A self-guided tour of Petersburg National Military Park may be made by automobile. This tour, extending 27 miles, begins at the Crater and park museum and follows the lines of earthworks around the city. It offers a nearly complete picture of the engagements which occurred during the campaign and gives an idea of the scope and magnitude of the area covered by the contending forces. Throughout the tour you will have an opportunity to study exhibits and narrative markers which will help you to orient yourself with the terrain.
In the description of the tour which follows an attempt has been made to provide you with a guide to all the important points of interest. The following remarks about this description may prove useful. The total road distances from the starting point at the Crater and park museum to the various points of interest are shown in parentheses. The distances are stated to the nearest tenth of a mile. All route numbers are State or county unless they are identified as United States highway routes. Points of historic interest are identified in capital letters (FORT FISHER, BATTERY PEGRAM, etc.) where they are mentioned for the first time. The numbers at the beginning of various paragraphs correspond to the circled numbers on the Park Tour Map found above.
1. The CRATER (0.0) is the scene of the Battle of the Crater, July 30, 1864. You may see the results of the explosion of the Union mine and the ground for which both armies contested. Information can be obtained at the park museum, where there is usually a member of the staff on duty. Talks on the Battle of the Crater and the Petersburg Campaign are given at frequent intervals. The museum contains exhibits pertinent to the fighting at Petersburg.
You should then follow the small "Park Tour" signs which will conduct you to Battery 5. Return to the junction of the Crater entrance with U. S. 460 and 301 (0.3). A left turn is made on this highway (called in 1864 the JERUSALEM PLANK ROAD) which is followed to the fork where U. 5. 460 branches left (east) to Norfolk (0.5). Follow U. S. 460 across the bridge which spans the tracks of the Norfolk and Western Railroad. These tracks are on the same approximate roadbed used by the NORFOLK AND PETERSBURG RAILROAD in 186465. Continue across bridge to the intersection of Siege Road (1.3) which is identified by a large "Park Tour" sign. Turn left on Siege Road.
2. BATTERY 16 was located at the left of this intersection. This is one of many Union artillery emplacements constructed during the campaign.
Similar batteries were constructed by the Confederates. Siege Road follows the Union lines east of Petersburg which were held from June 18, 1864, to April 2,1865.
3. FORT MORTON (1.4). The site of this fort is a short distance past Battery 16 and on the left of Siege Road. This fort, obliterated after the war, was the place from which Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside directed the attack of the Union IX Corps during the Battle of the Crater. It was a strongly fortified position and considered by many contemporary observers as one of the best of the nearly 50 forts surrounding the city.
4. Union BATTERY 13 (1.7). The tour continues along Siege Road, passing the remains of this battery, which are to the left. The Union batteries were numbered consecutively, beginning with Battery 1 on the Appomattox River east of Petersburg and running south and west around the city. There were 42 of these Union batteries by the end of the campaign. In a like manner, the Confederate batteries were numbered starting at the river. In the original defense lines (the "Dimmock Line") there were 55 Confederate batteries.
Notice on the left of Siege Road, and at numerous other places throughout the tour, the low breastworks which connect the forts and batteries to make a long, continuous line. It was behind these that the enlisted men spent much of their time during the campaign.
5. FORT HASKELL (2.0), on the left of Siege Road, is one of the best pre served of the earthworks. The most important event in its history occurred on the morning of March 25, 1865, when the defense made here by Union troops helped turn the tide against the Confederates during the Battle of Fort Stedman. The moat, or ditch, around the embankments was made more formidable at that time with the aid of sharpened stakes (fraise) or brush (abatis). Chevaux-de-frise (timbers with sharp ened stakes driven through at right angles) may also have been placed outside the moat. Gabions (cylindrical wicker baskets) and sandbags were placed on the fortifications to protect them from shot and shell. All of these devices were used regularly by both armies.
Siege Road crosses the Union siege line a short distance beyond Fort Haskell so that the earthworks are now on the right (east) of you. The road leads through a ravine.
6. BATTERY 11 (2.3) is situated at the top of the rise from the ravine. This, along with BATTERY 12 (since destroyed), was captured by the Confederates in the Battle of Fort Stedman, March 25, 1865. In the course of the engagement that followed, the battery changed hands several times. After the final Southern withdrawal that same day, the battery remained in Northern possession until the end of the war.
7. FORT STEDMAN (2.4) is close to Battery 11. The site is marked by well-preserved remains. This Union fort was the place selected by Confederate General Gordon for his attack on Grant's supply line. This attack occurred only 15 days before Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House and was the last large-scale offensive movement of the Army of Northern Virginia. Although captured by the Confederates shortly after 4 a. m. on March 25, 1865, it was regained by the Northern forces within 4 hours. Fort Stedman also stands on the site of heavy fighting on June 18, 1864, when Grant failed to break the defense line that had been built the night before. However, the fort was not constructed until a month following this opening battle. Inside the fort is a monument erected by the State of Pennsylvania to the memory of the 3d Division, IX Corps, Army of the Potomac, which participated in the Battle of Fort Stedman.
Twenty-five yards past the Fort Stedman trailside exhibit, turn left on Sortie Road. This road passes between the lines and indicates their proximity at this point.
8. The MAINE MONUMENT may be seen near the bottom of the gentle slope on the right (north) of Sortie Road. This marks the scene of the heaviest fighting on June 18, 1864. At this point the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery suffered the heavy casualties referred to in the text.
9. COLQUITT'S SALIENT (2.6) is reached after traversing the short distance between the lines. This fortified position was named for Confederate Gen. A. H. Colquitt. It was one of the closest to the Union lines and was selected by Gordon as the place from which to launch the attack of March 25, 1865.
10. GRACIE'S DAM ruins (2.8) are behind Colquitt's Salient. This dam was one of several constructed by the Confederates around the city in order to flood the ground between the lines and prevent a surprise attack.
The tour continues around Colquitt's Salient and back to Siege Road.
A left turn is made on Siege Road where it is followed by a right turn on PRINCE GEORGE COURT HOUSE ROAD (3.2) 50 yards north. This road is a colonial stage route which connected Petersburg with Prince George Court House. Part of the road has been restored. It leads east behind the Union siege line and in the general direction of Grant's supply base at City Point.
11. HARRISON'S CREEK (3.5) is the major point of historic interest on this road. On the banks of this stream the Confederate drive of March 25, 1865, was checked by a Union artillery barrage from a low ridge to the east followed by charges of Blue-clad infantry.
Continue straight on Prince George Court House Road to Attack Road (4.1). This is the first intersection past Harrison's Creek.
12. BATTERY 9. The partially destroyed remains of this battery may be seen across Attack Road. This Confederate artillery position was part of the "Dimmock Line." It was captured by Union troops advancing from the north in the early evening of June 15, 1864. About one-third of a mile southeast of this point Prince George Court House Road crossed Grant's military railroad. MEADE'S STATION, an important Union supply and hospital depot, was located at this intersection.
A left turn is made on Attack Road. The tour now travels north along the site of the original Confederate line ("Dimmock Line").
13. BATTERY 8 (4.5) lies to the left of a sharp curve in Attack Road. This Confederate battery, like Battery 9, was part of the line which fell on June 15, 1864. It was turned into a Union artillery post named FORT FRIEND and, ironically, guns placed here by the Northerners were used to repel the Confederates who had broken the line at Fort Stedman. The spires of Petersburg may be seen about 2-1/2 miles west of Battery 8.
Continue on Attack Road to the intersection (4.9) with State Route 36 (Perersburg-Hopewell Road). Turn right on this highway and continue to the entrance to the park on the left. This entrance is marked by a large "Petersburg National Military Park" sign (5.1). Turn left on this road.
14. BATTERY 5 (5.4) is located at the end of this short park road. This is another of the original Confederate works which fell on the evening of June 15. The Union Army renamed it BATTERY 4. You may follow a path through the battery and observe the commanding position it held against attack from the north and east. Grant's troops overcame this by slipping around to the southwest and entering it there. This path also leads to a full-size replica of the large siege mortar known as "THE DICTATOR," Or "THE PETERSBURG EXPRESS." This huge 17,000-pound, 13-inch mortar shelled Petersburg from the approximate position where the replica now stands.
To continue the tour proceed on Mortar Road, which encircles Battery 5, and brings you back to State Route 36 (1 mile). Retrace your route from this point to the intersection (10.7) of U. S. 460 and 301.
At the intersection of U. S. 460 and 301A turn left on U. S. 301 and continue to intersection (11.8) with U. S. 301A.
15. The GOWEN MONUMENT erected in honor of Col. George W. Gowen, a Union officer from Pennsylvania, who was killed on the last day of battle at Petersburg, April 2,1865, stands at the right of this intersection.
16. "FORT HELL" (FORT SEDGWICK) of the Union line may be seen on the left of U. S. 301, a short distance past the Gowen Monument. It was given its nickname because of the heavy Confederate artillery fire, which was concentrated there when the fort was begun. Fort Sedgwick is now privately owned.
17. FORT DAVIS. Continue on U. S. 301 until you come to this fort, on the right of the highway (12.5). In is one of the best remaining examples of Union works. Near here Grant launched his first attack on the WELDON RAILROAD on June 2122, 1864, but was driven back.
Within the fort, evidences of "bombproofs" and traversing trenches still exist.
Turn right on to Flank Road at Fort Davis. This follows the Union siege lines south and southwest of Petersburg. Low breastworks still remain between the forts and batteries in many places.
18. FORT ALEXANDER HAYS (13.5). On the right of Flank Road may be seen the almost completely obliterated remains of this fort. It was built in August and September of 1864.
19. Union BATTERY 24 (13.9) stands on the left of Flank Road. This, like other batteries on both sides, was very active during the siege operations. It participated in the final artillery barrage during the night of April 12, 1865.
20. BATTERY 25 (14.4) will next be seen as you continue driving to the west on the tour.
21. The site of FORT HOWARD is approximately one-third of a mile beyond Battery 25, although not visible from the tour route. At Battery 25 the Union line crosses Flank Road and continues north, or right, of the road.
22. BATTERY 26 (15.3), like Battery 25, is found on the left. Near this battery Flank Road recrosses the earthworks.
The next important landmark after passing Battery 26 is the junction (16.0) of Flank Road with State Route 604 (Halifax Road). In front of you is the monument to Johnson Hagood's South Carolina brigade, and Fort Wadsworth.
23. FORT WADSWORTH stands on the left, a short distance past this intersection. This was a strategically located position for the Union Army, as it was close to the tracks of the Weldon Railroad. In this vicinity, but before Fort Wadsworth was built, the Battle of Globe Tavern was fought on August 1821, 1864. The site of GLOBE TAVERN is about one-half mile southeast of Fort Wadsworth. Globe Tavern was Gen. G. K. Warren's headquarters during the August battle. Directly west of Fort Wadsworth, Flank Road underpasses the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad. The tour continues straight west, following Union infantry breastworks on the left, to the intersection (16.7) with State Route 675. State Route 675 may be found mentioned in Civil War dispatches as VAUGHAN ROAD. A left turn is made on State Route 675.
24. The POPLAR GROVE NATIONAL CEMETERY entrance (16.2) is identified by a marker. Turn left on to the cemetery grounds. Poplar Grove is situated on ground captured by the Union Army in the fight for the Weldon Railroad, August 1821. In the winter of 186465, the 50th New York Engineers, encamped here, constructed a large log church. The cemetery contains the graves of more than 6,000 soldiers and veterans, of which over 4,000 are unknown. Nearly all are Union veterans of the Civil War.
After a drive through the cemetery grounds the tour returns to State Route 675 (17.9). Turn right and drive north to the junction (18.3) with State Route 676 which intersects 675 on the left. A turn is made on Route 676. That route is followed to the end, where it connects with State Route 613 (19.1), known to history as the SQUIRREL LEVEL ROAD.
25. Union FORT URMSTON was constructed in the autumn and early winner of 1864 on the west side of the Squirrel Level Road. It was named in honor of a Union officer killed at the Battle of Peebles' Farm (September 29October 1, 1864). The heaviest fighting of this engagement took place around Peebles' Farm, three-quarters of a mile southwest of here.
Turn left on State Route 613 and continue to the intersection (19.6) with State Route 672 (CHURCH ROAD). State Route 672 is the right fork at this intersection. Turn on this road and continue in a northwest direction.
26. FORT FISHER (20.3) is situated on the right side of the road. This Union stronghold is in an excellent state of preservation, and it is one of the largest earthen forts constructed in the Civil War. Fort Fisher played an important part in the campaign after it was built in late 1864. Near it was a 150-foot Union watchtower used to observe enemy movements and to spot artillery fire. Behind it, a short distance to the south, was a field of execution for military offenders and spies where, according to one observer, violators paid the supreme penalty nearly every week. It was a signal gun from Fort Fisher which boomed the beginning of the final assault on the defenses of Petersburg, April 2,1865.
27. FORTS WELCH and GREGG. On the left of the road the Union line continues to these forts, the remains of which are not visible from the road.
The tour is resumed on State Route 672, or Church Road. This runs from the Union to the Confederate line. The road crosses the tracks of the Seaboard Air Line Railroad and, later, overpasses the Norfolk and Western Beltline Railroad. The direction of the tour is north toward the Appomattox River (21.8). Turn right at the intersection with State Route 603 and continue to the end of State Route 672 (21.3) where it inter sects State Route 142. This road (142) was named the BOYDTON PLANK ROAD at the time of the siege. Turn right on State Route 142. The direction of the tour is east along the Confederate defense line which was built south of Petersburg.
28. Confederate FORT GREGG (22.4). The partially destroyed remains of this fort are located nearly opposite a Union fort of the same name. Fort Gregg is situated about 100 yards to the left, or north, of the highway. It is memorable for the desperate struggle it put up against the Union attack on April 2, 1865. When it fell, the last Confederate stronghold on the outer line west of the city was in Northern hands.
29. FORT LEE (23.3). Continue on State Route 142 to this fort and junction with Park Road (Defense Road) on the right. Originally Battery 45 on the "Dimmock Line," Fort lee was renamed in honor of the Confederate commander in chief. It was successfully held after the outer line fell on April 2, but was evacuated when the Confederates fled from Petersburg that night.
Turn right on Defense Road at Fort Lee and continue to the junction (23.8) with the Squirrel Level Road (State Route 613). On the right, or south, of Defense Road may be seen the remains of Confederate breast works. Cross Squirrel Level Road and follow Defense Road. A short distance past this intersection the route underpasses the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad. After winding through a stand of tall pine trees, Defense Road merges with City Park Road (25.0).
30. BATTERY PEGRAM, an important Confederate artillery position, lies 100 yards to the right of this point.
The tour continues straight on City Park Road, which is a continuation of Defense Road. This curves through a ravine and, on the right, as the ascent from the ravine is begun, is Wilcox Lake, owned by the city of Petersburg.
31. FORT WALKER (25.5) is at the top of the hill. This, like Fort Lee, was taken by the Union troops after Lee's withdrawal during the night of April 23, 1865.
At Fort Walker, City Park Road merges with South Boulevard. This street approximates the Confederate defense line and now passes through the Walnut Hill section of Petersburg. Follow South Boulevard to the junction (26.6) with South Sycamore Street (U. S. 301).
32. Confederate FORT MAHONE was situated near the large Pennsylvania Monument which is visible 150 yards to the right of this intersection. This fort was the scene of heavy fighting on April 2, 1865. You may turn on South Sycamore Street if you so desire. A right turn will lead toward Emporia, Va.; a left turn north toward Richmond.
Cross South Sycamore Street and continue on South Boulevard to intersection (26.8) with U. S. 301. Turn left on U. 5. 301 and return to the Crater (28.0) and park museum where tour commenced.
In addition to these tours you may follow U. S. 1 south to the point where Gen. A. P. Hill fell, and on to Hatcher's Run, Burgess' Mill, and Dinwiddie Court House. These, and other important historical points, are identified by Virginia State historical markers. Four miles south of U. S. 460, west of Petersburg, is the Five Forks Battlefield where the fight occurred on April 1, 1865. The point closest no in on U. S. 460 is also indicated by a Virginia marker.