Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park contains four major Civil War battlefields--Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Wilderness, and Spotsylvania, as well as Salem Church, the "Stonewall" Jackson Shrine and Chatham Manor. All are within a 17 mile radius of Fredericksburg. A series of tour stops are identified providing a complete self-guided tour of the battlefields.
The Fredericksburg Battlefield Visitor Center, located on Lafayette Boulevard, is the place to begin a tour of the Fredericksburg battlefield. The building houses a museum on two floors and a 22 minute orientation film explaining the battle. In a separate building behind the visitor center is a large book shop with many educational items for sale.
Behind the visitor center is a walking tour along two blocks of the Sunken Road. Located along the path are signs, monuments, pictures, and an historic house, which explains the heavy fighting that took place along this section of the battlefield on December 13, 1862. Begin with the battle painting located at the rear of the visitor center because it helps with the hard job of imagining the area in 1862. Allow about 20 to 30 minutes for the walk. If a request is made well in advance by the teacher, a park historian may be scheduled to guide the students along the walk.
Across the Sunken Road from the visitor center is the National Cemetery on Marye's Heights. It was once an artillery position for Confederates, but now is the final resting place for more than 15,000 United States soldiers. Several monuments are scattered about the cemetery.
A walking tour brochure is available at the visitor center for a self-guided tour of the cemetery.
LEE DRIVE - FREDERICKSBURG BATTLEFIELD DRIVE
One-half mile south of Fredericksburg Battlefield Visitor Center is the entrance to Lee Drive. This is a five mile driving tour following the Confederate line of trenches and artillery emplacements. Along the way are maps, paintings, and exhibits describing the action that took place in this part of the battlefield. A paved path winds to the top of Lee Hill from which General Lee viewed the battle. Prospect Hill is the terminus of the tour. The group will need to turn around here and backtrack to exit Lee Drive.
Chatham lies just across the Rappahannock River in Stafford County. It is an 18th century manor which was used during the battle of Fredericksburg as a Union headquarters, communication center, and hospital. on the first floor is a museum depicting Chatham's history. Classes will be encouraged to do extensive walking about the grounds of the house and to experience the excellent view of Fredericksburg and Union pontoon sites on the Rappahannock River. An historian will provide an orientation to groups upon their arrival. It is especially important to limit the size of groups visiting Chatham because of the lack of space inside the building.
CHANCELLORSVILLE VISITOR CENTER
The Chancellorsville Visitor Center is located 12 miles west of Fredericksburg on Virginia Route 3. The center has a 22 minute film presentation explaining the battle of Chancellorsville. A museum in the building has exhibits and dioramas to view. A book shop is also located in the building. Behind the visitor center is a monument that commemorates the site where "Stonewall" Jackson was accidentally wounded by his own men on May 2, 1863, and a walking trail to nearby earthworks.
CHANCELLORSVILLE BATTLEFIELD DRIVE
The battlefield drive begins next to the visitor center parking lot. There are several stops along the ten mile drive identifying important landmarks on the battlefield, including the Chancellorsville house site, Hazel Grove, and the place where Confederate Generals Lee and Jackson met to plan Jackson's daring flank march around the Northern army's right flank. A short walking tour connects Hazel Grove and Fairview artillery positions.
WILDERNESS AND SPOTSYLVANIA BATTLEFIELDS
There are no visitor centers at either battlefield area so tours are completely self-guided. At the entrance to each field are exhibit shelters with brief explanations and maps of the battles. Driving tours begin near these shelters. Along each drive are additional maps, exhibits, paintings, and interpretive narratives about the battles.
Several walking tours are available on the Wilderness battlefield. One begins at the exhibit shelter and follows a two mile route to various landmarks associated with Confederate General Gordon's flank attack late on May 5, 1864. Another trail begins at the Widow Tapp Farm.
The Spotsylvania battlefield offers an excellent view of a well preserved landscape. Among the several points of interest on the field is a stop at the Bloody Angle where fierce hand-to-hand combat continued 18-20 hours between Union and Confederate troops. A short walk is located here for those especially interested in this particular battle.
On Route 3, going west from Fredericksburg toward Chancellorsville, is historic Salem Church. Built in 1844, this once peaceful country Baptist church became the site of a bitter battle on May 3, 1863, during the Chancellorsville Campaign. The church also served as a refugee camp for civilians fleeing the battle at Fredericksburg in December 1862 and a hospital following the fighting in May. There is a self-guided walking tour around the grounds, but the building is usually open only on weekends during the summer. Call in advance for a current schedule of operations.
THE "STONEWALL" JACKSON SHRINE
The "Stonewall" Jackson Shrine is located 15 miles south of Fredericksburg on Route 606 in Caroline County. There are interpretive signs. The building where the general lay dying is furnished as it might have been then and includes the original deathbed, blanket, and clock belonging to the Chandler family.
Hours of operation at Jackson Shrine vary with the season, so it is especially important that advance arrangements be made. A park historian provides a tour of the building to small groups at a time.
Did You Know?
While laying out the Chancellorsville History Trail, the park staff in places had to literally hack their way through a jungle of underbrush that resembled the Wilderness that the soldiers struggled through during the Battle of Chancellorsville.