Today is

The 150th Anniversary of the firing on Fort Sumter, the start of the Civil War.  John Swansburg has a slide show of a road trip you can take this year in Slate.

A Civil War road trip.
I should start by saying this: I am not a Civil War buff. Not even close. The last time I studied the war was over a bowl of Wheat Chex the day I was to be tested on the material in 11th grade. I don't know McClellan from McPherson or Hooker from Halleck. Everything I know about J.E.B. Stuart I learned from the short fiction of Barry Hannah. But I am aware that millions of Americans visit Civil War battlefields each year. I also know that the number of Civil War tourists is about to spike: April 12, 2011, marks the 150th anniversary of the firing on Fort Sumter, which even I remember is the event that ignited the hostilities between North and South. Over the next four years, scores of fathers will use the sesquicentennial celebration as an excuse to don their safari shirts and trundle forbearing wives and irritable children off to Gettysburg or Spotsylvania or Chickamauga. What will they see? Will they learn something they couldn't have picked up from watching Ken Burns or reading Battle Cry of Freedom? Can visiting these places turn a layman into a buff? Is Civil War tourism fun?

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