No NPS? No Problem!—Civil War Trust Sites in Dinwiddie County, Virginia

Original Confederate earthworks preserved along the White Oak Road
Original Confederate earthworks preserved along the White Oak Road

Day Three in a series coinciding with the federal government shutdown

Dinwiddie County is a Civil War preservationist’s dream. Forty-three named engagements took place within its 507 square miles, a direct testament to the tenacious campaign that gripped the neighboring city of Petersburg during the last ten months of the war. The National Park Service and Pamplin Historical Park, which will be featured later, welcome visitors to the two most prominent battlefields in the region and, through partnership with the Civil War Trust, continue to improve the protection and interpretation of the county’s hallowed ground.

The meandering network of roads and railroads served as supply networks for Robert E. Lee’s beleaguered Confederates and marching routes for Ulysses S. Grant’s Union forces, their intersections becoming fierce battlefields. At great cost the Union army cut the Weldon Railroad at Ream’s Station, severing the direct connection to the south for Petersburg’s defenders. Efforts to seize the Boydton Plank Road froze in the February cold at Hatcher’s Run but resumed in late March. Union victory at White Oak Road isolated George E. Pickett’s division at Five Forks and sealed their fate. Successful assaults on the first two days of April delivered Petersburg to the Union army and triggered Lee’s long retreat to Appomattox.

The series of engagements from August 1864 to March 1865 demonstrate that the fighting around Petersburg should not be characterized as a static siege. Brilliant maneuvering led to fierce pitched battles, the mammoth fortifications coming only after the tactical decision was settled on the field. Each victory, defeat, or draw influenced the next, spinning an extensive story that can be a challenge to piece together.

Monuments and historical markers dot nearly every road in the county. Miles of earthworks still stretch across alongside, forever preserved from development. Interpretive trails constructed by the Civil War Trust at Ream’s Station and White Oak Road afford visitors the opportunity to follow the footsteps of those here before them. The stage is set for all to relive the climactic struggle here that decided in the fate of the nation.

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