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Central Virginia Civil War

Lee vs. Grant:
The 1864 Overland Campaign Tour

~ Driving Tour ~

Interactive tour map
Download the Official Virginia Civil War Trails Map [PDF 645K]. Note: Using the free Adobe Acrobat Reader, you should be able to view it on your computer monitor or you can take the file to a commercial printer, such as Kinko's. However, if reduced to fit on letter-size paper in standard home printers, the map may not be legible.
Request a free copy of the printed Official Virginia Civil War Trails Map. [The large, four-color Virginia Civil War Trails map for the Overland Campaign, as well as other information about visiting Civil War sites in Virginia, will be mailed to you.]

Lee-GrantIn the spring of 1864, Union general-in-chief U.S. Grant launched a multi-pronged grand offensive aimed at destroying Confederate armed forces in Virginia.

Grant sent Gen. Benjamin Butler to threaten both Richmond and Petersburg from the east, knifing his Army of the James between the two cities after landing at Bermuda Hundred. Another Union force, led by what turned out to be a succession of Union generals, was to drive south through the Shenandoah Valley, destroying crops and forcing Robert E. Lee to worry about his western flank.

The main thrust — the one that Grant himself oversaw — was aimed almost directly south from Union camps near Culpeper to the Confederate capital. This march would pit Grant's Army of the Potomac against Lee's famed Army of Northern Virginia.

While the Bermuda Hundred and Valley campaigns sputtered, Grant's "Overland Campaign" kept going. It took six bloody weeks for Grant to slug his way from the Wilderness to the gates of Petersburg. But he finally had pinned Lee's army down. The end was less than 10 months away.

The Virginia Civil War Trails project has outlined a driving tour of Grant's Overland Campaign. Tour maps are available at visitor centers along the way or by calling the phone numbers listed in this section.

Three National Parks interpret the most significant sites along the Overland Campaign Trail. The Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park maintains visitor centers in Fredericksburg and on the Chancellorsville battlefield. The Richmond National Battlefield Park operates a small visitor center on the Cold Harbor battlefield (the main visitor center is in Richmond); and the Petersburg National Battlefield welcomes visitors where the initial attacks against the city were made.

Here's a brief guide to the tour sites, routed from north to south.

Prelude – Before the spring 1864 campaign began, Union forces generally were camped in the Culpeper area, the Confederates south of the Rapidan River in Orange County. One Confederate corps, under Gen. James Longstreet, was camped in the vicinity of Gordonsville.
     One of those Confederate camps was located near Orange on the grounds of Montpelier, home to President James Madison. A trail leading to this Confederate Winter Camp site is accessible from a parking area on Route 20 at Montpelier Road. Restored huts represent the quiet camp that was evacuated hastily when Union troops crossed the Rapidan River to begin the campaign. For more information about visiting the site see  Road map .

Each of the following sites is marked by Civil War Trails interpretation, except as noted.

Germanna Crossing – Union forces crossed here and at other Rapidan River sites, beginning the offensive May 4, 1864. Civil War Trails tour stop is located just east of the river, south of Route 3. Look for Trails directional signs.

The Wilderness Battlefield – Significant areas of the May 5–6, 1864, battlefield, including Saunders Field and the Widow Tapp Farm, are maintained in the national park. Driving and walking tours available. Plenty of good information on site.

Todd's Tavern – Trails wayside at the intersection of Brock Road and Catharpin Road  Road map . Union and Confederate cavalry clashed near here May 6-7 as the armies disengaged and raced to Spotsylvania. Driving tour information available at the Fredericksburg national park visitor center.

Spotsylvania Court House battlefield – The national park preserves and interprets the important parts of this bloody ground fought over May 8-21, including the famous "Bloody Angle." Driving and walking tours throughout the park.

Spotsylvania Court House Historic District – This small village suffered greatly from the nearby fighting. Trails signs in front of the modern courthouse building tell the story.

Zion Methodist Church, near the intersection of Routes 608 and 613 and near the courthouse – This small church was caught in the shifting lines during the battle at Spotsylvania Court House. Confederate signalmen used the second floor while observing the fighting. It was shelled by Union gunners.

Massaponax Church – Church still stands near where the Union high command met after moving through Spotsylvania Court House. Famous photos by Timothy O'Sullivan of Union generals in action were made here.

Plantations on Guinea Station Road – The Union army march took them past fine homes. The current tour finds things much the same. Trails wayside.

Guinea Station – The route of the Union march passed this, the site of Gen. "Stonewall" Jackson's death a year earlier. Very nice, quiet national park site here.

Bethel Church – Federal headquarters located here May 22-23. Trails sign at original church.

Bowling Green – Caroline County seat disrupted as Union army moved through. Trails sign at the courthouse.

Milford Station – Union cavalry, screening an infantry corps, caught up with Confederate infantry here May 21 after the stalemate in the lines at Spotsylvania, forcing Lee to move to defend Hanover Junction at the North Anna River.

Carmel Church – Streams of the Union army gathered here as their commanders prepared for the push to the North Anna River.

North Anna River Battlefield (Ox Ford)
11576 Verdon Road, Doswell VA 23047
 Road map 
– This Hanover County park offers an interpreted walking trail among some nicely preserved Confederate earthworks on the south side of the river. Good stop midway through the campaign (May 24-25). Located on Route 684 west of US Route 1. Tour information available at the Fredericksburg and Richmond national parks and the Ashland Visitor Center.

Hanover Junction – Vital crossing of the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac and the Virginia Central railroads that Lee was trying to defend at the North Anna. The two lines still cross here.

[The following two sites are located along US Route 1 south of the North Anna River. They are part of the Overland Campaign but detached from the Union army's march route, which heads east after the fighting at North Anna.]

Ashland, Railroad Station visitor center, 112 N Railroad Ave, Ashland VA 23005  Road Map   – Confederates marched silently through here on their way to the battlefields at Totopotomoy Creek and Cold Harbor after fighting at the North Anna River. Trails sign at the Visitor Center in the old railroad station downtown, which is open daily 9 am–5 pm. 804-752-6766.

Yellow Tavern – As the two armies were fighting at Spotsylvania, Union cavalry made a dash for Richmond. J.E.B. Stuart's Confederate cavalry followed. During the May 11, 1864, battle here, Stuart was mortally wounded. A small memorial park is located where Stuart fell. It's just east of US Route 1 on the Telegraph Road (off Virginia Center Parkway).

Mangohick Church – Union soldiers passed this church after the battles at North Anna. Original church still stands along Route 30.

Nelson's Crossing – Union Second and Sixth Corps crossed the Pamunkey River here May 28. The antebellum home Wyoming (private) stands on a bluff just north of the crossing on Route 615.

Haw's Shop (Salem Church) – After the Pamunkey crossings and immediately following a large cavalry battle just west, Union forces consolidated at Haw's Shop.

Enon Church – Confederate cavalry fought dismounted May 28 behind lines at this church during battle of Haw's Shop. Monument to Confederate dead is located nearby.

Totopotomoy Creek – Lee's army defended positions south of the creek May 28–June 1, 1864. Wayside at the creek on Route 606 helps tell the story. Rural Plains, a private home, stands nearby. Trails sign at Rural Point Elementary School.

Polegreen Church – Fighting along Totopotomoy Creek spilled over to this historic church June 1, 1864, when Confederate artillery shelled the building to oust sharpshooters. It burned to the ground. A foundation now manages the site.

Bethesda Church – Civil War park adjacent to the Pebble Creek housing development is planned near the intersection of US 360 and Route 615 (the site of the original Bethesda Church). The park encompasses both Federal and Confederate lines at the north end of the Cold Harbor battlefield. Some interpretation of the battlefield is expected within the next couple of years.

Old Church – Parts of the Union army, shipped to the scene from south of the James River, passed through here to Cold Harbor May 31. Old tavern here was a Union cavalry headquarters early in the battle. Civil War Trails interpretation planned.

Cold Harbor – The Richmond National Battlefield Park operates a small visitor center on the battlefield. A short driving loop offers views of both Confederate and Union lines used during the May 31–June 12 stalemate. An interesting mile-long walking trail takes visitors through the maze of trenches and explains details of the fighting in the area. Another walking trail through the Union lines is located in a Hanover County Park nearby. A national cemetery, established in 1866, is close, as is the Garthright House, a landmark on the battlefield. Not on the driving tour route but associated with this phase of the campaign is the cavalry battle June 11–12 at Trevilian Station. Grant used his cavalry to draw Confederate horsemen west, protecting his stealthy move to the James River.

Dispatch Station – Unable to break through to Lee's defense of Richmond, Grant once again disengaged his army and moved east and south. This station was a stop along the Richmond and York River railroad passed by Union march on its way to the James River. Civil War Trails interpretation planned.

Long Bridge – Chickahominy River bridge saw lots of action as Union army slogged toward the James. Trails wayside.

Wilcox's Landing – Charles City County park now at site of one the Army of the Potomac's James River crossings June 14-15. Just down river, more Union troops crossed on a pontoon bridge, one of the engineering marvels of the war.

[No modern bridges span the sites of Grant's James River Crossings. The nearest bridge is the Route 156 Harrison Bridge. Cross there and pick up Grant's route again at Flowerdew Hundred.]

Flowerdew Hundred
Flowerdew Hundred Road and James River Drive, ZIP code 23860
(Trails sign located a short distance north of Route 10 on Flowerdew Hundred Road)
 Road map 
   This James River plantation was the southern end of the Union pontoon bridge used June 14–15. The bridge, an engineering feat for the time, enabled Grant to "steal a march" on Lee and move toward Petersburg. Site of the bridge landing no longer accessible.

Prince George Court House – Parts of the Union army marched through here on the way to the coming confrontation at Petersburg. Trails sign at courthouse.

Baylor's Farm – Union soldiers, many of them members of United States Colored Troops regiments, met with Confederate resistance here, 2.5 miles east of the main Petersburg defenses. Battle fought near the modern intersection of I-295 and Route 36. Trails sign at new Hopewell visitor center on Route 36.

Petersburg battlefield – The Petersburg National Battlefield encompasses sites associated with the mid-June-1864 Union attacks. Cautious Northern attackers, seeing the impressive Confederate fortifications, missed their chance against the thinly held Southern line. Lee's arrival with the main army ensured a lengthy siege.

South Side Station – Old Town Petersburg historic site is pivot for the Overland Campaign and Lee's Retreat tours. The South Side Railroad was the last supply line left to Lee in April 1865. When that was cut, Lee was forced to evacuate the city. His surrender came at Appomattox Court House April 9, 1865. See Lee's Retreat in the Southside section. Civil War Trails and Lee's Retreat information at the site.