Above: Photo of Historic Libby Prison, Richmond, 1865. Right: Lithographic of same prison with Confederate flag flying prior to the above. Source: Library of Congress.
Similar in many ways, both good and bad, to the Petersburg National Battlefield, Richmond National Battlefield Park is a myriad of locations, actually thirteen in all, stretching across the city and outside of it, covering battle actions from 1862 to 1865, including the Seven Days Campaign, the Overland Campaign, Drewry's Bluff naval action, and Richmond/Petersburg front defenses late 1864-1865.
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- Then and Now
- Things You Should Not Miss
This was an embattled city all through the war, serving as the prize coup since it was the Confederate capital, not unlike Washington, D.C. was as the Union capital. It is also similar to the Petersburg Battlefield in that it does not get as much attendance love as it should, ranking far below other sites, even those not far away such as Fredericksburg. I'd say this was a north south type of thing, but it isn't, as the sites further south in Chattanooga or Kennesaw Mountain are more highly attended as well. But during this time of the 150th anniversay, Richmond National Battlefield Park should be a great place for you to visit, with so much going on, and a history that spans the four years of Civil War.
The story here, of course, begins at the start of the Confederacy and the selection of Richmond as capital with Jefferson Davis as its president. It would see major war action during 1862, first in an attack by water at Drewry's Buff and during the next month in the Seven Days Campaign, part of McClellan's Peninsula strategy. This series of battles would cost the Union 16,000 and the Confederacy 20,000 killed, wounded, and missing. Two years later, the Overland Campaign stretched down from the battles at the Wilderness and Spotsylvania as Grant marched his army toward Petersburg. During the Siege of Petersburg, various battles were held within the confines of Richmond as well and are interpreted at various Richmond National Battlefield sites.
Photo above: American Civil War Center next to the National Park Service Visitor Center at Tredegar Iron Works.
Seven Days Campaign - June 26-July 1, 1862
Drewry's Bluff - May 15, 1862
Overland Campaign - May 28-June 13, 1864
Grant is defeated at Cold Harbor - June 12, 1864
Richmond/Petersburg Front - September 29, 1864 - April 2, 1865
Lee evacuates Petersburg - April 2, 1865
Engagements around the Richmond Battlefield
Naval Battle at Drewry's Bluff - May 15, 1862
Battle of Oak Grove - June 25, 1862
Battle of Beaver Dam Creek - June 26, 1862
Battle of Gaines Mill - June 27, 1862
Battles of Garnett's and Golding's Farm - June 27-28, 1862
Savage's Station - June 29, 1862
Glendale/Frayser's Farm - June 30, 1862
Battle of Malvern Hill - July 1, 1862
Battle of Totopotomoy Creek - May 29-31, 1864
Cold Harbor - May 31-June 12, 1864
First Battle of Deep Bottom - July 27-29, 1864
First Battle of Deep Bottom - August 14-20, 1864
Battle of Globe Tavern - August 18-21, 1864
Battle at Fort Harrison - September 29-30, 1864
New Market Heights - September 29, 1864
Richmond National Battlefield Park contains so much history from a battle and city standpoint, that it sometimes gets overwhelming trying to understand it all. First, there's the story of it being the south's capital, second the story of the battles within the war that raged around it as the Union tried to capture the capital. Then, as the war waned into its last days with the Siege of Petersburg, there's the tales of hanging on and what would come. Take the time to visit the various sections of the park that were part of that history. It will take more than one visit to get a real sense of the scope of things that happened here.
The City in Ruins - Photo left, courtesy of the Library of Congress, is of the center of Richmond during the 1865 bombardment. The buildings in the background are that were not destroyed are those of the Tredegar Iron Works, which is now the main visitor center for the park.
Richmond National Battlefield - There are various amounts of the Richmond battlefield that have been preserved among the four major campaigns that occured there, however, it is an ongoing effort. Lands here are owned and preserved by the park itself and the Civil War Trust. This is an ongoing battle in the developing Richmond area. It's a mixture of success and not so much. For example, at the battleground of the Battle of Beaver Dam Creek, 365 acres have been preserved. At Gaines Mill, sixty acres and the Watts House. At Glendale/Frayser's Farm, 140 acres owned by the park (not accessible) and 450 acres owned by the Civil War Trust. Malvern Hill is the most intact and preserved, with the majority of the battleground in park service hands. At Totopotomoy Creek, there are 124 acres, including the Shelton House, but it is not completely accessible to the public.
This is an ongoing effort at Richmond. For more information on preservation efforts here, visit the Civil War Trust pages for Cold Harbor, Glendale, Malvern Hill, and more.
Image above: Lithograph of the Battle of Cold Harbor. Courtesy Library of Congress.
1. American Civil War Center at the Tredegar Iron Works and the Visitor Center. This is the spot where you should start your visit to the Richmond Battlefield, and are two different buildings. Serving as the main visitor center to the park, the main structure (above) provides a great orientation to not only the myriad of sites and history that abounds, but as a location steeped in history itself. Take the time to see the 22 minute film here. The American Civil War Center is also well worth a visit. There is an additional fee for that.
2. Take the Battlefield Driving Tour - It gets you from here to there and includes thirteen separate areas of the park.
3. Malvern Hill. If you're hankering for a larger part of the park that might remind you a little of other battlefields, Malvern Hill is the most intact area with most of the battlefield lands where action occurred already preserved. If there's a Battle Walk scheduled for here at your time of visit, take it.
4. Take the Slave Trail Tour. It starts on the other side of the James River and is quite a hike. But you'll pass so many reminders of the horrors of the past that maybe it will remind you to be a bit kinder in everything you do. Lumpkin's Jail is just one reminder of that.