This week marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of a bloody conflict. Laura Holt figures it all out...


The year that abolitionist John Brown made an ill-fated raid on the US arsenal at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Along with 21 other men, Brown attempted to seize federal weaponry in the hope of mounting an insurrection in the Southern slave states. The event is thought to have triggered the Civil War, pushing the abolitionist cause to the forefront. Archers Direct offers a 16-day "Historic Trails & Blue Ridge Mountains" tour which stops at Harpers Ferry. Prices start at £1,639 per person, including flights.


The number of soldiers who perished. One of the most decisive and bloody battlegrounds was Gettysburg in Pennsylvania. Here, Union forces managed to fend off General Robert E Lee and his Confederate army in July 1863, forcing his retreat to Virginia and staving off further progress to the north. President Lincoln later paid tribute to the fallen soldiers with his Gettysburg Address. Bon Voyage offers a 13-night "Civil War Journey" tour which visits the town and other key sites from £1,485 per person, including flights.


The number of men who served in the Civil War, according to the US National Archives. On 12 April, Confederate forces staged a siege of Fort Sumter, represented in the painting above, in South Carolina, forcing Union soldiers to relinquish control of the federal garrison. Today, the sound of musket fire still rings out as actors recreate the battle scene. Located near Charleston Harbor, you can also take in the more genteel side of South Carolina. Antebellum architecture and quaint cafes abound in this city at the gateway to the Deep South. A horse-drawn tour through the old town is the best way to soak up Charleston's charm; $20 (£13).


The number of slaves held across America in 1860, according to the US census. The greatest concentration was in Virginia, a key Dixie state where much of the strife took place 150 years ago. Not only was General Robert E Lee (right) born in the capital Richmond, but he also signed his surrender treaty in the small town of Appomattox in 1865, bringing the Civil War to its denouement. Visit the free commemorative exhibition "An American Turning Point" at the Virginia Historical Society, one of many commemorative events taking place across the state.


The year Abraham Lincoln stayed at the Willard Hotel in Washington, before being inaugurated as America's 16th president. Uncle Abe played a pivotal role in the outcome of the war with his Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. This tactical move allowed former slaves to join Union ranks as soldiers, thereby bolstering their ability to secure a final victory. Fittingly, Martin Luther King also wrote his "I have a dream" speech here. Doubles start at $399 (£266).


The number, in millions, of cotton bales produced in 1860, according to the US Department of Agriculture. This prosperous economy, however, was intrinsically linked to upholding the institution of slavery. Nowhere was this more evident than in New Orleans, a key cotton port on the Mississippi River. Today, the setting is rather different. Visit during the annual Jazz Festival to witness a celebration of the city's diverse culture. 29 April–8 May 2011.