Civil War

Virginia has more important Civil War battlefields and sites than any other state.  Some are preserved in local, state, or national parks, but many are not. Until now, they have been known only to ardent Civil War students. Today, however, travelers on Virginia Civil War Trails can easily reach them all.

The Trails consist of more than 300 stops in five interconnected campaign driving tours  marked with trailblazing signs.  Each stop is car- and bus-accessible, with an interpretive marker; some also have  low-frequency radio transmitters. More than 250 stops had no on-site interpretation before. More stops are added each year. Many stops are located on or near Virginia's scenic roads. To obtain a statewide Virginia Civil War Trails map, and a map of each campaign driving tour, call 1-888-CIVIL WAR.

One stop on each Trails tour is highlighted below.

Northern Virginia

 Manassas National Battlefield Park

Manassas National Battlefield Park protects two important battlefields.  On July 21, 1861, Confederate generals P. G. T. Beauregard and Joseph E. Johnston routed Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell in the first major battle of the war, when Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Jackson earned the sobriquet of Stonewall. The next year, on Aug. 28-30, 1862, Gen. Robert E. Lee decisively defeated Maj. Gen. John Pope. Follow the trailblazing signs to Manassas National Battlefield Park and other Northern Virginia sites.

Peninsula Campaign

The U.S. Army occupied Fort Monroe during the war to secure the entrance to the James River and Chesapeake Bay.  Nearby occurred the Battle of the Ironclads, USS Monitor and CSS Virginia (formerly USS Merrimack), on March 9, 1862.  The next month, Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan's Army of the Potomac fought its way from Fort Monroe to Richmond.  Although McClellan won virtually every battle, he retreated to the James River and then to Fort Monroe when attacked by Gen. Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia.  Follow the trailblazing signs from Fort Monroe to Richmond.  

Shenandoah Valley

In 1862, Stonewall Jackson drove the Federals from the Shenandoah after a brilliant campaign. Two years later,they returned and laid waste to the Valley. At dawn on Oct. 19, 1864, Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early’s army attacked the Union force commanded by Maj. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan and drove it north of nearby Middletown. But that afternoon, while the Confederates rested and regrouped, Sheridan galloped to the field from Winchester, rallied his men, and crushed Early’s army. The struggle for control of the Shenandoah Valley was over. Follow the trailblazing signs from Winchester through the Valley to Roanoke.

Lee vs. Grant

In May 1864, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant accompanied Maj. Gen. George G. Meade's Army of the Potomac as it maneuvered south from Germanna Ford toward Richmond to lure Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia into a decisive fight.  At Massaponax Church, on May 21, Grant, Meade, and other officers stopped to confer after the battles of Spotsylvania Court House.  Photographer Timothy O'Sullivan captured the event in a unique series of images taken from the second story of the church.  Follow the trailblazing signs from Germanna Ford to Petersburg by way of historic Massaponax Church.

Lee's Retreat

Forced from Richmond and Petersburg by the encircling Federals, Gen. Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia retreated west, planning to turn south to North Carolina.  Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Maj. Gen. George G. Meade kept part of the Army of the Potomac south of Lee, however, while the rest pursued the Confederates.  At Appomattox Court House, Grant caught up with Lee, who surrendered on April 9, 1865, ending the bloodiest war in American history.  Follow the trailblazing signs from Petersburg to Appomattox and other Southside sites.


Page last modified: March 20, 2018