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Guide to Richmond National Battlefield Park

Richmond National Battlefield Park in Virginia is home for 13 historic sites linked to the American Civil War. This park is massive, and figuring out your trip can be a bit tricky. Wondering which spot to hit if you’re in Richmond for a quick visit? I’ve got some ideas for you!

Where is Richmond National Battlefield Park?

Richmond National Battlefield Park is right in Richmond, Virginia, USA. While a few spots are downtown, most of the battlefields are a bit outside the city. That makes it a great spot for a motorcycle ride on a sunny day!

You won’t be able to get to these sites using public transportation, so plan accordingly.

Why Richmond was so important during the Civil War?

Richmond National Battlefield Park is a must-visit for history buffs.

During the Civil War from 1861 to 1865, Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy and a major hub for making weapons and supplies at the Tredegar Iron Works. This place alone made about half of the artillery used by the Confederate States Army. Richmond was a key target for the Union Army because of its strategic importance.

Curious fact: Ever wonder why the Confederates destroyed Richmond? Well, during the Civil War, they were determined to keep the Union Army out of Richmond no matter what. So, when Northern troops got close, the Confederates burned parts of the city to the ground to keep supplies from falling into Union hands. By April 1865, they knew they were losing, so they left Richmond to avoid capture.

The 13 sites of Richmond National Battlefield Park

Richmond National Battlefield Park spans 1900 acres of Civil War sites.

  1. Malvern Hill Battlefield
  2. Glendale Battlefield
  3. Drewry’s Bluff ⭐️
  4. Fort Harrison Battlefield
  5. Beaver Dam Creek Battlefield
  6. Cold Harbor Battlefield
  7. Fort Brady
  8. Gaines’ Mill Battlefield
  9. Parker’s Battery
  10. Richmond National Cemetery
  11. Savage’s Station Battlefield
  12. Fort Stevens
  13. Chimborazo Medical Museum

Download the map on the NPS website

I was living in Richmond when I first moved to the USA. I’m a pretty active and curious traveler, so I’ve explored quite a lot in a short time.

At first, planning trips to famous Richmond National Battlefield Park felt a bit overwhelming. There were just so many places! But are they worth visiting for a regular tourist and not a huge Civil War fan? Or is it just, you know, a field?

So far, I’ve hit up these places (to be continued) + the awesome Petersburg Battlefield Park, totally recommend checking it out!

Malvern Hill

📸 It’s open from sunrise to sunset and totally free to visit. You’ll want about an hour to walk the trail. Otherwise 15-30 min would be more than enough. 

For me personally, it’s not the most mind-blowing Civil War site in the area. It’s a peaceful place for a hike, but it’s not the first place I would recommend visiting in the area for a tourist.

What happened here? 

Map of the Seven Days Battles of the Civil War in the US

Malvern Hill was the stage for the Battle of Malvern Hill in 1862.

This Battle was the last of the Seven Days Battles. It happened on July 1, 1862, during Peninsula Campaign. General George B. McClellan led the Union forces, and they managed to stop the Confederate attacks led by General Robert E. Lee.

Here you can read about the event: Wikipedia link for Battle of Malvern Hill

What are the highlights of this site?

This place is called Malvern Hill but it’s actually flat as a pancake. 

  • There’s a 1.5-mile walking trail with signs that give you the lowdown on the area’s history. 
  • Keep an eye out for a couple of cannons near the parking lot and the remains of the Parsonage. 

If you’re scratching your head at the word “parsonage,” no worries, I had to Google it too. Turns out, it’s “dwelling provided by a church for a clergy member”. 

There is no Visitor center onsite. 

Glendale cemetery (Frayser’s Farm)

📸 The site is open from sunrise to sunset and is free to visit. It’s a quick stop on the way to Malvern Hill, so expect to spend about 5-10 minutes there. I didn’t take any pictures.

The Battle of Glendale occurred near this area on the 6th day of the Seven Days Battles. Union and Confederate forces clashed fiercely in a bid to control the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad.

Today, it serves as a final resting place for soldiers who fought in the war. It’s not much of a tourist attraction, but a place of historical importance.

Dewry’s Bluff

📸 The site is open from sunrise to sunset, and free to visit.

One of my favorite Civil War sites near Richmond!

Dewry’s Bluff wasn’t the site of big battles during the Civil War, but it was important. Rising 90 feet above the James River, it offered a perfect tactical position for the Confederate defense of Richmond. 

Confederates set up cannons there along the James River to stop Union ships from moving closer to Richmond. One big event nearby was the Peninsula Campaign in 1862. Union General George McClellan wanted to take Richmond, but Confederate soldiers at Dewry’s Bluff and other spots along the river fought hard to stop him.

Main attractions at Dewry’s Bluff

  • It’s a beautiful spot along the James River, so you get some awesome views. Located in the forest, this place is just wonderful. 
  • 1-mile trail in the woods.
  • You’ll see one BIG gun at the site today, though there were more than a dozen in 1865.
  • Very well preserved earthworks and other structures. 

Fort Stevens

📸 Open all day long and free to visit, like most Civil War sites in Richmond. However, it’s essentially just a parking lot with a few picnic tables. It holds historical significance rather than being a tourist attraction. You can stop there on the way to Dewry’s Bluff, but personally, I find it skippable.

Why is it important? 

Fort Stevens in Richmond did not witness any major battles during the Civil War. Its primary role was defensive, as part of the extensive fortifications protecting the Confederate capital. 

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