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Civil War Sites

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Experience the LOVE of Virginia

Virginia’s Major Civil War Attractions:

With more Civil War sites than any other state, Virginia offers a diverse and engaging set of destination to visit during the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War and Emancipation. This list just begins to cover the hundreds of museums, battlefields, and exhibits across Virginia that explore the Civil War era, with more found on www.Virginia.org/CivilWar.

Battlefields:

  • Manassas National Battlefield Park: Site of the first major battle of the Civil War in 1861 as well as a much larger battle a year later. The original bridge over Bull Run Creek, a bottleneck that led to widespread panic among retreating Union soldiers in the first battle, still stands. The railroad cut behind which Confederate troops withstood continuous Union assaults during the Battle if Second Manassas has a popular walking trail. A large 150th Anniversary commemorative event will be held, in part, at the battlefield in July 2011.
  • Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park: Four major battlefields are found within this park (Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House) along with the house in which Confederate general Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson died. The Sunken Road, part of the Confederate defensive position at Fredericksburg, maintains its wartime appearance. It was on the Fredericksburg battlefield that Robert E. Lee said, “It is well that war is so terrible – else we should grow too fond of it.”
  • Richmond National Battlefield Park: Thirteen separate sites and four visitor centers preserve and interpret the battles for the former capital city of the Confederacy including the battlefields of Mechanicsville, Gaines Mill, Malvern Hill and Cold Harbor. The Civil War Visitor Center at Tredegar Iron Works is the starting point for a visit while the Chimborazo Medical Museum tells the story of caring for the sick and wounded on the site of the largest hospital in American history.
  • Petersburg National Battlefield: The story of the nine-month siege of the city of Petersburg is told along a 33-mile driving route including 13 sites and three visitor centers. The Crater, one of the most famous Civil War sites, is within the park. The Five Forks Unit to the west of Petersburg preserves the site of one of the war’s last and most pivotal battles.
  • Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park: A “partnership park” administered by the National Park Service with local partner organizations and served by volunteers, Cedar Creek is also a park in development. The Belle Grove mansion is a massive grey stone antebellum home at the center of the battle of Cedar Creek. The mortally-wounded Confederate general Stephen Ramseur was brought here to die after his capture by Union troops and was tended to by his friend for their days at West Point, Union general George Custer.
  • Sailor’s Creek Battlefield Historic State Park: Three days before his surrender at Appomattox, Robert E. Lee lost a significant portion of his army, including eight generals captured, here at this battle. The battlefield is a new Virginia State Park and includes the original Hillsman House as well as an interpreted battlefield trail.
  • New Market Battlefield State Historical Park: In the heart of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, the site reveals the story of a battle best known for the participation of the Corps of Cadets of the Virginia Military Institute, some of whom were as young as 15. At the center of a Confederate charge that captured a Union artillery position, the cadets lost ten killed and 40 wounded in the battle. The Hall of Valor Museum features artifacts and dioramas as well as films.
  • North Anna Battlefield: Located just north of Richmond, this 80-acre county park contains some of the best preserved earthworks of any Civil War battlefield. More than 150,000 soldiers faced off here in this little-known 1864 battle that was a precursor to the Cold Harbor campaign.
  • Staunton River Battlefield State Park: A state park preserves the site of a small but fascinating battle in 1864. Here a rag-tag collection of about 300 old men and young boys from the area held off a force of more than 5,000 Union cavalry, preventing them from taking a bridge of strategic importance as Lee’s army was engaged at Petersburg. A small visitor center and hiking and biking trails are on site.
  • Ball’s Bluff Battlefield Regional Park: One of the war’s earliest battles, a disastrous Union defeat occurred here in October, 1861, when a Union force was driven off the field and over the steep Potomac River embankment. Many Union soldiers drowned in the river. The Union commander, Edward D. Baker, a close friend of Abraham Lincoln, was killed on the field. Today, beautiful walking trails meander through lush vegetation and past a small National Cemetery.
  • Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District : Fourteen Civil War battlefields, in part or in whole, are preserved through the work of this foundation. Some include interpreted walking trails and orientation centers. Driving and hiking itineraries are available through its web site.
  • Brandy Station Battlefield: Brandy Station was the largest cavalry battle ever fought on the North American continent and is regarded as a pivotal battle in establishing the Union cavalry on an equal footing with their Confederate counterparts. Confederate and Union soldiers scrawled their names and regiments on the interior walls of the Graffiti House. Hiking trails with interpretive markers tell of the swirl of action and the clash of sabers in this 1863 battle.
  • Cedar Mountain Battlefield: A new interpretive battlefield walking trail leads visitors along the lines of a lesser-known but savagely-fought battle. Confederate general “Stonewall” Jackson personally rallied his troops in the midst of close-quarter fighting to save the day for his army.

Museums:

  • The American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar : One of the most compelling and thought provoking Civil War museums is located on Richmond’s riverfront and housed in a former Confederate iron works. It is the first museum that examines the Civil War equally from Union, Confederate and African American perspectives. Artifacts, hands-on interactive displays and multi-media presentation encourage the visitor to re-examine his or her own viewpoint of the war.
  • The USS Monitor Center: The saga of the “Battle of the Ironclads” the contest between the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia – comes alive in this outstanding facility that is part of the Mariners Museum at Newport News. The fight between the Monitor and Virginia heralded a new era in naval warfare. In 1973 the remains of the Monitor were discovered off Cape Hatteras (where it sank during a storm in 1862). In 2000 the Monitor’s turret, guns and steam engine were raised from the ocean floor and transported to the Mariners Museum for conservation and restoration. Today they form the central exhibit in the USS Monitor Center, which also includes a scale replica of the Monitor, high-tech interactive displays, theater presentation, recreated staterooms and compelling first-hand narrative by its crew and officers.
  • Pamplin Historical Park & The National Museum of the Civil War Soldier: One of the most innovative Civil War sites in America is found near Petersburg. It features a battlefield with interpreted trail, two museums, three antebellum homes, slave life interpretive site, military encampment, living history demonstrations, guided tours, films and multi-media presentations. On selected summer weekends, its Civil War Adventure Camp is a hands-on experience of living the life of a Civil War soldier.
  • The Museum and White House of the Confederacy: Downtown Richmond is the location of the home in which Confederate president Jefferson Davis and his family lived during the Civil War. It has been completely restored to its wartime appearance and features many original furnishings. Abraham Lincoln visited the house after the fall of Richmond. The museum contains the largest collection of military artifacts in America including the uniform Robert E. Lee wore at Appomattox.
  • The Virginia Historical Society: This elegant museum in Richmond’s Museum District contains artifacts and displays telling the story of Virginia from prehistoric times. Among its priceless Civil War collection are the uniform Confederate general J.E.B. Stuart was wearing when he was mortally wounded at the Battle of Yellow Tavern and the personal library of Confederate general “Stonewall” Jackson. In February 2011 the museum will open its exhibit, “An American Turning Point: The Civil War in Virginia.” The exhibit will remain there until January 2012 when it begins a schedule of travel to seven other Virginia museums through 2015.
  • VMI Museum: Newly renovated and enlarged, the museum in the small college town of Lexington tells the story of the Virginia Military Institute, its famous alumni such as George Patton, George C. Marshall and Admiral Richard Byrd and faculty members including future Confederate general Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. Displays include the uniform Jackson wore at the Battle of First Manassas and the rubber raincoat he was wearing when mortally wounded at the Battle of Chancellorsville. The hide of Jackson’s famous war horse “Little Sorrel” is stuffed and mounted in a glass case.
  • Lee Chapel and Museum: A short walk from the VMI museum and on the campus of Washington & Lee University is the chapel designed by and constructed under the supervision of Robert E. Lee while president of the college after the war. The famous recumbent statue of Lee is in the chapel itself while an elegant museum and gift shop is in the basement next to Lee’s office, which is preserved exactly as he left it in 1870. Lee and all of his immediate family are buried in the crypt while Lee’s warhorse, Traveller, is buried just outside.
  • The Valentine Richmond History Center: Richmond’s incredible history is chronicled in this museum that was formerly the home of famous sculptor Edward Valentine. Though the center itself has some Civil War displays its main attraction is as a provider of guided Civil War tours of Richmond and vicinity. Visitors can choose from bus tours, walking tours and even Segway tours of important Richmond area Civil War sites with engaging guides.
  • Exchange Hotel and Civil War Museum: Three floors of displays take visitors on a Civil War journey in this 1860 railroad hotel in the historic town of Gordonsville. Uniforms, weapons and surgical instruments harken to the hotel’s use as a receiving hospital during the Civil War.

Historic Homes:

  • Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial: Robert E. Lee never owned a house, but he and his family lived here at Arlington, the 1,100-acre plantation home of his wife’s family, for 30 years prior to the Civil War. Though Lee was often absent for long periods of time with the U.S. Army, he loved Arlington and spent many of his happiest days here. It was at Arlington that Lee spent a painful night pondering to accept command of the Union army or to resign and cast his fate with his native Virginia.
  • Appomattox Court House National Historical Park: The Civil War effectively came to an end when Robert E. Lee surrendered the remnants of his army to Ulysses S. Grant here on April 9, 1865. The village of Appomattox Court House contains original and reconstructed buildings including the McLean house, site of the official surrender. The surrounding land includes the site of some of the last fighting as well as the route the surrendering Confederates took to lay down their arms.
  • Lee Hall Mansion: A superb example of surviving antebellum architecture in Newport News, Lee Hall was in the thick of early Civil War campaigning and was used as a headquarters by two Confederate generals. Today it is beautifully preserved and furnished and contains hundreds of Civil War artifacts. Costumed interpreters give realistic portrayals of Confederate military and civilians of the era.
  • Endview Plantation: Located a short distance from Lee Hall, Endview was built in 1769 and briefly served as a Confederate hospital during the Civil War. Endview’s spacious grounds enable it to serve as a site for exciting special events such as Civil War reenactments and living history events.
  • Stratford Hall: This stunning 1730s colonial mansion on the banks of the Potomac River is the birthplace of Robert E. Lee. Its 1,900 acres include hiking trails, a gristmill and formal gardens. The house itself contains some of the most historically significant rooms of the Colonial era. It was also the boyhood home of two signers of the Declaration of Independence.
  • Stonewall Jackson House: Future Confederate general Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson taught at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington before the Civil War and lived in this house with his wife. It is the only house he ever owned and has been carefully restored to its wartime appearance. The kitchen garden contains heirloom plants of the 1850s.

Trails and Historic Areas:

  • Virginia Civil War Trails: More than 500 historic Civil War sites are interpreted through this groundbreaking public/private endeavor. Located in the center of vibrant cities as well as remote back roads, interpretive signs tell of battles and also civilians and slaves caught in the conflict, making stories come to life on the ground on which they happened. Free maps are available throughout the Commonwealth.
  • Richmond Slave Trail: Richmond was the largest slave market in America at the time of the Civil War. The trail leads from the Manchester Docks on the James River and winds past the sites of Lumpkin’s Slave Jail (an active archaeological site), the Negro Burial Ground and Slave Auction House. Also included is the recently-erected Reconciliation Statue.
  • Trail to Freedom: In 1862 when the Union army occupied the left descending bank of the Rappahannock River near Fredericksburg, area slaves saw a chance to gain their freedom. During a five-month period as many as 10,000 slaves made their way across the river. Today, self-guided walking and driving tours follow the footsteps of John Washington, one of the slaves who left behind a vivid account of his escape. Interpretive waysides tell of Washington’s experience in his own words.
  • Mosby Heritage Area: Col. John Singleton Mosby was known as the “Gray Ghost of the Confederacy” due to the daring exploits of his band of partisan rangers and scouts. Often operating behind Union lines in Northern Virginia, Mosby and his men disrupted communications and captured supplies for the Confederacy – and even kidnapped a Union general. The heritage area encompasses the scene of some of Mosby’s most famous exploits in landscapes much unchanged since the war. Driving tour itineraries, “scavenger hunts” and a series of suggested walking tours lead visitors to the scene of action.

Cemeteries:

  • Hollywood Cemetery: Richmond’s historic cemetery is the final resting place of two United States Presidents, 25 Confederate generals and more than 18,000 Confederate soldiers. Confederate president Jefferson Davis and his family are buried in a riverside plot. Follow the blue stripe for a driving tour of the most famous burial sites.
  • Arlington National Cemetery: Covering 612 acres, America’s most famous cemetery contains the graves of more than 200,000 military veterans and their dependents. The first graves were put here during the Civil War after the property was confiscated from the family of Robert E. Lee’s wife. Notable Union generals are buried here including Philip Sheridan.
  • Old City Cemetery: Lynchburg’s oldest cemetery is both a burial ground as well as a place alive with history. More than 2,200 soldiers from 14 states are buried in the Confederate section. The Pest House Medical Museum depicts conditions in a Civil War-era hospital. The cemetery also contains significant African American history from slavery to modern times.
  • Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery: It was the dying wish of Confederate general Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson to be buried in the cemetery of his adopted home town, Lexington. Surmounted by a life-size bronze statue of the general, Jackson’s grave is often found decorated with lemons – traditionally thought of as his favorite fruit. Other Confederate generals are buried here as well as Virginia’s wartime governor and the designer of the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia.

Other Historic Sites:

  • Fort Monroe: The largest stone fort on the East Coast is located in Hampton at the tip of Virginia’s Peninsula and stayed in Union hands throughout the war. Robert E. Lee and Edgar Allen Poe were among its pre-war garrison. During the war throngs of escaped slaves gathered here, giving the fort the nickname “Freedom’s Fortress.” Jefferson Davis was imprisoned within the fort for two years after his trial for treason. The Casemate Museum tells the story of the fort from its construction to present day military installation.
  • Virginia State Capitol: One of the most historic buildings in America, Virginia’s capitol was designed by Thomas Jefferson and was site of famous incidents in American history, such as the trial of Aaron Burr, before becoming the Confederate capitol in 1861. Robert E. Lee accepted his commission into Virginia forces here in 1861 and the body of Stonewall Jackson lay in state in 1863. Daily guided tours spotlight the building’s rich history including the Civil war era.
  • Blandford Church: War swirled around this 18th century parish church during the Siege of Petersburg. After the war it became a memorial to Southern soldiers and each state of the Confederacy furnished a stained glass window designed and installed by Louis Comfort Tiffany after the war. More than 3,000 Confederate soldiers are buried in the adjacent cemetery. The origins of Memorial Day are said to be traced to ceremonies here in 1866.
  • Booker T. Washington National Monument: Born into slavery on this site, Booker T. Washington went on to become a great American educator and campaigner for civil rights. As an advisor, author and orator, Washington became the most influential African American of his era. Historic livestock breeds and heirloom plants provide a glimpse of life in rural America of the mid-1800s.
  • Monument Avenue: Turn-of-the-century mansions line the cobblestone pavement of one of Richmond’s most beautiful streets. Monuments to some of the notables of the Confederacy are found at intersections including equestrian statues to Robert. E. Lee, “Stonewall” Jackson and J.E.B. Stuart. A monument to modern-day Virginian Arthur Ashe is also on the Avenue.

 

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