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2015 Civil War Travelogues — Chambersburg "End of the War" Seminar

Welcome to my 2015 travelogue pages, commemorating the fifth year of the Civil War Sesquicentennial! This report covers my trip to attend the Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce seminar, "The End of the War: Richmond, Petersburg, and Appomattox". (This is my fourth excursion with Ted Alexander and the Chambersburg gang.) To see the entire list of my 2015 trips, go here.

Here is a reminder about the reason I write these pages the way I do. They record my experiences and impressions of Civil War trips primarily for my future use. Thus, they sometimes make assumptions about things I already know and focus on insights that I receive. They are not general-purpose descriptions for people unfamiliar with the Civil War, although I do sometimes link to various Wikipedia articles throughout. Apologies about the quality of interior photographs—I don't take fancy cameras with big flashes to these events.

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Tuesday, July 21

I flew United Airlines from San Francisco to Richmond through Newark. Not a very nice experience: the tiny propeller plane from Newark to Richmond did not seem to have functioning air-conditioning and we spent a lot of time puttering around the tarmac waiting to be rerouted around a thunderstorm. Then, I found out that my bag was misplaced in the two-hour layover and it did not arrive until 2:30 AM. The seminar was hosted in the Homewood Suites right outside the airport, which is a very comfortable hotel, although I had to fight lousy Wi-Fi connections all week.

Wednesday, July 22

The week started with an optional bus tour of Richmond hosted by Jim Dupriest of a local company he founded, Richmond Discoveries. (There was a lot of duplication on this tour from my previous visits to Richmond, but the mechanics of attending East Coast seminars from San Francisco dictate that I arrive the day before a conference starts or I cannot be assured of making the opening sessions, so this was a good way to fill the time.)

We started in the Church Hill area, with many 1850s small homes nicely restored; only some of the commercial areas of Richmond were burned in 1865, so there is a lot of antebellum presence in the residential areas. This was the area in which Patrick Henry gave his famous Give Me Liberty speech. We stopped for a view of the James River at the site where the founder of Richmond was reminded of the English town, Richmond on Thames. We parked right next to the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, but did not dismount and the monument was not fully visible from inside the bus.

We visited the Chimborazo hillside, but did not get out of bus to see the visitor center of the giant Confederate hospital complex that was once here. I found it interesting that Jim pronounced the word with a silent B.

Next through downtown to Hollywood Cemetery. The bus was too large to go in the main entrance, so we limited ourselves to the Confederate area. We saw Pickett's monument, and I was surprised to learn that it was originally intended to be placed on Cemetery Ridge, but the War Department (or perhaps it was the veterans association) would not allow it. We saw the grave of Henry Wyatt, the first Confederate soldier killed in battle (Big Bethel), and the small area that was all Gettysburg related. We were impressed by the giant pyramid of stones memorializing all Confederate dead, and I was surprised to learn that Charles Dimmock, of Dimmock Line fame, was the architect. There are many open areas without gravestones and Jim said that the cemetery generally knows exactly who are the 18,000 buried there, but no one has come forward to buy the stones (which supposedly cost $100 through the Veterans Administration). We did not have the time to walk to see the other famous areas of the cemetery, which is too bad, but this was not my first visit, so I have seen Jefferson Davis, Extra Billy Smith, Fitzhugh Lee, Jeb Stuart, and others.

Jim Dupriest at Wyatt's grave Confederate Memorial Pickett Monument

We visited the Virginia State Capitol, starting in the underground visitors' entrance. They have the giant state flag that was flying during the war, but the Confederate flag was torn up by the Union troops as souvenirs. There are lots of statues and busts in the building, some of which are pretty impressive. The one inside of George Washington was the only statue personally modeled by him. The outside equestrian statue of him is of course very impressive. There is one outside of Stonewall Jackson that was erected by his admirers in England. It was inspiring to be in the tiny rooms in which the legislature met. The Virginia General Assembly has been operating since 1619, before my ancestors on the Mayflower even arrived.

Henry Clay Historic Virginia flag and brothers embracing Thomas Jefferson
George Washington, modeled personally The Capitol dome Our guide inside the Virginia Assembly
Robert E. Lee, where he stood upon entering the general assembly J.E.B. Stuart Stonewall Jackson
Stonewall outside Extra Billy Smith George Washington again

We visited Saint Paul's Episcopal Church and saw the pew where Jefferson Davis received word from Robert E. Lee on April 2, 1865, that the capital had to be evacuated. they had very interesting stained-glass windows. The one shown below depicts Moses leading his people out of Egypt, which was supposed to be a tribute to Robert E. Lee.

St. Paul's Lee as Moses window

We walked to the Stuart-Lee house where the famous Mathew Brady photograph of Lee was taken at the rear entrance in 1865. For some reason there was a reenactor hanging around pretending to be Walter Taylor in 1907. He reminisced about Lee and Traveller, telling us erroneously that it was one of Lee's alternative horses, Ajax, who threw Lee and broke his hands at the start of the Maryland campaign.

Stewart-Lee House A copy of one of my favorite paintings Walter Taylor 1907 reenactor
Re-creating the Lee photograph

For lunch we journeyed to the Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church, which was founded by the famous preacher, John Jasper, author of the famous sermon entitled "De Sun Do Move, de Earth Am Square." The church ladies made us tuna salad and chicken salad with crackers, which was billed as a southern style meal. If that is the case, I can see why the South lost the war. :-)

We briefly visited the Virginia Historical Society, which is undergoing a massive renovation of its exhibits and is not generally open to the public at the moment, but we got permission to visit the room with the Hoffbauer murals of the Confederacy and summer, spring, fall, and winter. Apparently I was not supposed to take photographs there, so will not include them here.

Our final stop was the Museum of the Confederacy, which has now rebranded itself the American Civil War Museum and is in the process of merging with the non-NPS museum at Tredegar Ironworks. It was pretty much as I have remembered it from two previous visits, but we got to spend some time in the basement archive of flags with Waite Rawls, the museum director. He told us that there are 1300 known Confederate flags in the wild and that the museum has 550 of them. I was particularly impressed by a well preserved flag for the 8th Virginia, which was made from PGT Beauregard's wife's wedding dress. We also saw the very first Confederate battle flag, sewn for Joseph E. Johnston's headquarters. Unfortunately, it was situated in a way that made it impossible for me to photograph it without severe glass reflection. We also visited the White House of the Confederacy next-door and had an interesting tour through all the rooms.

Waite Rawls in flag archive 8th Virginia
First Battle Flag sewn

On the way back to the hotel we took a drive along monument Avenue. We drove by all of the famous statues, but were able to stop only at Robert E. Lee.

  Lee on Monument Ave.  

After a freebie dinner in the hotel lobby, we had an evening session with Dr. Bud Robertson, a lecture entitled "Whatever Happened to…? Some Civil War Personalities and their Checkered Careers after the Guns Fell Silent" in which he talked about the postbellum activities of a number of important people, very few of whom were military leaders: Horace Greeley, Walt Whitman, Montgomery Meigs, Thomas H. Holmes (the father of modern embalming), Jonathan Letterman, James Garfield, William McKinley, and Joseph E. Johnston (although for Johnston he only talked about the hat incident at William T. Sherman's funeral). Answering questions at the end, he remarked that our current political environment is getting dangerously close to the 1850s, in which emotions instead of minds are being used and compromise is something no one can do. He also riffed about how poor the current education system is for history and geography, as well as how poorly his graduate students can write.

Bud Robertson

There was an Insomniacs Session at 8:45 PM and titled "Mysteries Revealed: The Use of Modern Technology to Research Artifacts," by Catherine Wright, but this was too late for me after a full day of touring in a different time zone. (My advice to insomniacs is to go to bed and try to sleep, not stay up.)

Thursday, July 23

We started the first full day of touring (versus the optional excursion yesterday) with a little crisis of an overcrowded bus, which was alleviated by adding a van and a car to the party. The morning was dedicated to the tail end of the Overland Campaign of 1864, which I thought was rather odd, because it subtracted time from Richmond and Petersburg touring focused on the siege and the end of the war. Ed Bearss started us with a pretty brief overview of the campaign and we soon arrived at Enon Church, where Ed and Bobby Krick ran us through the battle of Haw’s Shop. As part of the discussion, Ed talked about Robert E. Lee being reluctant to appoint his nephew as head of his cavalry, afraid that people would accuse him of nepotism. Bobby replied that he was all in favor of nepotism (as I assume readers will know who his father is). Our two guides indicated that the 710 combined casualties in this battle was an "apocalypse" for cavalry.

Ed and Bobby at Enon Church Ed at Enon Church

We drove past Bethesda Church and Pole Green Church and stopped at the Shelton house, Rural Plains. I have been here a few times before, but only as part of special tours. Now, the National Park Service has it fully up and running with signs and parking. There is still an enormous amount to do to renovate and furnish the interior. The Chambersburg folks presented a $1000 donation check to the Rural Plains Foundation president and she said that it would be used to fix up the rear entrance, including handicap access in accordance with the Confederates with Disabilities Act. We walked through the house, but did not have time to go on the interesting walking trail of the battle of Totopotomoy Creek.

Shelton House

Next was Cold Harbor and we stood in a small field discussing the attacks of June 1. We did not get to walk in the Bloody Run ravine. Then we spent some time in the visitor center and outside heard the explanation of June 3, followed by a box lunch at the picnic tables near the Watt House. Overall I would say that the morning of touring was a well intentioned failure, trying to cram too many activities into a brief time window. If I had not been familiar with these battles already, I would be pretty darn confused. One positive thing that happened is that I learned for the first time the correct pronunciation of William S. Truex (the X is silent).

The afternoon touring, however, was excellent. Dr. Dick Sommers took us through Grant's Fifth Offensive (the part north of the James River), the subject of his big book on the Siege of Petersburg, Richmond Redeemed. We started off with a visit to Deep Bottom boat landing, which is the point of the James River where half of the Union troops crossed over on a pontoon bridge. The other half, Ord's corps, crossed at Aiken's Landing, which we did not visit. Dick gave us an overview of the offensive and we moved along.

Dick at Deep Bottom Dick on Signal Hill

Next was the Battle of New Market Heights, climbing up to the top of Signal Hill, which is the westernmost end of the Heights. I have previously viewed the heights from a distance, but Dick was able to get us permission to use a private driveway to approach the hill. It was relatively steep, but not for very long. At the top is a small collection of earthworks called Fort Brooks. At the time of the battle there was only a Confederate signal station and some artillery up there, but after the Union captured the hill, they built the little fort.

We spent a bit of time at Fort Harrison, visiting the small visitor center and then getting a talk from Dick about the Union assaults on September 29, which are also called the battle of Chaffin's Farm. It is one of the largest earthwork forts I have ever visited, which I have done at least twice before, but this was the first time with expert guidance.

Ed explaining pontoon technology at the Fort Harrison Visitor Center Dick in Fort Harrison

We took a drive along the Confederate line, passing Battery X, White's Battery, Fort Hoke, Fort Maury, and then back. We stopped for a visit at Fort Johnson, and heard the tale of the 2nd Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery, which got caught in the deep moat around the fort and had to surrender a battalion of men. Dick also described the Confederate counterattack against Fort Harrison, which was unsuccessful. Finally, after passing Fort Gregg, we stopped at Fort Gilmer and heard a description of the attacks there. Dick praised the skills of Richard Ewell and John Gregg in resisting all of the Union attacks, impressing upon us the severity of the problem. If the Union had broken through, the Confederate capital would probably have been lost. In fact, Lee began making plans to abandon Petersburg to send sufficient reinforcements north before his line stabilized. The Confederates bought themselves another six months of life by their success on September 29.

Deep moat at Fort Johnson
Fort Gilmer

There was no formal event scheduled this evening, so I drove downtown to visit the Bottoms Up pizza restaurant in Shockoe Bottom. Our guide yesterday said that this was the location that Abraham Lincoln landed when he visited Richmond on April 4, 1865, so as a pizza lover I had to check it out. It is an unusual place in a rather funky neighborhood. I ate outside on the second floor deck, about 50 feet away from an elevated train line, so I was serenaded by passing freight trains for most of the meal. However, the good news is that the pizza was pretty decent, although not quite as inexpensive as I had expected for a Virginia restaurant. There is a Canal Walk that starts nearby and I checked out a bit of it, but it is primarily next to gigantic concrete flood walls that hide any interesting views of the James.

Bottoms Up Pizza under the railroad tracks

Friday, July 24

Today was all lectures. First was David Roth, the superintendent of the Richmond National Battlefield. He did a presentation about recent and current preservation projects, showing maps of increasing protected acreage, which was pretty impressive.

David Roth Ralph Peters

The second presentation turned out to be the best of the day, “Summer 1864: The Birth of Modern Warfare,” by Lt. Col. Ralph Peters. He is the retired Army intelligence officer who appears frequently on FOXNews and the author of three excellent civil war novels. He admires Ulysses S. Grant a lot, calling him relentless and the first modern general, with a unique sense of continental warfare. Peters judged the staff of the Army of the Potomac (not Grant's staff), run by Andrew A. Humphreys, to be the best of the war and even better than Moltke's legendary German General Staff, citing in particular logistics at City Point, excellent medical care (better than European armies would achieve until World War I), and railroads that were constructed down to the corps level. One of the themes of modern warfare is the expanded size of the battlefields. Richmond-Petersburg was vast in scope, much too large to be viewed by the commanding general from the hill, such as was the case at Gettysburg.

Peters also talked about personalities. He thought that Billy Mahone was influenced by his childhood memories of the Nat Turner rebellion in his reaction to the black soldiers attempting a breakthrough at the Crater. He talked about the young generals who had no formal military experience, but had none of the baggage of their older colleagues. Francis Barlow was one such, and he described him as one of the biggest killers of the Army of the Potomac. His assessment of Robert E. Lee was that he was trying to repair his family reputation after it was ruined by his father. He concluded by offering a very spirited defense of George Meade at Gettysburg, countering many of the criticisms offered at the time and recently by the Allen Guelzo book.

Waite Rawls of the Museum of the Confederacy spoke on "Burying the Dead but Not the Past: The Ladies Memorial Associations and the Reburial of the Confederate Dead." He mentioned that his great grandfather was in the Confederate Army and fought at Seven Pines, just a few dozen yards away from the hotel! His presentation was based directly on Carrie Janney's book about the ladies memorial societies, so I will not attempt to repeat the portions of the history he recounted, but I will bring up some tidbits. There are only two Jewish military cemeteries in the world, one in Tel Aviv, the other in Richmond. The origin of Memorial Day is somewhat in dispute and there were at least three different dates commemorated by Confederate ladies. One was May 31, selected to remember the first day of the battle of Seven Pines, when the ladies of Richmond would have first heard cannon fire near their homes. This date was later selected by Blackjack Logan, the Union general and head of the Grand Army of the Republic. Waite suggested that this was done as a snub to the Confederate ladies. Up until 1870, Confederate veterans were reluctant to speak out about issues because they were potentially subject to charges of violating their paroles, so the ladies did all of the talking on these issues. But after 1870, a virtual war of the sexes began in which the two sides fought each other for influence over memorialization. He told some amusing stories about artifacts, including a woman whose jewelry was created from bones of Turner Ashby's horse. He talked about the conversion of the White House of the Confederacy into a public school after the war. After 20 years, the memorial society took it over and they hired a young college student to catalog artifacts. It was Douglas Southall Freeman. In the Q&A, he revealed that the museum has raised 28 out of $34 million for the new museum building, which will be located at the Tredegar Iron Works. The new museum will supposedly be ready in 2018.

Waite Rawls Bobby Krick

Bobby Krick spoke on “Obscured by Time: A Look at Some of R. E. Lee’s Key Deputies in the 1864 Defense of Richmond.” He selected five men and talked about each for about five minutes. First was Richard H. Anderson, whom he described as an underachiever and lazy, offering up a number of amusing quotes of people evaluating his performance. Charles W. Field was one of the best division commanders in the Army of Northern Virginia. Victor J. B. Gerardey performed so well at the Crater that he was promoted from Captain to Brigadier General. He was killed soon after at Second Deep Bottom. John Gregg took over the Texas Brigade and is famous primarily for the incident at the Wilderness where he shouted "Lee to the rear." As reported yesterday, he did very well on September 29, but he was killed soon after at the Darbytown Road. Finally, and worst of all, was Robert F. Hoke, who was young and very likable, but was an example of the Peter Principle when he was promoted to division command. The occasionally heard story that he was selected by Robert E. Lee to be his successor if anything happened to him was judged by Bobby to be "hilarious."

There was a panel discussion on “The United States Colored Troops at Richmond and Petersburg" with Ed Bearss, Emanuelle Dabney, Jimmy Price, and Bert Dunkerley. I did not find this to be particularly revealing, consisting primarily of anecdotes about the battles in which African-Americans played important roles: Island Mound, New Market Heights, Darbytown, Second Fair Oaks, the June 15 breakthrough in Petersburg, the Crater, Mobile, Palmetto Ranch. Ed came up with the three most hated man in the war: Benjamin Butler, David Hunter, and Jim Lane (of Kansas, organizer of the First Kansas Colored Infantry). As I expected, there was a question from the audience about black Confederate soldiers, and as I expected, the panelists discounted any anecdotes about them. In answer to another question, they said that despite conventional wisdom the March 1865 law recruiting blacks into the Confederate Army did not promise emancipation.

Panel: Ed, Jimmy, Emmanuel, Bert Brig. Gen. Jack Mountcastle

Brig. Gen. Jack Mountcastle, the former chief of military history for the Army, spoke on “Prelude to Appomattox: Life and Death along the Siege Lines in 1865.” Although his talk was to be a soldier's eye view, he did not really say much about this other than the obvious adjectives of hunger, despair, and boredom. He then launched into a brief history of the tail end of the Siege of Petersburg and the Appomattox Campaign.

Ted Alexander and Dick Sommers

Dick Sommers gave an overview of the siege of Petersburg, “’Winged Victory’: U.S. Grant and the Search for Success in the Siege of Petersburg.” Unlike some historians, he does not question the use of the term siege because in this case the Union armies beleaguered the city for nine months. He talked about the importance of Petersburg to the Confederate capital, showing a map of railroads and indicated that all railroads from outside the state went through Petersburg. He described in a bit of detail each of the nine Grant offensives:

  1. June 15–18
  2. Weldon railroad, Reams Station (I did not get the dates)
  3. July 21–30
  4. August 14–25
  5. September 29–October 19
  6. October 27– 29
  7. December 7–12
  8. February 5–7
  9. March 29–April 3 (interesting to note that the NPS puts these battles in the Appomattox Campaign)

He used these as a way of describing Grant's growth as a strategist. Offensives 3 through 6 were done simultaneously north and south of the James River, but while the first was sequential, the latter ones became increasingly simultaneous. Starting with offensive 7, the emphasis was to keep a holding force in the north while making the main thrust southwest of Petersburg.

John Coski of the Museum of the Confederacy presented “The Confederate Battle Flag: America’s Most Embattled Emblem.” This was a PowerPoint presentation with many, many images of historic uses of the Confederate flags. He presented a balanced case for when the Confederate flag should be considered legitimate for memorial or heritage reasons, without ignoring the use of the flag in the 50s and 60s for racial segregation reasons. It seems that 1948 was the turning point, the year that the Dixiecrats broke away from the Democratic convention. In that year the UDC tried to prevent widespread usage of the flag for non-heritage reasons. In the World War II and Korean War eras, the flag was widely used as an expression of basic Southern culture, not directly related to the Civil War or to race. In the 50s, it was a symbolic middle finger that was used by people expressing a rebellious outlook on any issue. He finished his presentation by saying that if you think should represent strictly a memorial or heritage context, you should be lobbying against any other usage, such as on shot glasses, cars, or bikinis.

John Coski Ed Sanders

We had an excellent barbecue dinner, followed by the final presentation by NPS Ranger Ed Sanders, “Lee and the Defense of Richmond.” This was a very high-level verbal-only discussion of Lee's actions around Richmond, including the Seven Days and the Overland campaign. This was followed by a raffle and the silent auction that we had been signing up for all week. I was outbid on all of my desired items, so I did not bother to stick around to prolong my frustration.

Saturday, July 25

After the transportation hiccups yesterday, our logistical experts had two buses for us today! I was initially on the bus directed by Dick Sommers and Ed took the other. Our first stop was City Point in Hopewell, which was the headquarters for Ulysses S. Grant and a big logistical port and depot for the siege of Petersburg. We were introduced to Jimmy Blankenship, who used to be an NPS historian at Petersburg, but is currently with the US Army at Fort Lee, I think. He introduced us to the geographical layout, including the rivers. Ed gave us an overview of the early days of the Petersburg campaign, saying that PGT Beauregard had his greatest days of the war defending the city against great odds June 15–18. Because of the tight schedule, we did not enter the visitor center or spend very much time at City Point at all. We went to Grant's cabin, the little two-room log cabin where he and his wife stayed for much of the campaign. (The large plantation house was occupied by his quartermaster.) Jimmy talked about the harbor operations and how the (civilian) US Military Railroad Corps built all of the facilities. Ed talked about the rivalry between Mary Todd Lincoln and Julia Grant, which came to a head when they visited at the same time.

Crossing the Appomattox on the bus Jimmy, Dick, Ed at City Point
Ed and Dick at Grant's cabin

We drove to the modest visitor center for the Petersburg battlefield and browsed around a bit, but then walked over to Battery 5, where Ed told us about the assaults on June 15. I am fortunate that I recently did the maps for a book about June 15–18, so I was able to pull up some excellent maps on my iPad. We passed by Fort Stedman for lack of time and went to the Crater. Ed gave the group the familiar story about digging the tunnels, lighting the fuse, selecting the assaulting division, etc. He said that James Ledlie was the worst division commander in the U.S. Army. I actually spent this time talking with Jimmy about some geographic details, such as the actual location of the Taylor house. I am doing the maps for a book about Chamberlain’s assault on June 18 and I needed to nail that down. I also found out that one of the attendees is working on a book, so I passed him my business card. (These are actually business trips for me, to do battlefield research and some informal marketing.)

Marching to Battery 5 Dick, Ed, Jimmy at Battery 5
The Crater

We went to Pamplin Park for lunch, a box lunch sandwich again, but we did not get to go through the museum or any part of their park, which includes exhibits about the breakthrough of the Petersburg line on April 2, 1865. Next was Fort Wadsworth, the Union earthworks that were erected after the battle of the Weldon railroad, or Globe Tavern. This was part of the fourth offensive. I was surprised to see that the area is still very rural and disappointed to learn that Globe Tavern only remains as a broken foundation, covered up with vegetation, which we could not see from the fort. Dick also started discussing the southern part of the fifth offensive here. I found that I probably need to adjust my railroad courses in my maps of this area. And I also found out that the historic Poplar Springs Church is now called the Sharon Baptist Church.

Fort Wadsworth

We stopped near Peebles's farm, but it was completely wooded over. Across the street we discussed the opening movements of this part of the fifth offensive. Dick joked that he wanted us to wade through Arthur Swamp, but there was not time available. :-) We passed by Fort Archer without stopping. Next was Fort Fisher, the largest earthwork fort on the Petersburg battlefield. We actually used that as a starting point for a walk to Fort Welch, perhaps a quarter-mile on a flat trail that went along the line of Union fortifications (all of which were erected following the fifth offensive). From here it was a bit confusing because this was a milestone on the breakthrough of April 2 in addition to being part of the area for the Peebles farm battle, the location of the Oscar Pegram Farm. Back on the bus, Jimmy told us the story of where the odd name "Squirrel Level Road" came from—the road was originally named after Squire Lavell, and the locals messed it up.

Fort Fisher

Our final real stop was the Hart house, which is owned by Pamplin Park, and figured in both the October 1 battle of the Harmon Road as well as the breakthrough on April 2. Here Dick wrapped up he fifth offensive. He said that the attacks in the south gained a critical crossroads, even though they failed to reach the Boydton Plank Road or the South Side railroad, and that all future operations were launched from that area. Up on the Peninsula, the attacks left a full army in place in front of Richmond, so that the Confederates could not easily transfer troops away from that front. They remained there until the late winter, when significant parts were brought back to the southern front to reinforce the attacks there that led to the breakthrough.

Hart House Part of the breakthrough area near Hart House

After dinner there was another insomniac session at 8:45 PM, “Mr. Lincoln Comes to Richmond: April 1865” by Mike Gorman, which was once again too late for me to want to attend.

Sunday, July 26

For our final day, we got up early and had a 7:30 AM bus departure, back to a single bus because this was an optional tour that fewer people signed up to take. We were originally scheduled to have Chris Calkins lead us for the day, but he had to drop out because of some medical issues. Bert Dunkerley brought us up to speed on the final days of the siege while we drove to Five Forks. They have a new tiny visitor center, which I visited for the first time. There, Randy Watkins, dressed as a Confederate artillery lieutenant, gave us a map overview of some of the preceding battles: Lewis's Farm, White Oak Road, and Dinwiddie Court House. Then we drove for a quarter-mile and stopped at the auto tour stop for the cavalry attack. Next was the Angle, where we found the traces of the Angle itself and some artillery works nearby in the woods. We also stopped at the Final Stand stop, describing the Confederate escape, and Crawford's Sweep. I think better map handouts would've been helpful in allowing an understanding of the military aspects of this battle.

Randy Watkins at the 5 Forks Visitor Center A cavalry horse replica at the V.C.
The Angle The famous intersection

We drove on US 460, following the course of Grant, Ord, and Sheridan in the pursuit of Lee toward Appomattox. Bert described delay of the Confederate Army at Amelia Court House while they waited in vain for rations. Our next stop was the Sailor's Creek battlefield, where we were met by Jim Godburn. (There is a new visitor center here that was not open when I visited last, with Gary Gallagher and the University of Virginia. I am starting to realize that having visitor centers are not such a good thing for bus tours because they soak up too much time that could be spent on the battlefield. I will say that this visitor center had a nice collection of battlefield maps in their exhibit hall.)

We had another box lunch and afterward Jim briefly described the three separate battles that are collectively called Sailor's Creek. We drove to the Overton–Hillman house, which was the scene of one of the three sub battles and also the VI Corps hospital that treated over 500 men. We toured through the house and saw some interesting displays of bloody medical equipment, but did not spend much time on the battle. For the other two sub battles, at Holt's Corner and the Lockett House, we drove by but did not have time to stop or even say much about the battle action. At the latter, I got to view one of my favorite monuments, in which the United Daughters of the Confederacy described the battle as "almost a great victory, overshadowed by Phil Sheridan." Of course, it was one of the worst Confederate defeats of the war, sometimes called the Waterloo of the Confederacy.

Jim Godburn at Sailor's Creek V.C. Overton–Hillman house
Medical display inside Don't park your limber this close!

We drove to Appomattox Station and heard about the all-dismounted-cavalry action from inside the bus. We drove by the brand-new annex of the Museum of the Confederacy, which I really wanted to visit, but we did not have time. At the Appomattox Court House National Historic Park, Jim Godburn gave us an overview of the civil history of the town, the battle on the morning of April 9, the surrender of the troops, and the history of the McLean family. At the McLean house, he explained that it was actually the guesthouse for a building that is no longer there, Raine Tavern. He described in moderate detail the meetings between Grant and Lee on April 9 and 10, and the fate of the furniture after the meetings.

McLean House
Parlor of McLean House. Lee sat at the left table, Grant the right.

At the Clover Hill Tavern, Bert talked about the surrender ceremonies and we saw the printing presses used to print parole passes. Then we visited the bookstore. Back on the bus, we went to the nearby cemetery built by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which is also where Grant first arrived and was met by Phil Sheridan on April 9. Bert gave us a brief overview of the April 9 battle. There was an amusing UDC plaque that referred to 9000 Confederate troops surrendered (there were actually about 33,000) and the final line of text had been chiseled off, but Jim told us it had said they surrendered to 160,000 US troops. We finished the day with a decent buffet dinner at the nearby Babcock House B&B, and then a 101 mile bus ride back to the hotel, arriving just before 9 PM. A pretty grueling day. I flew back early Monday morning.

Clover Hill Tavern Parole pass printing presses
UDC Cemetery at Appomattox C.H. Jim and Bert wrapping up

Once again I had a nice time with the Chambersburg folks and it was great to see Ted Alexander and his cohorts. I am hopeful that future seminars with them will be better focused on the military details we are all interested to explore. This one was a bit too ambitious in its scope, which caused a lot of content dilution. For an example of a different itinerary covering some of the the same ground, see my report about visiting with Gary Gallagher and the University of Virginia in 2009.

My next Civil War excursion will be in October for the Mosby Heritage Area Association conference in Middleburg.