Picacho Pass Peak in Arizona, site of the westernmost battle of the Civil War.
Picacho Pass Peak in Arizona, site of the westernmost battle of the Civil War. Civil War Trust

Yes, the most decisive Civil War battles were fought by large armies on the sprawling landscapes you read about in your high school history books. But from New England's mountains to Arizona's deserts, memorials and museums remind visitors of a far-flung, secret Civil War.

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Westernmost Battle

Location: Picacho Pass, Arizona

On April 15, 1862, a Union cavalry patrol from California and a local band of Confederate Ranger scouts waged a fierce hour-and-a-half battle at the base of 3,374-foot-high Picacho Peak, the eroded flow of a long-extinct volcano. The Union troops retreated after two soldiers and their commander were killed, but Arizona soon fell to the Union.

What to See: Picacho Peak State Park, about 45 miles north of Tucson, features several scenic trails — the most spectacular one is 2-mile-long Hunter Trail, which leads to the top of Picacho Peak. The park is closed late-May through mid-September.

What's nearby: Nothing — the peak's isolation is part of its haunting charm. But 26 miles away is Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, the vestiges of an ancient desert farming community.

Northernmost Battle

Location: Saint Albans, Vermont

With orders from President Jefferson Davis, 21 Confederate soldiers posing as tourists drifted from Canada into Saint Albans, Vermont, over several days in the fall of 1864. On October 19 they robbed three banks (forcing the tellers to swear allegiance to the Confederacy), then galloped back to Canada with $208,000. The money was to enrich the Confederacy's treasury, but the strategy was to draw Union forces north and aggravate a political rift with Canada. Amazingly, both aims were accomplished.

What to See: An 1861 school building, across the street from Taylor Park, where the raiders gathered for their bank-robbing spree, is now the Saint Albans Historical Museum, open mid-June through early October. There you can enjoy not only exhibits about the Saint Albans Raid but also a diorama of the Lake Champlain basin from Quebec to Fort Ticonderoga.

What's nearby: On the eastern shore of Lake Champlain the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge is home to the endangered spiny softshell turtle.