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Visit to Fredericksburg National Military Park

I dropped my son off at Scouts BSA Summer Camp in Goshen Virginia in July. Since I was already in the area, I decided to take a long route home and fit in some visits to some National Park sites along the way. The focus on this day was the visit to Fredericksburg National Military Park.

On the way back east, I made a brief stop at the Shenandoah National Park rockfish gap entrance station to catch some amazing views of the Appalachian Mountains. Being a native Virginian, this was not the first time I have been in these ‘woods.’ Consequently, I did not feel too bad for the short stop. The weather was wonderful, although a bit hot, and allowed for a majestic view!

Entrance Sign for Shenandoah National Park on the Skyline Drive

I continued on eastward and took the rest of afternoon to visit four of the sites at the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County Battlefields.  

  • Fredericksburg Battlefield Visitor Center
  • Battle of Chancellorsville
  • Old Salem Church
  • Battle of the Wilderness
  • Ellwood House
  • Battle of Spotsylvania Court House

Sad Fact:  The battlefields in this area are the bloodiest on the continent, with over 100,000 casualties across the four primary battlefields.  The simple quantity of human loss seems unfathomable.  

Wooden walkway along path in the forest in Fredericksburg National Military Park

Our family made the visit to this region before on our way to Smith Mountain Lake last year. As a result, I was familiar with the area to some degree. During our previous visit we were able to visit the Exhibit Shelter for the Battle of the Wilderness and take in the two-mile hike. The hike was very informative and matched the confederate flanking maneuver during the battle in spring 1864. Afterward, we followed the driving tour of the Confederate line, which was quite detailed.

As I drove down Route 20 I noticed that they posted a sign that there were ranger programs at the location. As a result, I turned into the drive, which come up quick if you are not ready. A long single gravel drive takes your around some trees and up to an unpaved parking lot near the manor.

information sign in grass lawn with brick two story building, Elmwood Manor in the background which is part of Fredericksburg National Military Park

The house has a long history and the volunteers were eager to share all the details. For instance, I was by myself but one nice gentleman provided a one on one tour through the ground floor exhibits. He shared the details of its use as a field hospital and headquarters for the Union generals during the battle.

Stonewall Jackson’s arm is buried where?

Along with the house, the site includes one oddity. The left arm of General “Stonewall” Jackson is buried in the family cemetery. It was strange enough to attract Ozzy Osbourne and his son, for their History channel show, Ozzy and Jack’s World Detour. My tour guide shared that he was a little disappointed in missing the visit from The Godfather of Heavy Metal.

Shed with a green pop-up canopy next to it with a green lawn in front at Elmwood manor

The Park ranger tent was on site this day and held the normal Unigrid pamphlet and several battle maps of the local sites. The shed next to the tent held a little makeshift shop full of books and a stamping location.

External view of Chancellorsville Visitor Center with is part of Fredericksburg National Military Park

The Chancellorsville Battlefield Visitor Center was up next. Certainly, a key stop in this area and the visitor center had some interesting exhibits, although I was unable to see them in depth due to the time constraint. Additionally, the stamping location was well positioned. After visiting the center, you can go on a driving tour of the battlefield.

Fredericksburg National Battlefield Visitor Center brick two story Building which is par of Fredericksburg National Military Park

My final location was the Fredericksburg Visitor Center. As I pulled up to the location, I noticed I had only about 5 minutes. Therefore, I hurriedly ran into the Museum shop for the stamp, and then trotted over to the main visitor center. I was able to pick up the walking trail guide for the sunken road trail, as this was available after hours. The park rangers were very nice in pointing this out.

I took some time walking around the trail of the Sunken Road. I was amazed to find that a long section of the stone wall that was used as cover by the confederate forces was still intact. This wall is what gave the road its name, and provided pre-made cover that was decisive in the battle.

Sunken Road foot path Fredericksburg National Battlefield Visitor Center
Sunken road trail
  • I have mentioned this before but try to make enough time for your visit. These sites have such a wealth of information that you can spend as much time as you want at the locations.
  • Consider returning to sites you have already visited. For example, we missed Ellwood Manor on our first visit to the region and enjoyed the additional visiting again.
  • Finally, take advantage of the sites, even after the buildings have closed. In fact, you can usually find interesting information, such as walking trails to complete your visit even after hours.

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