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The Civil War and Virginia State Parks

Civil War re-enactment at Sailor's Creek.Virginia has some of the most expensive land in the United States – it was purchased with the blood and lives of Americans during the four years of the Civil War. Virginia saw more battles than any other state and paid a steep price, both on the field of battle and on the home front.

Over the next year and a half, as the nation commemorates the sesquicentennial of the end of the Civil War and the liberation of 3.9 million enslaved Americans, Virginia State Parks are a natural choice to learn about Virginia’s role in the war, and the impact of the war on Virginia.

Six state parks annually commemorate the anniversary of their site's involvement in the war:

While these sites each saw battles, engagements or encampments, there is a broader story of the lives of Virginia’s women, men and children, both free and enslaved, during the four years of the war. It’s a story of survival, freedom and endurance; of changing lives and changing roles; of overcoming diversity; of dreams realized and hearts broken. These stories are written across the landscape of Virginia and in every community.

These stories and more are being told in every state park through programs, encampments and activities now through 2015.

Special event at Sailor's Creek Battlefield, March 28

The Overton-Hillsman farmhouse, circa 1780, will be open from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. It was recently restored to reflect the 1865 conditions the family and soldiers experienced when the house served as field hospital. Visitors will learn about its occupants and the soldiers treated by medical personnel on the lawn and in the home. There's no admission fee to tour the house.

From 2 to 4 p.m., visitors will experience the Battle of Sailor’s Creek as it unfolds on the terrain where this engagement took place 150 years ago. Living history units will execute a tactical demonstration portraying both Confederate and Union armies. Spectators will have the opportunity to observe the armies as they move across the battlefield. After fording Little Sailor’s Creek, they’ll see the final aftermath of the last major battle in Virginia of the American Civil War. Special event parking fees apply: $10 per car, $50 per bus.

On the morning of the Sailor’s Creek battle on April 6, 1865, Confederate and Union soldiers also had been sent to burn nearby High Bridge. Learn about that important skirmish at a living history demonstration on March 29.

High Bridge Trail State Park Sesquicentennial Commemoration of the Battles of High Bridge, March 29

The Skirmish of High Bridge, 10 to 11 a.m. Meet at River Road parking access. Prominent American Civil War historian and author Chris Calkins takes visitors on a “journey of the mind” through stories of desperate actions taken by ordinary solders caught up in extraordinary circumstances. Guests take a short walk to a shaded area between the trail and service road across from our River Road access.

Earthen Fort Tours, 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Meet at the southeastern fort, 1.7 miles from the River Road access. The park historian guides guests through one of High Bridge's earthen forts. Hear about the Gallant Creoles of the 43rd Louisiana Cannoneers, who defended High Bridge, why the post became known as "Camp Paradise." The fort is on the Prince Edward side of High Bridge off of the south shoulder of the trail.

Gen. Smyth Walking Tour, 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Meet on High Bridge Trail at the Osborne Road access. Stand where Thomas A. Smyth, the last Union general to die in the Civil War, was killed by a sharp-shooter’s bullet. Learn about his valor, history, accomplishments and untimely death. Smyth, who emigrated from Ireland, enlisted as a private in the Irish Brigade. Visitors get to this program by walking east on High Bridge Trail from Main Street in Farmville for half a mile or by meeting at the junction of our Osborne access with High Bridge Trail. There, visitors will be directed to the site.

Those with questions or concerns or seeking more detailed directions to program sites may contact High Bridge Trail State Park at 434-315-0457 or email

The High Bridge programs are free except for a $4 parking fee.

Learn more about the Civil War sesquicentennial in Virginia.