Civil War
Things to See & Do in Virginia
Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial National Memorial
The house that Robert E. Lee called home for 30 years and one uniquely associated with the Washington and Custis families is preserved today as a memorial to General Lee, who gained the respect of Americans in both the North and South. Built by George Washington Parke Custis and his slaves between 1802 and 1818, the house and grounds have served many purposes over the last two hundred years: a family home for the Lees and Custises, a plantation estate and home to 63 slaves, a monument honoring George Washington, a military headquarters, a community for emancipated slaves and a national cemetery.
Poplar Grove National Cemetery
In July 1862, Congress passed legislation giving the President of the United States the authority to purchase land for the establishment of cemeteries "for the soldiers who shall die in the service of their country." This legislation effectively began the National Cemetery system. With more than 6,000 graves, Poplar Grove National Cemetery reflects the tragedy that befell the United States during the Civil War. Each simple headstone is a poignant reminder of the human cost of war. In 1933 responsibility of the cemetery was transferred from the War Department to the National Park Service (NPS). It is closed for burials but visitors are invited to walk the grounds, which are open daily.
Petersburg National Battlefield
Petersburg, Virginia, became the setting for the longest siege in American history when General Ulysses S. Grant failed to capture Richmond in the spring of 1864. Grant settled in to subdue the Confederacy by surrounding Petersburg and cutting off General Robert E. Lee's supply lines into Petersburg and Richmond. On April 2, 1865, nine-and-one-half months after the siege began, Lee evacuated Petersburg.
Yorktown National Cemetery
In August, 1862, David Judd of the 33rd New York Infantry wrote upon passing through Yorktown: "Near to the fortifications [Confederate] was a Union Cemetery, containing the graves of 300 Union soldiers, each of which was adorned by a neat head-board, designating the name and regiment of the soldier." By the end of the Civil War in 1865, the total of Union soldiers buried in the "Union Cemetery" exceeded 600. The following year, the cemetery formally became a National Cemetery and Union dead from 50 sites within a 50 mile radius of Yorktown were re-interred in the newly landscaped cemetery. Today, the Yorktown National Cemetery, which is closed to burials, contains the remains of 2,183 soldiers, ten of which are Confederate. Only 747 of the dead are identified. Many of the dead are from the 1862 Peninsula Campaign and other battles around Richmond, though some died during the period Yorktown served as a Union garrison from 1862-1864.
Booker T. Washington National Monument
On April 5, 1856, a child who later called himself Booker T. Washington, was born in slavery on this 207-acre tobacco farm. The realities of life as a slave in piedmont Virginia, the quest by African Americans for education and equality, and the post-war struggle over political participation all shaped the options and choices of Booker T. Washington. Washington founded Tuskegee Institute in Alabama in 1881 and later became an important and controversial leader of his race at a time when increasing racism in the United States made it necessary for African Americans to adjust themselves to a new era of legalized oppression. Visitors are invited to step back in time and experience firsthand the life and landscape of people who lived in an era when slavery was part of the fabric of American life. The park is located in Franklin County, 16 miles northeast of Rocky Mount, 25 miles southeast of Roanoke, and 50 miles southwest of Lynchburg.
Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park
Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Wilderness, and Spotsylvania—this is the bloodiest landscape in North America. No place more vividly reflects the Civil War’s tragic cost, in all its forms. A city bombarded, bloodied, and looted. Farms large and small ruined. Refugees by the thousands forced to the countryside. More than 85,000 men wounded; 15,000 killed—most now in graves unknown. The fading scars of battle, the homeplaces of bygone families, and the granite tributes to those who fought still mark these lands. These places reveal the trials of a community and nation at war—a roiling cataclysm, a virtuous tragedy that freed four million Americans and reunited a nation. Please click on "In Depth" for information on visiting the park and park programs as well as detailed information on the battles and soldiers who fought in the battles.
Richmond National Battlefield Park
The Civil War (1861-1865) remains the central, most defining event in American history. Richmond, Virginia, was at the heart of the conflict. As the industrial and political capital of the Confederacy, Richmond was the physical and psychological prize over which two mighty American armies contended in bloody battle from 1861 to 1865. At stake were some of the founding principles of the United States as the growing nation divided over the existence and expansion of slavery. Only after the new Confederacy fired on a federal fort in Charleston harbor and Lincoln had called for troops to preserve the Union, did Virginia join the Confederacy. As war began, neither side anticipated the brutal clashes and home front destruction that brought death or injury to more than one million Americans and devastation to a broad landscape, much of it in Virginia. Today, the park preserves more than 1400 acres of Civil War resources in nine units plus the main visitor center at the famous Tredegar Iron Works. The Chimborazo Visitor Center houses a medical museum.
Manassas National Battlefield Park
Manassas National Battlefield park was established in 1940 to preserve the scene of two major Civil War battles. Located a few miles north of the prized railroad junction of Manassas, Virginia, the peaceful Virginia countryside bore witness to clashes between the armies of the North and South in 1861 and 1862. Today the battlefield park provides the opportunity for visitors to explore the historic terrain where men fought and died for their beliefs a century ago.
Fredericksburg National Cemetery
In July 1865, three months after the restoration of peace between the states, Congress authorized the establishment of a National Cemetery in Fredericksburg to honor the Federal soldiers who died on the battlefields or from disease in camp. The site chosen was on Marye's Heights, the formidable Confederate position which had proven so impregnable to repeated Federal attacks on December 13, 1862. The Cemetery is part of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park.
Appomattox Court House National Historical Park
Walk the old country lanes where Robert E. Lee, Commanding General of the Army of Northern Virginia, surrendered his men to Ulysses Grant, General-in-Chief of all United States forces, on April 9, 1865. Imagine the events that signaled the end of the Southern States' attempt to create a separate nation. The National Park encompasses approximately 1800 acres of rolling hills in rural central Virginia. The site includes the McLean home (surrender site) and the village of Appomattox Court House, Virginia, the former county seat for Appomattox County. The site also has the home and burial place of Joel Sweeney - the popularizer of the modern five string banjo. There are twenty seven original 19th century structures on the site.
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