1864 Overland Campaign
(left panel)Visiting Richmond National Battlefield Park
The concentration of Civil War resources found in the Richmond area is unparalleled. The National Park Service manages 13 sites, giving visitors an opportunity to examine the battlefield landscapes, to hear the stories of the combatants and civilian residents, and to understand the complex reasons why Richmond came to symbolize the heart and soul of the Confederacy.
RegulationsThis is a partial list of park regulations. Site is open sunrise to sunset. Report suspicious activities to any park employee or call 804-795-5018. In emergencies call 911.
Alcoholic beverages are prohibited.
All natural and cultural resources are protected by law.
Relic hunting is prohibited. Possession of a metal detector in the park is illegal.
Hunting, trapping, feeding, or otherwise disturbing wildlife is prohibited.
Weapons are prohibited inside all park buildings.
Pets must be on a leash.
Recreation activities like kite-flying, ball-playing, and frisbee throwing are prohibited.
Motor vehicles and bicycles must remain on established roads.
(center panel)1864 Overland Campaign
The fourth spring of the war began when Union armies launched a series of offensives across unconquered portions of the South. The action in Virginia included three separate campaigns, each defined by aggressive advances from Union commanders. While smaller armies fought in the Shenandoah Valley and around the Bermuda Hundred region south of Richmond, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant sent the largest Northern army against Gen. Robert E. Lee's Confederates. The ensuing series of battles is known today as the Overland Campaign.
Costly stalemates at the battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania delayed Grant's progress. Confederates next blocked his southward drive at the North Anna River, and then along Totopotomoy Creek at the end of May 1864. Finally the armies collided at Cold Harbor, just eight miles from Richmond. There Grant's headlong assaults against Lee's entrenchments on June 1 and June 3 failed. Despite enormous losses, the Union army retained the initiative and marched south to Petersburg, where Grant began the long process of cutting Richmond's supply lines.
Two days of close-quarters action in the thick woods west of Fredericksburg produced nearly 30,000 casualties and inaugurated a grueling campaign that saw the armies sweep across most of central Virginia.
Grant ignored the indecisive results of the Wilderness and pressed southward toward more open ground. The Confederate army blocked him on May 8. For two weeks over 150,000 men fought for an advantage. The terrible combat at the Bloody Angle on May 12 defined this period and reenforced the campaign's grim tone set at the Wilderness the week before.
North Anna River
When the Union army moved away from Spotsylvania, Confederate infantry fell back to the next defensible ground, south of the North Anna River. Actions on May 23 and 24 weakened Grant's momentum and forced him to look toward another movement to continue his campaign.
Hard marching and determination took the Union army away from North Anna and closer to Richmond.Just a dozen miles from the city, this creek saw the next collision of the armies. Aggressive probes up and down the creek valley ignited many small battles and proved to General Grant that the Confederates again blocked his direct path to Richmond.
The armies revisited ground first contested during McClellan's 1862 campaign. This time the lines extended for nearly seven miles, with action beginning at the Old Cold Harbor crossroads and extending north and south from there. A major attack by the Federal army on June 1 partly succeeded; the larger follow-up attack on June 3 failed badly. The soldiers endured nine more days of sniping and misery in the entrenchments before both armies marched south toward Petersburg, ending the "overland" portion of the 1864 campaign.
(right panel)Visiting Cold Harbor
Civil War field fortifications at Cold Harbor are some of the best examples to be found anywhere in the United States. The 1864 battle here involved much more than just entrenching, but the visual scars on this 21st-century landscape are compelling reminders of what happened here in the 1800s.
The primary walking trail is one mile long and takes visitors through the heart of the June 1 battlefield. The many signs along the route emphasize that critical fight. A longer spur trail, stretching more than two miles, also is available. The trails follow long stretches of original Union and Confederate entrenchments. Both trails eventually loop back to the parking lot at the visitor center.