Visiting Richmond National Battlefield Park
The concentration of Civil War resources found in the Richmond area is unparalleled. The National Park Service manages 13 sites, giving visitors an opportunity to examine the battlefield landscapes, to hear the stories of the combatants and civilian residents, and to understand the complex reasons why Richmond came to symbolize the heart and soul of the Confederacy.
This is a partial list of park regulations. Site is open sunrise to sunset. Report suspicious activities to any park employee or call 804-795-5018. In emergencies call 911.
Alcoholic beverages are prohibited.
All natural and cultural resources are protected by law.
Relic hunting is prohibited. Possession of a metal detector in the park is illegal.
Hunting, trapping, feeding, or otherwise disturbing wildlife is prohibited.
Weapons are prohibited inside all park buildings.
Pets must be on a leash.
Recreation activities like kite-flying, ball-playing, and frisbee throwing are prohibited.
Motor vehicles and bicycles must remain on established roads.
1864 Overland Campaign
The fourth spring of the war began when Union armies launched a series of offensives across unconquered portions of the South. The action in Virginia included three separate campaigns, each defined by aggressive advances from Union commanders. While smaller armies fought in the Shenandoah Valley and around the Bermuda Hundred region south of Richmond, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant sent the largest Northern army against Gen. Robert E. Lee's Confederates. The ensuing series of battles is known today as the Overland Campaign.
Costly stalemates at the battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania delayed Grant's progress. Confederates next blocked his southward drive at the North Anna River, and then along Totopotomoy Creek at the end of May 1864. Finally the armies collided at Cold Harbor, just eight miles from Richmond. There Grant's headlong assaults against Lee's entrenchments on June 1 and June 3 failed. Despite enormous losses, the Union army retained the initiative and marched south to Petersburg, where Grant began the long process of cutting Richmond's supply lines.
Wilderness May 5-6
Two days of close-quarters action in the thick woods west of Fredericksburg produced nearly 30,000 casualties and inaugurated a grueling campaign that saw the armies sweep across most of central Virginia.
Spotsylvania May 8-21
Grant ignored the indecisive results of the Wilderness and pressed southward toward more open ground. The Confederate army blocked him on May 8. For two weeks over 150,000 men fought for an advantage. The terrible combat at the Bloody Angle on May 12 defined this period and reenforced the campaign's grim tone set at the Wilderness the week before.
North Anna River May 23-26
When the Union army moved away from Spotsylvania, Confederate infantry fell back to the next defensible ground, south of the North Anna River. Actions on May 23 and 24 weakened Grant's momentum and forced him to look toward another movement to continue his campaign.
Totopotomoy Creek May 28-30
Hard marching and determination took the Union army away from North Anna and closer to Richmond.Just a dozen miles from the city, this creek saw the next collision of the armies. Aggressive probes up and down the creek valley ignited many small battles and proved to General Grant that the Confederates again blocked his direct path to Richmond.
Cold Harbor May31-June 12
The armies revisited ground first contested during McClellan's 1862 campaign. This time the lines extended for nearly seven miles, with action beginning at the Old Cold Harbor crossroads and extending north and south from there. A major attack by the Federal army on June 1 partly succeeded; the larger follow-up attack on June 3 failed badly. The soldiers endured nine more days of sniping and misery in the entrenchments before both armies marched south toward Petersburg, ending the "overland" portion of the 1864 campaign.
Rural Plains and Totopotomoy Creek Trail
For most of its history, Rural Plains abided the steady rhythm of farm life: sow, tend, harvest. For 275 years, this was the home of the Shelton family— at least eight generations of Sheltons grew up here. Before the Civil War, slaves sustained the nearly 1,000-acre plantation and the lifestyle of their prominent owners.
On May 29, 1864, war shattered the rhythms of Rural Plains. Union officers took the house as a headquarters. Soldiers shoveled earthworks across the farm's fields The Shelton family took shelter in the basement, while the family's 37 slaves sought refuge where they could. The fighting that swirled around the house transformed this homeplace into a battlefield—an identity that endures still.
The Sheltons remained here until 2006, when the land passed to the National Park Service. Today, 124 of the original 1,000 acres remain.
"On reaching the Shelton house, a fine southern mansion situated on and overlooking Totopotomoy Creek, our skirmish line came under fire from the enemy's skirmish line on the opposite bank?this looked as if serious work was before us, and we now commenced intrenching [sic] in earnest."
Lt. Robert Robertson, 93rd New York Infantry