Today's itinerary should have been renamed "Civil War from Sun Up to Sun Down." We were on the road again first thing in the morning, and headed right for the Cold Harbor battlefield. It's safe to say that Cold Harbor was cold. As we stood around Dr. Guelzo as he told us about Grant's decision to use men in the fortifications around Washington for battle (known as "heavies," these men never saw battle before and were used to manning large, heavy cannons- infantry battle did not really work out too well for these guys!), I was afraid my fingers were going to fall off! Once again, the Gettysburg Semester proved that weather will not stop us from battlefielding, and we continued with our discussion of Cold Harbor as we took a walk through the park.
In my pre-Gettysburg Semester existence, I had never noticed Civil War trenches at any of the battlefields I had visited; it would be impossible to miss the trenches here. I was amazed at how intricately the earthworks snaked and lined up, and the thought of someone digging them almost a hundred and fifty years ago gave me the chills (or it could have been the ripping wind, but I like to think I'm deeper than that!). Though some of the trenches were reinforced through the Great Depression's Civilian Conservation Corps, their presence made me feel like not too long ago they were occupied with soldiers, probably around my age, and infinitely more experience with the harsh reality of the world. When we left Cold Harbor for Petersburg (but not before a group picture with the 2nd
CT Heavy monument- and Adrienne enjoying a cigar...), even more earthworks awaited our exploration.
At the Petersburg National Military Park, we met National Park Ranger, Randy Watkins (though it took a little while for us Yankees to understand his authentic Southern accent) who showed us World War I practice trenches from men training at nearby Fort Lee (we also saw lots of Civil War trenches, seeing how it was a Civil War battlefield). Petersburg is most known for 2 events: the Battle of the Crater, where a group of Union coal miners dug a mine under the Confederate lines and exploded it, creating chaos, but ultimately a Union defeat, and the 9 month siege that ended with Lee being forced to give up the city, and subsequently Richmond as well. After seeing the Crater (and a lesson in preparedness from Dr. Guelzo and Randy), we saw first hand the extent of the siege lines that surrounded Petersburg (about 40 miles in length) on our way to the site of the Battle of Five Forks.
We arrived after dark (and after the Visitor's Center was closed), but lucky for us, Randy had a key, and he let us into the Visitor Center, where we talked about the battle that followed the end of the Petersburg siege in April 1864. We could not resist the chance to test out the "try-on" items they had on display (even Dr. Guelzo had to pick up a sword in defense against our resident Reb). Finally, we were back on the bus for the ride to the hotel. The day was long, but nothing ended it better than dinner and a little Happy Birthday surprise for Dr. Guelzo (lucky for us, good old Driver Bob took the fall for this one!). Tomorrow is our last day in Virginia, and even though I'm exhausted, I can't wait to see Appomattox in the morning!
2007 Battlefield Blog Home | Orientation | Harpers Ferry | Valley Campaign | Manassas | Antietam
Gettysburg Day One | Gettysburg Day Two | Gettysburg Day Three | Cold Harbor, Petersburg & Five Forks
Wilderness & Spotsylvania | Appomattox | Washington