Civil War Inns: History in the making

Restored. That’s how guests tend to feel after a stay at these historic inns – and how fitting because these Civil War-era properties have all been honored with their own unique restorations. Alongside luxury bedding, piping hot breakfasts and picture-perfect views, a palpable sense of Civil War history is built right in. Original 18th-century relics grace the parlors and grand entryways, verdant landscapes have emerged from former battlefields. Each inn has withstood the worst of times but has been reborn as a pampering respite from the hustle and bustle of modern life. This dynamic interplay of generous Southern hospitality and Civil War legacy makes for an experience that won’t soon be forgotten.

Stevenson Ridge, Spotsylvania, VA

Just a few miles from major Civil War battlefields including Spotsylvania, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and Wilderness, the 87-acre Stevenson Ridge boasts some of the most “well-preserved Civil War trenches in private hands.”

The inn offers seven private, restored cottages from the 18th and 19th centuries, each with a wood-burning fireplace and dressed in period furnishings. Cottage names are a nod to the nation’s troubled past: The Civil War House, The Servants Quarters, and The Corn Crib – a renovated corn shed that’s romantic, dog friendly and wheelchair accessible. Bring a good book and bottle of wine to enjoy from the comfort of your porch, picnic alongside the fishing pond, or consider the “Civil War Package,” which includes a two-hour private guided tour of the Spotsylvania courthouse and battlegrounds.

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Battlefield Bed & Breakfast Inn, Gettysburg, PA

Formerly the home of abolitionist Cornelius Houghtelin, the original Civil War farmhouse sits on a 30-acre nature preserve smack dab on the Gettysburg Battlefield behind Big Round Top. During the Battle of Gettysburg, the house was used as General Merritt’s Union Cavalry headquarters; the barn was a field hospital. After Pickett’s Charge, the farm served as a Union cavalry camp.

Nowadays, a costumed staff serves breakfast and presents an entertaining history program every morning. Rooms – some with Jacuzzis and fireplaces – are decked out in cozy quilts, soft lighting, and handsome antiques. The enormous barn can accommodate up to 140 guests for weddings and family celebrations. Battlefield B&B takes pride in catering to families, dogs, and those who believe in ghosts. If the latter applies, be sure and book Miss Betty’s “Haunted Barn Tour.”

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William Sypert Station Lebanon, TN

Attorney William Sypert built this home in 1830 as his private residence. During the war, his negotiation skills reportedly helped him convince Union soldiers to spare the home – and the nearby public square – from fire. The quaint B&B has since been restored to honor this harrowing moment in history. It features the original hardwood floors Sypert once walked on, tall ceilings, a tin roof, and era-inspired transoms over the doorways.

Linda, the innkeeper, ensures each day kicks off with a scrumptious breakfast as well as other treats like Butterscotch Vodka Irish Cream Pecan Pound Cake (“Don’t eat and drive,” she quips). Enjoy a three-block stroll to the Cedars Walking Trail or to the train depot where the Music City Star, a vintage passenger train, departs for the hour-long journey to Nashville.

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The Essex Inn, Tappahannock, VA

Formerly used as Union headquarters (and likely an infirmary) during the Civil War, this 1850 Greek-Revival mansion has been meticulously restored to its original Old World grandeur. Each room boasts 20-foot ceilings, double-hung windows with most of the original glass, and the original wide-plank floors. On the main floor, every room features a unique chandelier – some original to the house, some acquired during the renovation, each with an illuminating history of its own. Period antiques, reproductions, and family heirlooms furnish every space. Some suites feature custom-made four-poster beds and fireplaces, as well as a separate sitting room and full kitchen.

Innkeepers Ric and Jeremy punctuate the experience with their own spin on Southern hospitality. Each morning they serve a gourmet breakfast in the dining room, beautifully presented on china with silver flatware. They also share some of their theater background with guests, hosting special events like blues concerts in the shaded courtyard, staged play readings, or, for those who dare, a “Murder Mystery Weekend.”

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The Allison House Inn Quincy, FL

This stately Georgian structure was built in 1843 by A.K. Allison, who in 1865 became governor of Florida and signed a peace treaty with the Union which ultimately ended Florida’s role in the Civil War. Inspired by the relaxed atmosphere and signature style of a classic English country manor, the inn is rife with antiques and furnishings from the British Isles (hunting memorabilia, claw-foot tub, English chintz).

Hosts Stuart and Eileen Johnson ensure no detail is overlooked – crisply ironed pillowcases are lightly misted with the scent of lavender, homemade pastries are freshly baked daily and the dining room sideboard always has a cookie jar brimming with homemade biscotti and a decanter full of sherry. Thanks to a temperate climate throughout the year, the landscape is lush with crepe myrtle, jasmine, gardenia, plus magnolia, almond, fig, pear and pecan trees.

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Black Horse Inn Warrenton, VA

The Black Horse Cavalry inspired the name of this home-style mansion in the heart of Virginia’s horse country. The cavalry led a successful charge against Union forces at the First Battle of Manassas, winning the praise of Confederate President, Jefferson Davis. The unit also served as bodyguard, escort and scout for General Stonewall Jackson.

Pre-Civil War era elegance is alive and well here – by the cozy hearth of the antique-accented library, in the four-poster Chippendale canopy bed of the “Hunters Haven” suite, and under the gazebo of the boxwood gardens where afternoon tea or a pre-dinner cocktail can be leisurely enjoyed. The inn also caters to horse lovers. Riders are invited to join a fox hunt, equine guests are welcome in the barn, and there’s a lighted outdoor riding arena available year round.

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The Stockade, B&B Baton Rouge, LA

Named after the Union stockade that existed on the property during the Civil War, this large, hacienda-style house surrounded by 11 bucolic acres is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Each of the six spacious guest rooms is dressed in luxury linens and decorated with eclectic antique furniture. Original artwork from the owner’s private collection graces the walls.

Sit down to a full hot breakfast (New Orleans’-style grits and grillades, Mizz Tracey’s cornbread waffles with sausage gravy) served every morning, and burn the delicious calories off with free access to a 24-hour gym across the street. Or better yet, save the plentiful nourishment for a multitude of day trip possibilities in the area, including an excursion to Cajun country.

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Mason House Inn, of Bentonsport, Bentonsport, IA

Built on the banks of the scenic Des Moines River in 1846 by Mormon craftsmen as a hotel for steamboat travelers, the Mason House also served as a hospital and station on the Underground Railroad. The original Federal-style architecture still stands, but has been outfitted with 21st-century conveniences like extra-long double beds.

While many of the rooms appear much as they did back in the day, the Caboose Cottage–a genuine 1952 railroad caboose – is furnished with a queen-size bed, satellite TV with DVD player, complimentary Wi-Fi access, dining area, full kitchen and private bathroom. Innkeepers Chuck and Joy Hanson serve a full country breakfast daily in the 40-foot main house dining room, at the time of your choice. And to make the stay extra sweet, there’s a cookie jar in every room.

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