Spotlight: Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Spotsylvania and the Wilderness, Virginia
“It is well that war is so terrible, or we would grow too fond of it.”
– Confederate General Robert E. Lee, 1862
What You’ll Find
Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park preserves four Virginia battlefields that witnessed some of the bloodiest fighting of the Civil War. Fought over an 18–month span from 1862 to 1864, these battles resulted in 100,000 casualties. The park tells the stories about the battles and commemorates those people who helped change the course of the nation 150 years ago, not only at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania Court House but also at Chancellorsville and the Wilderness.
Watch this short video to learn more about the impact these battles had on the freedom of millions.
Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park is located in and around Fredericksburg, approximately 50 miles south of Washington, D.C. The park includes four major battlefields and five historic structures; the complete park driving tour totals 60 miles. Visit the park website for driving directions to the Fredericksburg or Chancellorsville Battlefield Visitor Centers and each of the battlefields. Choose one of the visitor centers to start your journey--each features a 22-minute orientation film specific to the battlefield explaining the battles and their aftermath ($2.00 for adults, seniors $1.00, children 10 and under free).
The city of Fredericksburg offers a number of hotels, bed and breakfast lodging and restaurants along with opportunities for sight-seeing and shopping. Visit the park’s nearby attractions page for information on where to stay and things to do during your visit. Reserve a campsite at nearby Prince William Forest Park’s Oak Ridge Campground.
Make Sure You
Allow about two days to fully experience the park, or if your time is limited, be sure to select the things to do that fit your schedule and suit your interests. Each battlefield features its own driving tour with multiple walking trails. Whether you plan to visit all or some of the park, use the color-coded map (PDF) to plan your itinerary.
In May 2014, participate in the 150th Anniversary special events that commemorate the 1864 Battles of the Wilderness and of Spotsylvania Courthouse, also known as Grant’s Overland Campaign, or join the Annual Fredericksburg National Cemetery Illumination and other Memorial Day events.
Enjoy a guided tour of the battlefield with a park ranger; check the park’s website for a full schedule of tours.
After you tour the Spotsylvania Courthouse Battlefield, continue to the Stonewall Jackson Shrine. This route follows Jackson’s victorious flank attack at Chancellorsville and subsequent wounding under friendly fire to the plantation house where he passed away on May 10, 1863. If you start your trip at the Chancellorsville Battlefield Visitor Center, be sure to pick up or download (PDF) a map.
Did your ancestor fight on our battlefields? Park staff can search for any Civil War soldier at the visitor centers with a name and the state in which he enlisted. Ask the staff to show you troop movement maps to trace your ancestor across the battlefield and follow his footsteps across the modern field.
Kids, be sure to ask about our junior ranger booklets and collectible Civil War to Civil Rights trading cards!
Walking the battlefields provides a unique opportunity to understand the clashes that occurred here 150 years ago. Be sure to plan for warm weather, bugs and ticks. Bring sufficient water if you intend to walk or hike the park trails.
Visit the park website to plan your trip to America’s Battleground. There is no fee to visit the park, though a small fee applies for viewing the films. Check out other Civil War sites in Virginia or closer to your home using our Scout Out Civil War Places and Events that Shaped Our Nation 150 Years Ago list.
Did You Know
A number of famous people visited the battlefields and historic homes that make up Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln all visited Chatham Manor, which today serves as the park’s headquarters, while Clara Barton and Walt Whitman visited the Fredericksburg Battlefield to assist wounded soldiers in December 1862.