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Explore the history of

the underground railroad and civil war

Explore the pivotal role that Jackson played in the anti-slavery movement of the 1850s, leading up to four years of American civil war.  From striking monuments and locations to widely attended events that continue to honor an undeniable impact, the stories of the Civil War hold a special significance within Jackson’s heart.

Jackson Civil War Muster

In honor of the area’s widespread history, the Jackson Civil War Muster was started in 1984. It is cancelled for 2019 but will return in 2020, featuring more than 1,500 reenactors and 30,000 spectators. Visit a re-creation of the original village of Jacksonburgh, watch an artillery “night fire,” and enjoy live period music at this annual summer tradition in Sparks Foundation County Park, also known as Cascades Park.

Year-Round History

The first Civil War volunteer regiment in Michigan came from right here in Jackson, and several spots around town reflect invaluable reminders of the history that followed. We recommend a visit to the following locations on your Civil War tour:

  • Withington Park, which features the striking, century-old sculpture “In Defense of the Flag,” also known as the Jackson County Soldiers and Sailors Monument. The sculpture was a gift from Gen. William H. Withington to honor his fellow servicemen.

  • Under the Oaks Park, featuring a stone monument placed at the site of the first Republican convention, signaling the birth of the GOP. This meeting played an important role in the anti-slavery movement leading up to the Civil War.

  • Evergreen Cemetery, a dedicated burial ground for soldiers from the War of 1812, the American Civil War, and both World Wars.

  • Ella Sharp Museum, a historic home and museum. It includes a robust Jackson history exhibit, including the resolution table used during the Republican Party’s first official meeting.

  • First Congregational Church, a parish that played an active role in the anti-slavery movement starting in the 1840s.

  • Michigan Military Heritage Museum, a museum honoring Michigan veterans from the Civil War as well as other wars.
Under Oaks Park

The Undergound Railroad

Hidden in plain view are local landmarks that bear witness to a secret past so well concealed, it was only recently discovered. A church, train depot and several bronze plaques are among spots throughout town that were once connected to the Underground Railroad, a system of transporting fugitives from slave states in the South to Free states in the North and Canada during the early and mid-1800’s. Not only did this system pass through Jackson County, several residents risked their lives to feed, lodge and transport their undercover passengers. Agents also gave monetary assistance, waged an information campaign in the media, sought political reform and fought a military campaign during the Civil War in an effort to end slavery. For more information on booking a tour, visit this website.


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