Fredericksburg and Fredericksburg
& Spotsylvania National Military Park

Fredericksburg is a town where history unites with the present, and at times becomes overwhelmed by both.  It is the site of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, which is actually four Civil War battlefield parks in one, covering the battles of Fredericksburg itself, plus the battles of Spotsylvania and the Wilderness and Chancellorsville to the west of town, plus the Stonewall Jackson shrine to the south.  You're going to need a map.  What Fredericksburg is, is an amalgam of so much history spread about the city and its environs, that it can seem disjointed and wonderful at the same time.  It is a story of a battle through the town, of antebellum mansions that were used as headquarters, of a river that was breached by pontoons that would lead to disaster on a heights on the other side of the city, plus a mud march of such muck and mire after the fighting was done that it is known as "the mud march."  Not a whole lot more to say; that name conjures it all up well.  On this page, and the subsequent pages about the other units of the park that are linked to your left, we'll talk about that history of war, plus the history of the area before and after.  It's a wonderful story.  It's a disjointed theme. It makes you want to come back for more.

The city of Fredericksburg itself is a busy place, now almost overwhelmed by the route that allows quick travel up and down the east coast, Interstate 95.  That's not been a good thing for Fredericksburg history, in our opinion, but it's true.  If you are expecting Gettysburg, this isn't Gettysburg.  The charm and open fields are predominantly missing.  If you're thinking Antietam, the same is true, although the Spotsylvania and Wilderness units are picturesque and open just like that Maryland battlefield.  But what Fredericksburg has that those others do not, is a buzz and a Civil War feel with antebellum aspects, both missing and not particularly appropriate at either Gettysburg or Antietam.  And this is a Confederate story of victory, and a disaster for the Union under reluctant commander Ambrose Burnside.  Yes, he's better known for those sideburns, or should we say, better thought of.

What you're going to see and hear in Fredericksburg is the story of a river, the Rappahannock, and how it figured into the city's fortunes, both in war and outside of it.  What you're going to witness is commanding views from those mansions that manned the high society of the south, plus the cannons of battle.  What you're going to hear is the story of a battle that saw a Union charge up a Marye's Heights hill and a stone wall where the south basically mowed down their counterparts.  What you're also going to see is an example of what not to do with a historic battlefield, because Fredericksburg did not protect their resources as well as they could have.  There is not Pickett's Charge here to witness; there are homes in the way.

Things You Should Not Miss

1. Take the ranger tour of the Sunken Road and Marye's Heights.  Even though we're critical of the preservation efforts here, there is no still no better place to hear about what happened during the battle.  It is located outside the Visitor Center. The unfortunate part is the viewshed of those fields has been virtually eradicated by development.  You'll have to use your imagination alot, but the story and fighting here was as intense as any during the War of Rebellion.

2. Don't miss going to Chatham Manor.  Part of the park, but on the other side of town and the river, this antebellum wonder served as a headquarters during the battle and has a commanding view of the city.  Picture below shows Chatham Manor.  (Photo courtesy NPS)

3. Make it out the far reaches of the park on Prospect Hill where the city does not intrude.  Take one of the ranger tours there.  This really helps give you the feel of how the land and park looked back in 1862.  You won't be crowded either.  It's quiet and reflectful there.

4. Take a walk downtown.  There are plenty of historic buildings along the river.  Stop by first at the downtown visitor center to get your bearings and a map.  You can even take a trolley ride.

Chatham Manor, Fredericksburg

What is There Now

Two Park Visitor Centers

Fredericksburg Battlefield Visitor Center (Marye's Heights) The center is located on Lafayette Boulevard near the Stone Wall and Marye's Heights.  It includes a 22 minute movie about the battle on December 13, 1862.  You can take the Sunken Road ranger walk from here during the summer season (check the park for available ranger walks at other times of the year), and start the five mile battlefield tour.

Fredericksburg City Visitor Center - Located on Caroline Street, this center is the place to go to find out what else there is to see, plus take a trolley tour, and get info about city lodgings and places to eat.

Chatham Manor - Overlooking the Rappahannock River and used as a military headquarters during the battle. The manor is part of the National Military Park.

Lodging and Camping

There are tons of places to stay in Fredericksburg, from the interchange areas off I-95 to more quaint establishments within the city itself.  Check out your favorite online travel site, such as Expedia, or the city visitor bureau for an appropriate hotel, motel, or campsite.

Fredericksburg Links

Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park
Fredericksburg Battlefield Visitor Center
Frederickburg City Visitors Center

Nearby Attractions

Spotsylvania County Visitor Center
Stafford County Visitor Center
Chancellorsville Unit - National Military Park 
Spotsylvania Unit - National Military Park
The Wilderness Unit - National Military Park

Virginia Tourism

Fredericksburg Then and Now

Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Fredericksburg
Illustration of Robert E. Lee overlooking the battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia.  (LOC)

Fredericksburg Then

Fredericksburg wasn't really expecting to host a battle near the end of 1862.  In fact, there were probably more than a few soldiers in both armies who thought they were about to go into winter camp.  But that was not what Ambrose E. Burnside, newly in command, intended.  He would march his 120,000 man army forty miles to the town, cross those troops on pontoons, then command them to take the city, then the heights of Marye's on the other side of town, all this despite an enemy commanded by the brilliant General Robert E. Lee, who would repulse attack after attack from their commanding position behind the stone wall of the Sunken Road and the heights beyond them.  12,600 federal troops were killed, wounded, or missing by the end of that December day, less than half that for the Confederates.  And the fateful attack on the Sunken Road had caused two-thirds of those casualties for the Union Army.  

Fredericksburg Now

Sunken Road, Fredericksburg

Fredericksburg and Spotsyvania National Military Park
- Today the park visitor center is the starting off point for those four distinct units that cover four battles of the Civil War.  Beyond the park, however, is a plethora of history spread on both sides of the Rappahannock River from the mansions of Chatham and Kenmore to museums on James Monroe and George Washington's Ferry Farm. Picture above shows the Sunken Road near Marye's Heights and the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park visitor center.  (Photo courtesy NPS)

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Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park

There are four distinct units of the park that represent four distinct battles.  For more informaiton on the specific units, click below

The Wilderness

Visitor Statistics

Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park
880,251 visitors

#78 Most Visited National Park Unit

Park Size

Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park

7,339 acres (Federal)
8,382 acres (Total)

Source: NPS, 2013 Visitor Statistics; Visitor Rank among 369 units.

Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park Entrance Fees


Fredericksburg Movie
$2 - Adults
$1 - Over 61
Free - Under 10 and School groups

Chancellorsville Movie
$2 - Adults
$1 - Over 61
Free - Under 10 and School groups

Fees subject to change without notice.

Fredericksburg Weather

Humid and hot in the summer with mild winters.  Typical Virginia weather with winters that are mild, but with snow possible.


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