Most people know that the American Civil War brought an end to slavery in the United States and reunified the nation; it was a seminal moment in US history. But go to Civil War sites in Richmond and other major centres of action during the war and you quickly understand the magnitude of what took place in the years between 1861 and 1865.
The majority of battles fought during the Civil War took place in the states of Virginia and Tennessee. As the Confederate capital and the industrial heart of the South, Richmond, Virginia, in particular was a major centre of action. In fact, it is thought that a quarter of the battles fought and 60% of the casualties that occurred during the Civil War took place within 75 miles of the city.
Despite the city going up in flames in 1865 as the Confederates withdrew ahead of the Union advance, many civil war sites in Richmond still remain, restored and ready to be visited.
The first stop on any tour of the Civil War sites in Richmond should be the Historic Tredegar area on the riverside. Learn about the Civil War through the stories of the Union, Confederate, and African American soldiers who fought in it at the American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar, which includes two buildings from the Tredegar Iron Works, known for producing over 1,000 canons for the Confederates during the war. Be sure to visit the Center’s restored 1861 Gun Foundry while you’re there.
Since you’re in the Downtown area, why not take a Civil War walking tour? There are five to choose from, depending on what interests you, and each take about an hour, leaving you plenty of time to explore the rest of the Tredegar site when you’re done.
Back at Historic Tredegar, pop into Civil War Visitor Center, the main visitor centre of the Richmond National Battlefield Park, to explore the exhibits and find out more about the city during the war. You can also grab a map of some of the recommended self-guided Civil War driving tours, should you feel so inclined.
It might be wise to save a day for doing justice to the Richmond National Battlefield Park itself. Spread over 80 miles, there are 13 sites to visit, including the former confederate hospital, now the Chimborazo Medical Museum, and battlefields such as Chickahominy Bluff and Cold Harbour. You can take in the whole Park on a driving tour, or pick and choose the sites you visit.
If you have time, the White House & Museum of the Confederacy, over in the historic Court End neighbourhood has a fantastic array of artefacts from the era on display, including Robert E. Lee’s field equipment, battle flags, and curios like the two bullets that collided mid-air during the Battle of Spotsylvania. You’ll also be walking in the footsteps of Lincoln, who notably visited this site 10 days before he was assassinated.
And finally, before you go, you can honour the fallen at Hollywood Cemetery, visiting the Monument to the 18,000 Confederate soldiers buried there. Found on the James River, this peaceful, scenic spot also affords some of the best views of the city.
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Have you visited any of these Civil War sites in Richmond? Let us know in the comments section below.
Written by Giverny Tattersfield