Frances Scott Key was so inspired by his fellow Americans' valor during the War of 1812's Battle of Baltimore that he penned the "Defence of Fort M'Henry," the poem that would go on to become the national anthem.
America's early battlegrounds and historic places continue to inspire generations, whose independence was won by patriots taking on the most powerful empire of their time: Britain.
"It's its own kind of time machine," said Mary Koik, Director of Communications for the nonprofit American Battlefield Trust, which works to preserve battlefields from the Revolutionary War through the Civil War. "There is something really profound about going to places where history happened."
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Many Americans recognize Pocahontas and Captain John Smith from history books or Disney's fictionalized film, but they were real people tied to Jamestown, which English settlers founded in 1607, years before Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock. Pocahontas' widower John Rolfe famously documented the first Africans to arrive in the Virginia colony in 1619. (However, both enslaved and free Africans had been in North America for decades, arriving with the Spaniards who settled St. Augustine, Florida, in 1565.)
Jamestown is part of Colonial National Historical Park, which also includes Yorktown Battlefield. Admission to both National Park Service sites costs $15 for visitors ages 16 and up. Kids who are younger are free. For $25, visitors can access additional Historic Jamestowne sites run by Preservation Virginia, as well as both NPS sites.
Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts
Plymouth Rock isn't nearly as big as its cultural significance. The rock at Pilgrim Memorial State Park in Plymouth, Massachusetts, may not even be the one the Pilgrims landed on in the Mayflower back in 1620, but it's believed to mark the location, as well as the milestone. Visitors can take a self-guided walking tour of other monuments and memorials in the park. The only fee is $1.25 for hourly parking from April through November.
For more, the nearby nonprofit Plimoth Patuxet Museums provide an immersive taste of life for the Pilgrims and Native Wampanoag people through the Historic Patuxet Homesite, a recreated 17th-century village and a full-scale reproduction of the Mayflower. Adult admission ranges from $8.95 for the Plimoth Grist Mill to $42.50 for a Heritage Pass that covers everything.
Boston Freedom Trail
The path to freedom literally runs through Boston. A self-guided tour along the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail won't cost a penny, but admission fees are required to enter some of the 16 official sites along the way, like the Paul Revere House and Old State House, a seat of British rule. Like a number of other sites run by the National Park Service, the Revolutionary-era meeting house Faneuil Hall and Bunker Hill Monument remain closed for COVID-19 safety measures.
Bunker Hill was where "New England soldiers faced the British army for the first time in a pitched battle" in 1775, according to the monument's NPS website.
Independence Hall, Pennsylvania
The Declaration of Independence was approved in the Pennsylvania State House, now known as Independence Hall, on July 4, 1776. (It wasn't officially signed until Aug. 2.) Independence Hall visitors can also see the famed Liberty Bell, which according to its NPS website, used to "ring to call lawmakers to their meetings and the townspeople together to hear the reading of the news." Timed-entry tickets are required to visit Independence Hall. Tickets are free in person or $1 in advance.
Declaration of Independence, Washington, D.C.
Visitors can see the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights and Magna Carta in person for free in the Rotunda of the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Of course, the city is also home to the White House, U.S. Capitol and myriad other landmarks and artifacts significant to U.S. history.
Saratoga Battlefield, New York
The Battle of Saratoga made world history in 1777. It was the first time that the British Army ever surrendered anywhere. The battlefield is just one part of Saratoga National Historic Park in New York. It also includes the country estate of Revolutionary War Gen. and U.S. Sen. Philip Schuyler, Alexander Hamilton's father-in-law. The Schuyler House is closed for COVID-19 safety measures. Visitors can find the latest closures and other warnings on the Active Alerts page of the NPS website.
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Cowpens Battlefield, South Carolina
The Battle of Cowpens marked a turning point for the Southern Campaign of the Revolutionary War, with a stunning American victory.
"Everyone gives all this credit to, 'Oh, it's Lexington and Concord, and it's the fighting in New York and New Jersey,' but in some really deep, profound ways, the revolution is won in the South," said American Battlefield Trust's Koik. "You know they chase (British Gen. Charles) Cornwallis out of the Carolinas, and he gets to Yorktown, and he ends up surrendering."
Admission to Cowpens National Battlefield in Gaffney, South Carolina, is free.
Yorktown Battlefield, Virginia
Gen. George Washington led the Continental Army to victory in the decisive Battle of Yorktown, the last major battle of the Revolutionary War. Yorktown Battlefield is part of Colonial National Historical Park in Virginia. The National Park Service charges a $15 admission fee that covers Yorktown and parts of Jamestown for visitors age 16 and over. Younger kids are free.
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Fort McHenry, Maryland
Some historians consider the War of 1812 the second Revolutionary War. By the time the British set their sights on Baltimore in 1814, Washington, D.C., had already been captured and burned.
The rockets that red glared and bombs bursting in air that Frances Scott Key wrote about referred to the attack on Fort McHenry.
The flag is still there. It's free to visit the grounds of Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, but admission to the historic fort is $15 for visitors age 16 and over. It's free for younger kids.
Chalmette Battlefield, Louisiana
Gen. Andrew Jackson led America to victory in 1815's Battle of New Orleans, the last major battle in the War of 1812. Admission to Chalmette Battlefield is free.
Independence was costly. Thousands of Americans died fighting for independence across both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.
"Declaring it didn't achieve it," Koik said. 'The actual independence of America was won, and it was won on the battlefields."
"When you go to these places, in a way, you're touching the past," she added.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Patriotic places, cloaked in US history, to add to your next road trip