Experience the End (of the Civil War)
Words by Historian, John Coski at the American Civil War Museum
The American Civil War Museum is one of nine organizations partnering in an unprecedented and intensive series of events commemorating the anniversary of the Appomattox Campaign. From March 30 through April 14, visitors can “Experience the End” – the end of the Civil War, that is, from Petersburg to Appomattox, and everything in between.
The “cooperative retelling of the last days of the Appomattox Campaign” originated in repeated comments that historian Chris Calkins heard from visitors to Sailor’s Creek Battlefield Historical State Park. Faced with a smorgasbord of overlapping interpretive programs at different sites every April, visitors remarked: “Wouldn’t it be nice if all these programs were coordinated?”
A meeting of historical sites and organizations from Petersburg to Appomattox embraced the notion of a coordinated approach. Contributions from the partnering organizations and a grant from the Virginia Tourism Corporation funded a tour and program brochure.
The events begin on the weekend of March 30-31 at Pamplin Historical Park, with demonstrations, tours, and reenactment scenarios interpreting the actions around Dinwiddie Court House. The action shifts on April 1 to the Five Forks Unit of the Petersburg National Battlefield, where Ulysses S. Grant’s forces attempted to cut the last Confederate supply line.
On the fateful 2nd of April, the day when Confederate forces evacuated both Petersburg and Richmond, tours at Pamplin Park and the Petersburg National Battlefield will take visitors to the sites of the Federal breakthrough of Confederate lines and the “last stand” of Confederate forces at Fort Gregg. Visitors can also tour historic Sutherland Tavern, where Federal forces finally cut the South Side Railroad.
Visitors can follow the westward retreat of Lee’s army on April 3rd and 4th to Amelia County, where the Amelia County Historical Society will interpret the skirmishing around Namozine Church and historical interpreters will relate the important events that did not happen at Amelia Court House. The Nottoway Court House and 1837 Presbyterian Church will be the focus of activities on April 5th, where the Nottoway County Historical Association will have artifacts, documents, and interpreters on hand to show how the arrival of Federal forces cut off Lee’s retreat route to Danville.
The most significant military actions of the campaign occurred on April 6th, when the Federals made prisoners of roughly one-fifth of Lee’s army in three distinct fights at and around Sailor’s Creek. A full day of tours, living history programs, and talks by Chris Calkins await visitors to the Sailor’s Creek Battlefield Historical State Park. Park rangers will provide tours of the scenic High Bridge Trail State Park, where critical battles occurred on April 6th and 7th. Pamplin Park Director Jerry Desmond will offer an overview of the Second Battle of High Bridge focusing on the charge of the 19th Maine Infantry.
For the last week of the campaign commemoration, April 8-14, the action shifts west to Appomattox – perhaps the most famous small village in American history. The Appomattox Court House National Historical Park will offer tours and programs interpreting the battles of Appomattox Station and Court House, and programs, demonstrations, encampments, and reenactments interpreting the surrender negotiations, the paroling of the Confederate army and the ceremonial stacking of arms.
The American Civil War Museum’s Appomattox museum will offer guided tours of its galleries filled with the artifacts of the Appomattox campaign and the Confederate surrenders after Appomattox. It will also debut a new temporary exhibit created by students in the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies at Virginia Tech, “Enacting Freedom: Black Virginians in the Age of Emancipation” (opening on April 6th) and, on April 13th, Dr. David Silkenat will discuss and sign his new book, Raising the White Flag: How Surrender Defined the American Civil War.
Check the full schedule for additional details—