This route follows the major Union attempts to capture the Confederate capital at Richmond, about 100 miles south of Washington, D.C., between 1862 and 1865. Although the Civil War raged elsewhere in Virginia, especially in the Shenandoah Valley, the last of these Union advances put an end to the nation's bloodiest conflict when Lee surrendered his sword to Grant at Appomattox Court House.
Day 1: Manassas
Two of the war's great battles, including its first, took place near a stream known as Bull Run, outside the town of Manassas. Stonewall Jackson won his nickname here when he stood his ground like a stone wall. You can spend most of a day seeing where it all took place in Manassas National Battlefield Park. Plan to stay in nearby Middleburg or Leesburg in the Hunt Country.
Days 2 & 3: Fredericksburg
Sitting beside the Rappahannock River, Fredericksburg was directly in the path of the Union advances. You will need these 2 days to explore Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park, for it includes four of the Civil War's most important battles -- Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, The Wilderness, and Spotsylvania Courthouse -- plus the farmhouse where Stonewall Jackson died.
Days 4 & 5: Richmond
Richmond withstood 4 years of war as the Confederacy's capital. Spend one of these days downtown at the Museum and White House of the Confederacy and at the Richmond Civil War Visitor Center at Tredegar Iron Works. The latter serves as starting point for your second day's driving tour of the battlefields east of the city, now part of the Richmond National Battlefield Park.
Day 6: Petersburg
The war's last great action took place as Grant laid a 10-month siege to Petersburg, then an important railway junction and the key to Richmond's supply line. Union forces finally broke through on April 12, 1865, forcing Lee into his final retreat. Start at downtown Petersburg's Siege Museum, and then drive along the lines east of town, now part of Petersburg National Battlefield Park.
Day 7: Appomattox
Lee advanced west for a week until he ran out of supplies near Appomattox Court House, about 90 miles west of Petersburg via U.S. 460, where he surrendered on April 9, 1865. The site is beautifully preserved in the Appomattox Court House National Historical Park.
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