set aside to bury the war dead. By 1865, burials included thousands of service members as well as African American Freedmen. Today, its 624 acres are home to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, President Kennedy’s gravesite, and more than 400,000 graves.


Trail to Freedom- Immerse yourself in history on the Trail to Freedom. This self-guided walking and driving tour follows the journey of the more than 10,000 former area slaves. Beginning in April of 1862, they crossed the Rappahannock River to Union lines camped in Stafford County. Visit various historical markers complete with historic photos chronicling the compelling stories of their journey northward to freedom. Follow the trail, read their words and hear their stories.


First & Second Battle of Manassas- One location, two battles, one huge impact. First Manassas (also known as Bull Run), the Civil War’s first major battle in June 1861, hinted at the bloodshed to come. Ragtag Union forces, followed by Washington picnic-goers, initially succeeded against Confederate troops. But they rallied around Thomas Jackson, giving him the nickname “Stonewall,” and took the day. Panicked federal troops and spectators fled back to Washington. Four more years of carnage left First Manassas looking like a small skirmish. The much larger Battle of Second Manassas in August 1862 saw quintuple the casualties.

Mount Vernon

George Washington- George Washington was a surveyor, a planter, a distiller of whiskey, a soldier who became a general and the first president of the United States of America. Known as the “Father of Our Country,” he was also a man of his time and place. At the age of 11, he inherited ten enslaved persons upon the death of his father and owned slaves for the rest of his life. Washington made provisions in his will to free his slaves, but most of the 316 slaves at Mount Vernon belonged to his wife Martha. Washington was the only slaveholder among the Founding Fathers to free his slaves.

To learn more about the sites and stories in Northern Virginia, download the Virginia History Trails application at the App Store and Google Play.