Petersburg VA Battlefield

Posted on 09/01/2018 in misc

Photo of Petersburg Battlefield

My son and I visited Petersburg National Battlefield yesterday. Visiting a civil war battlefield with a civil war expert makes the experience much better. I highly recommend it. Petersburg was basically Lee's last stand that turned into a 9 month siege in which Grant bet (correctly) that he could outlast Lee and win the war. The battlefield was a preview of WWI trench warfare, and most of what is left is trenches and fort locations. The centerpiece of the battlefield is The Crater, the remnants of a union plan to tunnel under a confederate position and blow it up from below, creating a large gap in the line they could exploit in a charge. The tunnel and explosion worked well. The charge, not so much.

One thing I noticed is that the waysides and signs at Petersburg are in serious need of attention. This is not a criticism of the National Park Service. They've been underfunded for years and are essentially running the parks with one hand tied behind their backs, metaphorically speaking.

Most of the park is in the "eastern theater" side. We also drove over to the western theater, which I would say you can skip unless you are a serious hardcore civil war nerd. The Popular Grove National Cemetery is nice to visit, but the rest of the stops in the "western theater" don't ad much to the experience.

Photo of Popular Grove National Cemetery
The flag at the cemetery was not at half-mast for Senator McCain. Not sure if that is an oversight or maybe cemetery flags don't get put at half-mast? The cemetery did not appeared to be staffed, although it did appear well maintained.

Photo of grave
This unknown confederate grave is in the "colored" section of the cemetery. I really want to believe they did that on purpose, but my son says probably not.

Photo of civil war trench
A lot of the trench work protecting Richmond and Petersburg is still evident.

Photo of fort
Most of the stops on the driving tour are at the forts that were built at key points along the trenches.

Photo of tunnel entrance
The actual entrance to the tunnel built by PA minors back in 1894. It runs about 500 feet to the Confederate position up the hill.

Photo of Mahone monument
Monument to Petersburg native Major General Mahone, who turned the surprise explosion the opened a gaping hole in his line into a route of the attacking Union army.

Photo of Maine monument
Monument to the Maine Heavy Artillery brigade that was pulled from a DC defensive position by Grant, and suffered 66% casualties in an attack on a well defended Confederate position. It was the worst casualty rate suffered in a single action by any unit in the war.

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