In The Steps of Lincoln and Grant at The Willard Hotel in Washington, DC
Posted by Tom Armstrong
Posted in: Tauck’s Travelogue
Tags: Hotels, Washington DC, Ken Burns, Civil War
As you’d expect, Washington, DC is filled with historic sites boasting strong connections to the American Civil War. Abraham Lincoln’s “summer cottage” still stands in the city, and he stayed there repeatedly during the war to escape the pressures of the White House. Just across the Potomac River in Arlington, Virginia, Robert E. Lee’s pre-war plantation still overlooks Washington. The house was seized during the conflict, the grounds became a burial ground for Union soldiers, and today the property is Arlington National Cemetery. And of course, Ford’s Theatre, where Lincoln was tragically shot just a week after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House, tells the solemn final chapter of the war.
Did you know, however, that another Washington, DC site with deep Civil War roots is a world-renowned hotel – and that Tauck guests enjoy a stay there during our “Most Hallowed Ground” Civil War tour? Officially known as the InterContinental The Willard hotel, this historic luxury property is more popularly known simply as The Willard, and it hosts our guests for the first three nights of their 11-day Most Hallowed Ground: The Civil War itinerary.
We designed Most Hallowed Ground: The Civil War in close cooperation with the award-winning filmmaker Ken Burns (whose landmark film “The Civil War” remains the highest rated documentary in public television history), and Ken was quick to note The Willard’s strong Civil War ties. Said Ken, “The writer Nathaniel Hawthorne observed during the Civil War that The Willard ‘may be much more justly called the center of Washington and the Union than either the Capitol, the White House, or the State Department.’” Added Ken, “There is simply no more historic hotel in Washington, and no better place to begin an exploration of our nation’s greatest conflict, than The Willard.”
Some interesting facts about The Willard:
• President-elect Abraham Lincoln stayed at The Willard just prior to his first inauguration in 1861.
• That same year abolitionist Julia Ward Howe wrote the stirring lyrics to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” while a guest at the hotel.
• In early 1864, General Ulysses S. Grant also stayed at The Willard when he was summoned to Washington by Lincoln to accept command of the entire Union army.
• During his post-war presidency Grant would often relax at The Willard, where people hoping to secure his favor would gather in the lobby – ultimately prompting Grant to coin the term “lobbyist.”
• Almost a century later, when civil rights and not the Civil War roiled the U.S., Martin Luther King, Jr. completed his landmark “I Have A Dream” speech at The Willard the night before his historic March on Washington rally.
• The Willard remains one of the most highly regarded hotels in Washington, DC, having been honored with awards from Travel + Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, Forbes, AAA and a range of others.
Following the three-night stay at The Willard, Most Hallowed Ground: The Civil War travels through Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia to visit historic sites and Civil War battlefields including Gettysburg, Antietam, Petersburg and Appomattox. The itinerary explores the war’s roots during guided visits to the National Archives in Washington, DC and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello home in Virginia. You’ll also gain insights into the experiences of the combatants at the National Museum of the Civil War Soldier in Petersburg, Virginia, and you’ll discover the war’s impact on medical techniques and technology at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, Maryland. A poignant visit to Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC highlights the war’s end, and prompts a contemplation of how post-war Reconstruction might have been different under Abraham Lincoln’s leadership.
Throughout the journey, you’ll gain Ken’s personal insights as presented during a series of video vignettes that air aboard our motorcoach while en route to various sites. These exclusive short features include never-before seen interview footage with Ken, as well as special highlights from “The Civil War.”
For more information on the Most Hallowed Ground: The Civil War tour, click here.