Richmond, Virginia is the state’s Capital. After a stop at the Visitor’s Center, we went to the capital, which looked like a work by Christo. Because it is being renovated, it is surrounded by scaffolding and covered with a tarp.
The grounds are pretty impressive. There is a large monument dedicated to George Washington and some of the other important figures of the Revolution. Other monuments include one to Stonewall Jackson and next to him the physician, Dr MacGuire, who ministered to Jackson while he was dying. Also on the grounds is an old bell tower dating from the early 19th century.
Did a drive by of John Marshall’s home. He was the Supreme Court Justice who essentially formed the Court, as we know it today. This is the bi-sesquicentennial of his birth. We also passed by the Confederate White House and museum. Then we followed in the footsteps of Abraham Lincoln, who visited Richmond the day after its fall. This took us through the Civil War entertainment district, Shockoe Slip, which is located at the James River. Today it has been gentrified with restaurants, antique shops and two museums, one to Edgar Allen Poe and the other to the WWII Holocaust.
Finally we went to the Richmond Battlefield Visitor’s Center. This is located at the Tredegar Iron Works, the purveyor of cannon and other steel products for the CSA. The grounds are quite extensive. The VC is in the three-story mill, which provided much of the tents and other textile supplied for the SCA. On the grounds was also a gristmill. There were eleven waterwheels, which supplied power to the complex, from the James Canal. We had a conducted tour of the facilities by Susie Sernaker, who knew some of the rangers we had worked with at other National Parks. Because we were running out of time, we did not stay for the movie and visit the extensive museum. We said that we would return later that week and explore the facilities at greater length. As an aside, the complex was owned by Ethyl Co., the people who made the additive for gasoline before unleaded took over. Their headquarters overlooks the park and looks like it should be Virginia’s capital building.
Drewry’s Bluff, a.k.a. Fort Darling. This fort was built by the CSA on a bluff overlooking the James River as a defense to Richmond about ten miles up the river. In 1862 the Union sent the Monitor and the Galena, both ironclad ships, and other vessels to attack the fort. The guns at the fort did not do much damage, because they were too high. But the ground troops pretty well destroyed the Galena and drove the assault away. The fort acted as a deterrent for a river assault on Richmond. John F. Mackie distinguished himself in battle by saving many of the Galena’s crew’s lives. He was the first US Marine to receive the Medal of Honor for his efforts.
The fort was used as the naval training school for the CSA, being known as the Annapolis of the South. Today, the earthworks are still in place and a great view of the James River.
Today we wanted to return to Richmond and follow the Seven Days Battle, June 25-July 1, 2005. My Great Grand Father was wounded during this campaign. Our first stop was at Chimborazo Hospital (named after a volcano in Ecuador). Most of Richmond was one large military hospital, Chimborazo, being the largest of them all. The VC there had exhibits about medicine during the Civil War and showed a short movie on it.
Richmond has many other sites worth our attention. But time constraints did not allow us to go to them.
We followed the roads to the different sites of the Seven Days Battle. I find it amazing that the soldiers would march for twelve plus miles each day and still have the energy to fight. Names of places are lost in memory: Chickahominy Bluff, Beaver Dam Creek, Gaines’ Mill, Glendale, and Malvern Hill.
Each battle was fought on different terrain. Beaver Dam Creek was very wooded with steep hills on either side of the creek. Others were open fields with infantry attacking the artillery.
Lee did defend Richmond by his tactics. But he did not destroy McClellan’s army. Both sides suffered heavy casualties.
The area was spared additional fighting for two years. Then the Union had a new commander in chief, General Grant, whose mission was to destroy Lee. Once again the armies met near Gaines’ Mill in a battle now known as Cold Harbor. Once again the Union suffered heavy losses and Grant decided to move to Petersburg and cut off Richmond from the rest of the South.
We did find the place where my great grand father was injured. It was a battle at Oak Grove, not far from Seven Pines. The battlefield is quite visible, because it is now part of Richmond International Airport.
To relive the Seven Days Battle for Richmond takes more than one day to do. We had not gone to Malvern Hill, which was not too far from us. So we went back there. This was the last day of fighting of the Seven Days Battle. The battlefield is well preserved. Both sides lined up their artillery about one mile from each other. The sound of the guns could be heard as far as 100 miles away.
From here we drove to Fort Harrison, a site of an 1864 battle. This was one of a string of forts guarding the southern approach to Richmond. What a difference two years makes in learning how to kill more efficiently. When the war started, the opposing sides stood face to face in formation shooting at each other. By the fall of 1864 the engineers devised trench warfare to defend important areas. These battlements still remain in and around Fort Harrison for about ten miles. Trench warfare reached its high point during World War I.