Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park encompasses four major battlefields of the Civil War in which more than 100,000 Americans were either killed, wounded, or captured. At the Battle of Fredericksburg, Union troops made repeated brave but futile assaults against Confederates posted behind a stone wall bordering a sunken road. Not a single soldier reached the road. Six months later, at Chancellorsville, General Robert E. Lee won his greatest victory of the war, defeating a Union army more than twice his strength. The victory came at great cost, however, for Lee’s incomparable lieutenant, “Stonewall” Jackson was mortally wounded in the battle. He died on May 10, 1863, at Guinea Station, south of Fredericksburg, at a building owned by the park now known as the “Stonewall” Jackson Shrine. In 1864, the Union army, now led by General Ulysses S. Grant engaged Lee in the Wilderness, a region of second-growth forest west of Fredericksburg. For two days, the two sides grappled in the dense woods while forest fires raged. Nearly 30,000 men fell as a result of the fighting. Despite his heavy losses in the Wilderness, Grant continued south, toward Richmond. From May 8 through May 21, 1864, he engaged Lee yet again, this time near Spotsylvania Court House. Two weeks of battle there climaxed on May 12 at a turn in the Confederate line later known as the “Bloody Angle.” For nearly a full day, Union and Confederate soldiers grappled with one another in a pouring rain in what was the most gruesome sustained combat in American military history.
Each of the four battlefields has a driving tour and numerous walking trails. Visitor centers at Fredericksburg Battlefield and Chancellorsville Battlefield have introductory films describing the fighting and artifacts from the battles. Free guided tours of the battlefields are available from the visitor centers during the summer months and periodically at other times throughout the year. The park also has three historic buildings open to the public: Chatham Manor, Ellwood, and the “Stonewall” Jackson Death Site.
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