Byline: by Meera Dattani
HE SHOT Lincoln in the head inside this building. That was mission accomplished for John Wilkes Booth.' So ends my Abraham Lincoln assassination tour around Washington DC with historian and former journalist Anthony Pitch.
It's a timely tour. On April 12, it will be 150 years since the start of the American Civil War, which claimed more than 600,000 soldiers' lives, ending slavery and Lincoln. Pitch is the only guide who's made me cry. In two hours of broad daylight, he brings to life Lincoln's last night -- April 14, 1865 -- four days after the war ended. Inside Ford's Theatre is the box where Lincoln was assassinated.
It's an excellent museum housing exhibits such as Wilkes's derringer gun and a full calendar of 2011 anniversary events.
Inside the Lincoln memorial, Abe's statue attracts countless visitors exploring the National Mall, home to DC's free Smithsonian museums, war memorials and the White House. Of course, DC's about more than Lincoln.
The U.S. capital marks the start of a road trip around Maryland and Virginia. The region is an appealing mix of big cities like Washington and Baltimore and beautiful scenery in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains.
With a free audio guide from Cultural Tourism DC's website, I enjoy a bite-sized history lesson on a sign-posted Civil War to civil rights heritage trail before taking the metro to U St/Cardozo.
Here is the Spirit Of Freedom or African-American Soldiers Civil War Memorial and the African-American Civil War Museum, a tribute to the 200,000-plus African-Americans who served in Civil War armies. DC is captivating but Maryland calls. I head north to Antietam battlefield. Some 23,000 soldiers died here on September 17, 1862, the greatest number of losses in a single day in U.S. military history.
Set in the Appalachian foothills, more than 500 cannons dot this 3,200-acre park. It's hard to imagine the bloodshed. The battle ended the Confederate Army's first attempt to invade the North, giving Lincoln enough momentum to issue his Emancipation Proclamation, declaring free slaves in states not under Union control.
Nearby South Mountain and Gathland State Parks offer history and hikes WISDOM Washington planned city, Pierre L'Enfant, military arrived with Lafayette along the 65 kilometre Appalachian Trail.
Quirky towns are Maryland's forte. Frederick, east of Antietam, is no exception with independent restaurants and shops, and an absorbing National Museum Of Civil War Medicine run by the prolific George Wunderlich - Civil War buff, volunteer fireman, ballistics expert and banjo specialist. After an impromptu banjo lesson, I leave for Baltimore.
Baltimore boasts gastro-paradise Lexington Market, the Orioles baseball ground, waterfront Fells Point and skyline views from Federal Hill Park. The brilliant B&O Railroad Museum also hits the spot. Housing the U.S.'s most extensive collection of railroad trains, it shows how Baltimore as a transport hub was key to Union victory. It's then time to travel south to former Confederate territory.
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