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Contact: Mike Litterst, 804 226-1981 x. 30
On Saturday, September 11 and Sunday, September 12, 2010, Richmond National Battlefield Park will present special living history and ranger-led programs at the Totopotomoy Creek Battlefield in Hanover County, site of the historic Shelton House (also known as Rural Plains). Volunteers portraying the 1 st Rhode Island Artillery will provide cannon-firing demonstrations, while others portraying Union headquarters staff will discuss the role of the Shelton House as headquarters of the Union Army Second Corps. Program hours are Saturday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Parking is available for this event at Rural Point Elementary School, 7161 Studley Road in Mechanicsville and shuttle service will be provided to and from the event. The event, parking and shuttle service are free.
Artillery demonstrations by Battery A of the 2 nd Rhode Island Artillery will take place at 11a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Sunday. During the fighting along Totopotomoy Creek, May 29-31, 1864, the 1 st Rhode Island Artillery was positioned in the yard of the Shelton House. Following each demonstration, Park Rangers will present guided walking tours of the Totopotomoy Creek battlefield .
Also during the weekend, volunteers will portray Union Major General Winfield Scott Hancock and his staff as they appeared while headquartered on the lawn of the Shelton home during the Totopotomoy Creek fighting. Additionally, the first floor of the historic Shelton House will be open to tour throughout the event. Built in about 1725, the home has connections to Virginia patriot Patrick Henry (he wed one of the Shelton girls in 1754, perhaps at Rural Plains) and was used as a Union signal station and headquarters during the May, 1864 fighting. Confederate artillery struck the house 51 times on May 30 in an effort to drive off the signalmen and disrupt Union operations.
About the Totopotomoy Creek Battlefield
When the Union and Confederate armies left the North Anna River battlefield on May 26-27, 1864, each conducted rapid marches southeast to reach new positions. The two sides squared off across Totopotomoy Creek, a wide and shallow creek that represented a substantial barrier astride the route to Richmond , just eight miles away . Additionally, Confederate infantry and artillery dug in on the southern side of the creek, further strengthening the position. Ultimately, the fighting at Totopotomoy Creek never took shape as a distinct battle, but was instead a series of small collisions, erupting at localized points along the line before th e armies shifted southeast again, this time winding up at Cold Harbor.
During that engagement, Union Major General Winfield Hancock’s Second Army Corps entrenched near the home of Col. Edwin Shelton, facing the forces under General Robert E. Lee on the opposite banks of the creek. On May 30 and 31, Union infantry launched repeated assaults in a failed attempt to carry the Confederate lines. Artillery fire from both sides erupted periodically into ear-shattering cannonades and damage to the Shelton home from Southern cannonballs is still evident today.
Today Richmond National Battlefield Park owns and maintains 124 acres of the Totopotomoy Creek battlefield, including the Shelton House and much of the ground down to the banks of Totopotomoy Creek over which Hancock’s men attacked on May 30 and May 31. The property was acquired by the National Park Service in 2006 and the site is under rehabilitation and development prior to being regularly accessible for visitors to the park.
Historic Polegreen Church, located just two miles southeast of the Shelton House, also figured prominently in the fighting along Totopotomoy Creek. The site of the church is located at 6411 Heatherwood Drive off Rural Point Road in Mechanicsville and offers additional interpretation of these events.
About Richmond National Battlefield Park
The Totopotomoy Creek battlefield is one of 13 Civil War sites protected by Richmond National Battlefield Park around the city of Richmond, Virginia. The site is located six miles northeast of Mechanicsville (one mile west of Rural Point Elementary), off of State Route 606 in Hanover County.
A driving tour of the battlefields includes 13 separate sites with five visitor centers along an 80 mile route. A full day is required to experience the entire battlefield park. The main park visitor center is located at the historic Tredegar Iron Works (470 Tredegar Street in Richmond) and provides museum exhibits, audio-visual programs and orientation services to help plan a visit to the battlefields. For additional information, contact Richmond National Battlefield Park at 804-226-1981 x 23, or via the internet at www.nps.gov/rich. Updates about park programs and events are available on both Facebook (Richmond National Battlefield Park) and Twitter (RichmondNPS).