Civil War Trail
The Civil War Heritage Trail was founded in 2011 and covers Kentucky’s historic battlefields, museums, and other sites of Civil War.
Currently, the trail’s featured itinerary is all about our sixteenth president and Kentucky golden boy, Abraham Lincoln.
Start your tour at Farmington Historic Home, the 19th century hemp plantation and home of John and Lucy Speed. Completed in 1816 using the labor of enslaved African Americans, the house is restored. Abraham Lincoln, a close friend of John Speed’s son Joshua, spent approximately three weeks at Farmington in 1841. Approximate tour length: 1.5 hours.
From Louisville, take I-65 south to Elizabethtown. From Elizabethtown follow KY 61 south (Lincoln Parkway), 13 miles/21km to US 31E south. Take US 31 E south approximately 1.5 miles/2.5km (main entrance on the right), and begin your tour of the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site. Thomas and Nancy Lincoln settled on the 348-acre Sinking Springs Farm in the fall of 1808. Two months later on February 12, 1809, in a one-room log cabin near the Sinking Spring, the boy who would be our nation’s 16th President was born. Here the Lincolns lived and farmed before moving a few miles away to Knob Creek. The area was established by Congress on July 17, 1916. An early 19th century Kentucky cabin, symbolic of the one in which Lincoln was born, is preserved in a memorial building at the site of his birth. Approximate tour length: 1.5 hours.
Backtrack the short distance to Hodgenville via US 31E north to the town square for an overview of President Lincoln’s life by touring The Lincoln Museum, Kentucky's official museum dedicated to Lincoln’s life and times. The museum features 12 historically accurate scenes from Lincoln’s life. Also included in the museum are Lincoln & Civil War memorabilia, the Lincoln Art Collection, and a 21-minute film. Be sure to walk out to the center of Town Square for a photo-op in front of The Lincoln Statue, which was erected in 1909 and is cast bronze on a pink granite pedestal, and the Lincoln Boy Statue, which was erected in 2009 for the Lincoln Bicentennial celebration. Approximate tour length: 1 to 1.5 hours.
(Hodgenville offers several choices for a casual dining lunch experience.)
Follow US 31E north just a short distance (8 miles/13km) to the Lincoln Boyhood Home at Knob Creek, which is now part of the National Park System. At age 2 1/2, Lincoln's family moved from the Sinking Spring Farm to the Knob Creek Farm, which was then on the main route from Louisville to Nashville (now U.S. 31E). Lincoln is quoted as saying, "The place on Knob Creek, I remember very well; but I wasn’t born there. My earliest recollection however is of the Knob Creek place." Lincoln's brother Thomas, who died in infancy, was buried here. Approximate tour length: 20 minutes.
Leave Knob Creek for Bardstown via US 31 E north (18 miles/29km). (Overnight lodging and restaurants are available in Bardstown.)
This morning visit the Civil War Museum, the fourth-largest Civil War Museum in the United States. Unlike the other museums, this one focuses mainly on the War of the Western States. Visitors move through a series of exhibits featuring myriad artefacts from both the Union and the Confederacy. Located 1/2 a block away is the Women’s Civil War Museum, which depicts the role women played during the Civil War. Many were nurses, some were even spies and soldiers, while many, of course, sustained the home life while their husbands fought at the battlefront. There are many original dresses on display, numerous other artefacts and countless stories that are told.
Leaving Bardstown, follow US 150 east toward Springfield to KY 555 north (16 miles/26km). Turn left and follow the signs to Lincoln Homestead State Park (5 miles/8km). The Park features the original home of Lincoln’s mother, as well as replicas of the 1782 cabin and blacksmith shop where his father was reared and learned his trade, and the home of Mordecai Lincoln, an uncle of President Lincoln. Approximate tour length: 1.25 hours.
Take KY 555 south back to the intersection with US 150. Turn left onto US 150 east to Perryville (24 miles/39km). Follow the signs to Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site. Perryville became the site of the most destructive Civil War battle in the state, leaving more than 7,600 killed, wounded or missing. The battlefield is one of the most unaltered Civil War sites in the nation, and the park museum tells of the battle that was the South’s last serious attempt to gain possession of Kentucky. Approximate tour length: 1.5 hours.
Continue east on US 150 to US 68 east to Harrodsburg and Old Fort Harrod State Park (10 miles/16km). The fort houses the marriage temple of Abraham Lincoln’s parents, Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks. Approximate tour length: 1/2 hour for temple; 1.5 hours for fort.
(Overnight lodging and restaurants are available in Harrodsburg and at Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill.)
Take KY 152 east out of Harrodsburg to US 27 north toward Lexington and follow the signs to Camp Nelson Heritage Park (20 miles/32km; entrance on the right). Camp Nelson was a Union Army Supply Depot, the largest recruiting, mustering and training center for African American troops in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and one of the largest in the United States. Approximate tour length: 1.25 hours.
From Camp Nelson, continue north on US 27 to New Circle Road (KY 4 east) to Richmond Road (U.S. 25 south/KY 418 east). Merge onto I-75 south to Exit 95 and Whitehall State Historic Site (34 miles/55km), the home of Abraham Lincoln’s friend and his Minister to Russia, Cassius M. Clay. This restored 44-room Italianate mansion was built in 1799. Approximate tour length: 1 hour.
Get back on I-75 going north toward Lexington to Exit 104 (KY 418 west/Richmond Road) toward downtown and Ashland, the Henry Clay Estate, a national Historic Landmark (17 miles/27km). Mr. Clay was a famous 19h century statesman and a political idol of President Lincoln, as well as a fellow Kentuckian. Approximate tour length: 1.5 hours.
Get back on Richmond Road/Main Street going toward downtown Lexington to the Mary Todd Lincoln House (3 miles/5km). The house was purchased by Robert S. Todd, father of Mrs. Lincoln, in 1831. Mary Todd lived here until 1839 when she left Lexington to live with her sister in Springfield, IL. There she met, fell in love, and in 1842, married attorney and political figure, Abraham Lincoln. Approximate tour length: 1 hour.
From Lexington get on I-64 going west toward Frankfort, Kentucky’s State Capital (31 miles/50km). Take Exit #58 off of the I-64 at the Frankfort/Versailles exit. Turn right onto US 60 west and follow the signs to Downtown Frankfort and the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History (Kentucky History Center). Here you walk through 12,000 years of Kentucky history and architecture and exhibits about President Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, the only President of the Confederate States of America who was also born in Kentucky only 100 miles from Lincoln’s birthplace. Approximate tour length: 2 hours.