Looking for an adventure? Use the maps provided by the Civil War Trails Program to help guide you. As you discover where your destination lies, maybe take a moment to learn interesting facts about the events that took place in the area. Still want to go on an adventure, but can't decide what to do? Try one of our suggested itineraries. Learn about the buildings in Colonial Williamsburg that were lost or taken over by the Union Soldiers. See where some of the most important people of the time lived. Or you can find a program that best suits what you're looking for.
This map is presented by the Civil War Trails program. Use this to plan your trip and follow the Peninsula Campaign from beginning to end. See where all the battles took place, find where the museums are, and discover facts about the battles. This map covers the entire peninsula up to Richmond and includes images of Fort Monroe, the Battle of Hampton Roads, and the Wren Building at William & Mary. Portraits of Benjamin Butler, George Picket and Jubal Early are also on the map. Maps for other areas can be found by clicking on the logo to the left.
CIVIL WAR ITINERARY
Four-Day Williamsburg, the Historic Triangle, and Other Nearby Civil War Sites:
Drive to Redoubt Park on Quarterpath Rd. where you will find one of the surviving earthen forts from the May 5, 1862 Battle of Williamsburg. This fort, #2 of 14 that were built, overlooked the road to Williamsburg from the Kingsmill Wharf on the James River -- the same roadbed used by British troops to pirate away guns and supplies from the patriots opposing the King's rule of the colonies prior to the onset of the America Revolution.
Walking bridges and viewing platforms at the fort give you a clear picture of how these defensive structures where build...all with only hand shovels and sweat.
Take the short walking trail through beautiful wooded ravines leading to Redoubt #3 in the Confederate line of defense.
Next, drive to nearby Crown Plaza Hotel at Ft. Magruder on Route 60 East to view a lobby display featuring Civil War artifacts extracted from the remains of Redoubt #4 located in hotel's garden area.
Your next stop will be on Penniman Road where you can view the remaining walls from the main fortress -- Ft. Magruder, named after Maj. General Magruder -- the Confederate officer who devised and supervised the building of the this and the other major lines of defense along the Peninsula leading to Richmond.
Backin town, a stroll along the famous Duke of Gloucester Street, (at the time of the war, this was called Main St.) in the Historic Area of Colonial Williamsburg. This walk will take you by a number of homes and public buildings that were here at the time of of the May 5 battle. At the east end of 'the Duke" you'll find the Palmer House. This home served as headquarters for Confederate Gen. Joseph Johnston as preparations were underway for the coming. Following Rebel troop withdrawals from the town, Union Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan moved his headquarters from Yorktown up to the Palmer house -- at that time called the Vest Mansion. Writing home to his wife, the general said:
This is a beautiful town, several very old houses, pretty gardens. I have taken possession of a very fine old house which Joe Johnston occupied as headquarters. It has a lovely flower garden and conservatory. If you were here I should be inclined to spend some weeks here.
Further down the Duke of Gloucester St., on the east side of Market Square, today stands Chownings Tavern. In 1862, this was a lodging house, later becoming the "Colonial Inn." During the Union occupation the building served as a commissary and featured a large United States flag overhanging the sidewalk. Expressing their distaste of the occupation, the ladies of the town would walk out in the street to avoid passing underneath the flag. Not to be outdone, the soldiers soon replaced it with a larger flag that stretched across the entire street.
Continuing east of the Duke of Gloucester, you will come upon Bruton Parish Church -- the present structure having been built in 1715. Like many other private and public buildings throughout town, the church also served as a hospital for wounded and dying soldiers of both armies. The churchyard today contains several grave markers of combatants buried their after the battle.
Next door is the Bowden-Armistead House, referred to after the battle as the 'home of the traitor." Lemuel J. Bowden was one of few Williamsburg residents who considered themselves "Unionists."
A year before the Battle of Williamsburg, Bowden had left his Williamsburg home to enter the Union lines. Now under Union occupation, the Federal military governor installed Bowden as mayor of the town -- much to the consternation of many of its remaining residents. Not the least of which was his mother, Mrs. Mildred Bowden, who refused to live in the same house with him and took up residence in a smaller house at the rear of his garden.
As you approach today's Merchant Square at the extreme north end of the Duke of Gloucester, you will see the Kimble Theatre. Standing on this ground in May of 1862, was the story and a half Ware House with a deep cellar. Following the battle, a young Confederate soldier was taken there where he soon died. Mrs. Ware placed the body in the parlor.
Later, as Federal troops were making the rounds seeking wounded comrades, a young Union soldier uncovered the face of the corpse only to find , sadly, that it was his own Rebel brother.
At the end of the Duke of Gloucester, you will enter the campus of the College of William and Mary. There stands the reconstructed Wren Building, burned by Federal troops following an 1863 Confederate raid on pickets standing guard on the campus. Two years earlier, in May of 1861, the college had suspended classes as students and faculty alike answered the call to arms with the outbreak of hostilities. Even college president Benjamin Student Ewell had volunteered to defend the state.
As Union troops occupied Williamsburg, pickets were stationed just beyond the Wren Building just across what is now Richmond Rd. (called Stage Rd. in 1862.) For the duration of the war, this became the unofficial border between the United States and the Confederacy.
Returning to your Williamsburg accommodations for the evening, drive down Frances St. by the reconstructed Public Hospital where townspeople had climbed up into the cupola for a bird's eye view of the May 5 battle raging just east of town.
Further down Frances St., catch of glimpse of Bassett Hall House where some months following the battle, Lt. George Custer, having been granted a leave by Gen. McClellan, attended the wedding of an old West Point classmates, Captain John Willis Lea of the Fifth North Carolina Infantry.
(Colonial Williamsburg offers a series of Civil War walking tours throughout the Historic Area. Go to ColonialWilliamsburg.com for complete information on tours and other Civil War programming.)
Drive down the beautiful Colonial Parkway National Park along the historic York River to Yorktown. It was here in 1781 that Cornwallis surrendered to Gen. George Washington's troops heralding an end to America's War for Independence.
A mere 81 years later, this same waterfront village witnessed the month-long siege of Union troops as it made its way up the Peninsula in an effort to reach the Confederate capital.
Walk historic Main Street where many buildings survived the Revolutionary War as well as the Civil War. Tour the Nelson House which served as a hospital during the 1862 siege. The Session House next door is considered to be the oldest home in Yorktown, dating back to 1690. It, too, served as a hospital during the Civil War and for a time was supervised by Dorothea Dix, an early advocate for the role of women in nursing.
Visit the Main St. Museum where Civil War photographs and maps will give you a clear picture of this village as it lay inside the earthen fortress built by Confederate troops, townspeople, and slaves.
It was here after Gen. George B. McClellan's month-long siege, that Gen. John Bankhead Magruder, architect of the Peninsula defensive lines, stealthily withdrew his Rebel army to the third line of defense in Williamsburg -- the very night before the Union planned onslaught against his Yorktown defenses was to begin.
While in Yorktown, take time to visit the Yorktown Battlefield and Yorktown Victory Center for a greater understanding of the Revolutionary Era. As well as the Waterman's Museum located on Yorktown's riverfront.
No Civil War visit to the Peninsula would be complete without seeing the actual rotating gun turret from Ironclad Monitor at the Marinerâ€™s Museum in nearby Newport News. You will also walk the deck of a full-scale Monitor replica, experience inactive exhibits and see notable artifacts from the ship.
Return to Williamsburg via Rt. 143 where you can stop for a visit at Lee Hall Mansion, early headquarters for Confederate Maj. Gen. Magruder and Gen. Joseph E. Johnston.
Take a short 25 minute drive west on I64 to the outskirts of Richmond where Confederate forces, now under the command of newly appointed General Robert E. Lee, had reinforced his defenses of the capital city. At Exit 211 (Talleysville) follow Hwy. 609 to Old Church Rd. This narrow and winding road follows a portion of same route taken by Jeb Stuart with his 1,200 man cavalry road around the Union Army to great press acclaim throughout this country and in Europe. All the while pursued by his own father-in-law, Union Brigadier Gen. St. George Cooke.
The winding road narrows passing farmland and forest looking much as it must have in 1862. Turning left turn at the first major intersection onto route #360 takes you into Mechanicsville. After crossing the Chickahominy River, you will see an entrance to the National Park site at the Chickahominy Bluffs -- one of the Confederate defenses overlooking the town below. Here you can find guides and maps that will route you through the various roads and battlefields of the Seven Days Battle that brought an end to McClellan's attempt at an early end to the war.
Following the map provided, you will gain an understanding of the places and events that brought these two major armies face-to-face through seven days of marching, fighting, and counter-marching. All ending with a major defeat of Confederate forces on the slopes of Malvern Hill, and the withdrawal of Union troops back to Washington.
From the final battlefield at the Malvern Hill, follow the signs to Rt. 5 (John Tyler Highway) taking you back to Williamsburg along this scenic byway. Stop by for a tour of Berkeley Plantation where Union troops awaited transport by ship back to their stronghold at Ft. Monroe and on up the Chesapeake to Washington.
Also visit former President John Tyler's home place, Sherwood Forrest. Although ransacked by Union troops, the house itself was spared by special order of President Abraham Lincoln prohibiting the burning of any past United States president's home.
Day Four (departure):
If you return home takes you north on I95 or west on I64, take time for a stop in Richmond to visit the Museum of the Confederacy and the Confederate White House, along with other important Civil War sites throughout the Richmond area.
If your travels take you south on I95 or I85, retrace your route up Rt. 5 to Petersburg where you can visit the Petersburg National Park. It was here at the 1864/65 Siege of Petersburg that the final days of the nightmare of brother against brother would begin.
And if you traveling south on I64 towards Virginia's Eastern Shore, or the North Carolina coast, be sure to stop by Fortress Monroe. The Peninsula campaign was launched from this stronghold. And it was here that Union Gen. Benjamin Butler declared three runaway slaves to be "contraband of war" -- thus freeing them and thousands more to follow. Afterward, throughout the Peninsula, Fortress Monroe became know by all enslaved people as "Freedom Fort!"
After the war, Confederate President Jefferson Davis was imprisoned at Fortress Monroe. His cell is included in tours of the fort.
Colonial Williamsburg - Civil War Walking Tour
During the American Civil War, Williamsburg witnessed both the Northern and Southern armies and experienced a tragic battle at its doorstep. Colonial Williamsburg's "Williamsburg Civil War Tour" explores major Civil War sites of the town at 7, 7:20, 7:40, 8:20, 8:40 and 9 pm, Thursdays, June 21 - August 16. During the one-hour walking tour, guests meet actor/interpreters portraying a Union soldier, a Confederate solider and one of the women in town and learn about their roles in this period in history. Tickets are $15 for adults and youths 6 - 17 and $7.50 for children under 6. 800-HISTORY
Colonial Williamsburg - Civil War
Through this program, guests are able to take a closer look at how the War Between the States had a profound effect not only on our nation, but it has a very personal effect on an entire generation of children and their families. Many suffered throughout their lives with wounds both physical and mental and many grew up as orphans or without their fathers. Hear stories and music of children went to war, were caught up in the fighting or had to grow up rapidly as they became the "man of the family" on the home front. Carson Hudson, Melody Liberatore and Caitlyn Burke share stories and songs of despair and hope as they explore the lives of these children of war. This program is offered at 5 pm, Tuesdays, June 26 - August 21 in the Hennage Auditorium at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. Tickets are $3 in addition to a Revolutionary City admission ticket. Call 800-HISTORY or visit the website for more information.
This program explores the hardship and loss with a battle outside the town of Williamsburg and the following three years of military occupation. Through this program, guests join a one-hour walking tour that explores the effects of the Civil War on the lives of the women of Williamsburg at 7: 7:20, 7:40, 8:20, 8:40 and 9 pm, Sundays, June 24 - July 22 and Mondays, July 30 - August 27 at the Courthouse. Tickets are $15 for adults and $7.50 for children under 6. Call 800-HISTORY or visit the website for more information.
If you are a civil war buff, you will not want to miss this tour about this interesting battle. This was a bloody one-day battle that resulted in thousands of casualties. Many well known Civil War generals were involved in this battle. Recorded stories of the battle itself and of later occupied Williamsburg are awesome. Many stories involve the patriotic ladies of Williamsburg. I offer a private walking tour, just for you, your family or your group, through historic Williamsburg streets. I will touch on the Virginia Peninsula Campaign and focus on the details of the battle that occurred at Williamsburg May 5, 1862. I will explain with a map of the battlefield, the movements throughout the day of the main units involved. If you are interested in making reservations for a private tour, please click here for more information, pricing and contact information.
May 1862 marked the first pitched battle of the Peninsula Campaign. Nearly 41,000 Union soldiers and 32,000 Confederate soldiers were engaged, fighting an inconclusive battle that ended with the Confederates continuing their withdrawal towards Richmond, VA. The fighting at Williamsburg was as intense as any on the Peninsula and many soldiers lost their lives. Some soldiers and citizens engaged in this battle did not move on to their eternal resting place, but instead have continued to linger here between the living and the dead. Join us for a candlelight walking tour through the streets of Colonial Williamsburg and hear some of the legends of the tortured souls who still reside here. Some stories last more than a lifetime!