America's Best History Spotlight

On this page we're going to Spotlight the lesser known historic sites and attractions that dot the history landscape across the USA and are worth a visit if you're in their area. And while they may be lesser known, some are very unique, and will be that rare find. You'll be, at times, on the ground floor, or maybe even know something others don't. It'll be fun. Visit them.

Todd's Tavern

Battle of Todd's Tavern, Virginia

The Battle of Todd's Tavern was a testament to how different the strategy of the Civil War would be in the Eastern Theater of the war after General U.S. Grant came east and started the Overland Campaign. The actions at Todd's Tavern were held on the day between the battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania, both battles which cost America at least twenty thousand casualties each. No, the battle of Todd's Tavern was not that large, and it was mostly a cavalry battle, but it would prove that Grant would pursue and fight Lee every day if needed, a promise made to President Lincoln, to end the Civil War.

Photo above: Photo of the original Todd's Tavern, located at the junction of Brock and Catharpin Roads, 1861/5, G.O. Brown. Courtesy Library of Congress.

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Info, What's There Now, History Nearby

Todd's Tavern Wayside

Battle of Todd's Tavern, Virginia

Troops of both sides were leaving the area of the Wilderness battle as well as still arriving from the various fords of the Rapidan River at Ely's Ford, < href="">Germanna Ford, and U.S. Ford. Troops were traveling down the Plank Road, as well as the Brock Road, which would lead to the intersection with Brock Road and Catharpin Road where a local watering hole known as Todd's Tavern stood. Both wanted to prevent the other from catching up. Both wanted to get to the area of Spotsylvania first, the next stop toward Richmond.

So, U.S. Grant told General Meade to send his cavalry to clear the Brock Road. Todd's Tavern had been held by the Union during the Battle of the Wilderness by the cavalry of General Phil Sheridan, but had moved during the night of May 6 toward the Plank Road, allowing Confederate General Fitzhugh Lee to occupy it by the morning of May 7, 1864.

Image above: Photo of a portion of another wayside at the pull-off location showing part of the battle movements at Todd's Tavern, which was held in the fields in front and woods to the right of the Tavern and further down both Brock and Catharpin Roads. Below: Stereograph of Todd's Tavern, 1865, G.O. Brown. Courtesy Library of Congress.

Todds Tavern 1865

Where Is It

The Battle of Todd's Tavern was held from the end of the Wilderness Battlefield down Brock Road. The tavern itself was at the intersection of Brock Road and Catharpin Road. The auto tour will also take you down Catharpin Road to Corbin's Bridge where the Confederates cut a road through the forest to bypass the intersection. Most of the wayside exhibits are across the street from today's Todd's Tavern Market.

Minute Walk in History

It was a specialty of General U.S. Grant that whether in defeat, stalemate, or victory at the previous battle that he would follow General Lee wherever he would go, and fight every step of the way. In this video, evidence of this first tactic in the Overland Campaign would occur; one day after the Battle of the Wilderness, he would fight along the way to the next major battle, Spotsylvania, at what is called the Battle of Todd's Tavern. A mostly cavalry engagement, listen to the words of the Union commanders as they go back and forth with action reports of the fight. Also, try to spot the one wayside that states that this tavern area had also been involved in the American Revolution.

What is There Now

Todd's Tavern

An auto tour courtesy of the National Park Service takes you along the path of the Battle of Todd's Tavern, essentially a race and cavalry battle fought between the Battle of the Wilderness and the Battle of Spotsylvania. There are wayside exhibits at the intersection of Brock and Catharpin Road, across from a current Todd's Tavern Market. The Corbin Bridge, which is down Catharpin Road, was about the furthest in that direction that the battle took place. Some of this land has been purchased by the American Battlefields Trust, and other is owned by the State of Virginia, as the Oakley Forest Wildlife Management Area.

When Open and How Much

Open dawn to dusk. Primitive camping available at Oakley Forest Wildlife Management Area, which was part of the battlefield fought over. No charge to visit wayside or driving tour locations. Camping charge $4 per night.

Fees and hours are subject to change.

NPS Driving Tour - Battle of Todd's Tavern

History Nearby

You are, when at the former site of Todd's Tavern, within the epicenter of the war between the two capitols; Washington, D.C. and Richmond, Virginia. Therefore, a vast amount of Civil War battlefields as well as Colonial history is just around the corner, including Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Battlefield Park, Richmond, Monticello, Mount Vernon, and more. If you want to see it all, take off all next year.

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