Sunken Road Tour

This tour of the Sunken Road area of the Fredericksburg Battlefield can be viewed at home, or can be used as a guide onsite. If following this tour onsite, the distance covered will be about a half a mile and the tour will take about an hour to complete. This tour is also available via the National Park Service app (available at the Apple Store and on Google Play). View a map of the Sunken Road Walking Trail (pdf).

1. The Sunken Road

A gravel road bordered by a stone wall with a small, white house in the distance.
Begin a tour of the Sunken Road at the entrance to the road from the parking lot behind the visitor center.

During the Battle of Fredericksburg the US Army of the Potomac embarked on a winter campaign and sent waves of soldiers to attack a seemingly impregnable position. Why did this happen? This tour explores the events and contexts for the Battle of Fredericksburg. Learn of the commanders, the private soldiers, and the civilians who were thrust onto the center stage of the Civil War. Wind your way up the hill and into the National Cemetery, where nearly 15,000 U.S. soldiers rest—a reminder of the cost of war and of the nation put together from the pieces left over.


Walk to the Innis House, Stop #2

Walk north along the Sunken Road, away from the parking lot, approximately 0.1 miles until you reach the small, white house located on the right, to the east of the road.

2. Innis House

A small, two story white house along a gravel road.
The Innis House was completed just a few years before it would suffer lasting damage when the war came to Fredericksburg.

The people of Fredericksburg had lived along this road for almost 130 years before the Civil War even began. How did the Sunken Road and the now infamous stone wall come to be? When war came in December 1862, the civilians of this town found themselves in the middle of the two armies almost immediately. Some refugees fled Fredericksburg; others persistently stayed. The quiet unassuming homes along the Sunken Road soon earned famous spots in American history as the settings for some of the battle of Fredericksburg’s bloodiest fighting.


Walk to the Cobb Memorial, Stop #3

Walk in the direction toward the Innis House, but turn left at the first paved park trail, leading up Marye's Heights. The trail leads up the hill and turns, placing you at a view over the Sunken Road. It is approximately 0.16 miles to Marye's Heights from the Cobb Memorial.

3. Cobb Memorial

A rectangular granite monument with the word Cobb written on it.
The Cobb Memorial was one of the first monuments placed at the Sunken Road.

The Sunken Road and the stone wall were convenient features that became critical to the Confederate defenses during the battle. How did General Robert E. Lee take advantage of his position? What would be going through the minds of the soldiers behind this wall during the battle?


Walk up Marye's Heights

Walk in the direction toward the Innis House, but turn left at the first paved park trail, leading up Marye's Heights. The trail leads up the hill and turns, placing you at a view over the Sunken Road. It is approximately 0.16 miles to Marye's Heights from the Cobb Memorial.

4. Marye's Heights

A view of small white house from a hill.
View the Sunken Road from atop Marye's Heights, the high ground held by Confederate forces at Fredericksburg.

The repeated Federal attacks against the base of Marye’s Heights have become the most famous event of the Battle of Fredericksburg. Futilely charging again and again without success, each US attack in turn was repulsed. Why did the Union soldiers keep attacking? Explore the decisions made by US commanders during the battle and discover how the attacks at Marye’s Heights fit into the grander battle plans at Fredericksburg.


Continue on to Artillery Position

Continue of the trail atop Marye's Height, until you reach the cannons (350 down the trail) just before the entrance to the Fredericksburg National Cemetery.

5. Marye's Heights: Artilery Position

A view across a mowed field to a brick wall leading to a cemetery.
The Washington Artillery atop Marye's Heights generated a formidable wall of fire during the battle.

The Confederate cannon posted on the high ground overlooking the fields in front of Marye’s Heights proved a deciding factor in the battle. Fire from these cannons made reaching the Heights an impossible goal for the United States soldiers tasked with the repeated assaults on December 13, 1862. In the midst of the political fallout from the devastating loss at Fredericksburg, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. How would Lincoln’s proclamation change the course of the war?


Walk to Humphreys Monument, Stop #6

Continue along the trail to the entrance of the Fredericksburg National Cemetery. The main central path through the cemetery will lead you to the Humphreys Monument. The distance from the Artillery Position straight to the Humphreys Monument is approximately 400 feet. You are welcome to walk through the cemetery at your leisure before continuing the guided tour. *Pets are not allowed in the Fredericksburg National Cemetery.*

6. Humphreys Monument

A bronze statue of a Union soldier in a cemetery.
The Humphreys Monument stands at the center of the Fredericksburg National Cemetery.

The Civil War brought death on a scale unknown to the United States. Over the four-year conflict, 2% of the country’s population was killed. In the immediate aftermath of battles like Fredericksburg, the dead were buried in hastily created pits that could hardly be called graves. Once the war was finally over, the question of what to do with the remains of those killed was unanswered. The National Cemetery system emerged from that pivotal question and provided a final resting place for United States soldiers who died. Because of the unreliable ways to identify the dead, most graves in the Fredericksburg National Cemetery are unknown. The majority of graves here are from the Civil War, though there are some from later wars as well—the cemetery was closed to further burials in the 1940s.


Walk to Superintendent's Lodge, Stop #7

Turning south from the Humphreys Monument towards the main Fredericksburg Battlefield Visitor Center will put you on the steep cobblestone path that passes the cemetery terraces and leads down the hill. The Superintendent's Lodge is located just before the main cemetery gate to the left of the path. *The Superintendent's Lodge is not open to the public. Please view from a distance.*

7. Superintendent's Lodge

Black and white photo of cemetery lodge building at cemetery entrance.
The Superintendent's Lodge is one of the standard features of National Cemeteries after established after the Civil War.

The end of the Civil War brought unification and the end of slavery, but it did not solve every problem that faced the United States. How would the war be remembered by survivors of both sides? What type of nation would Americans build out of the ashes of this awful conflict? These same questions that Americans faced in the postwar period still challenge us 160 years later.


Last updated: October 3, 2022

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