The following is an exciting press release from the National Park Service:
“Whatever happens, there will be no turning back.” With this resolute declaration, Ulysses S. Grant determined the course of the Overland Campaign that thundered through Virginia in the spring of 1864. As we approach the 150th Anniversary of this campaign, Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park is proud to announce a series of programs, ceremonies, and real-time tours spanning four weeks in May 2014 to commemorate the fateful events that changed the Virginia landscape—and the nation—forever.
The observances at the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House will kick off the larger National Park Service commemoration of the 1864 Overland Campaign–a signature Sesquicentennial Event. From Spotsylvania, the commemoration will follow the armies southward, to Richmond National Battlefield and Petersburg National Battlefield. The Overland Campaign observance will span nearly 90 days, three NPS areas, several local and regional sites, and engage communities from Culpeper County to Dinwiddie.
Program highlights for the Battle of the Wilderness include our opening ceremony at 10:00 a.m. on May 3, a campfire program at 7:30 p.m. on May 4, and real-time tours on May 5-6.
For the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, we particularly recommend our real-time tours on May 10 followed by our signature culminating moment that evening at 7:30 p.m. Other highlights include a full day of programming on May 12, concurrent with a 22-hour vigil for the duration of fighting at the famous “Bloody Angle,” as well as a candlelight program at 8:00 p.m. The greatest concentration of programming will be during the long weekend of May 8-12.
We will honor a special Memorial Day this year with our annual National Cemetery Illumination on May 24, and the annual Memorial Day program on May 26. “Reverberations” will tie our community’s Memorial Day Illumination to numerous other communities around the country, as we remember the price of the Overland Campaign felt across the continent.
In addition to scheduled programs, historians will staff sites on the battlefield during significant anniversary dates, and historic Ellwood Manor will be open to the public for tours and special events. Living history demonstrations will be scattered throughout other programs, and the National Park Service will offer special children’s programs during the weekends of May 3-4 and May 10-11. Except for the bus tours, which require reservations (call 540-372-3034 to make reservations) and a $25 fee, all programs are free and open to the public.
Fought in the shadow of a looming presidential election in the north, the Overland Campaign marked the first time the two great captains of the Civil War, Lee and Grant, fought against each other. Their battles generated a whirlwind of struggle, suffering, loss, and destruction that challenged both sides’ will to continue the war.
Battle of the Wilderness 150th, May 3-6, 2014
May 3, 2014
10-11:15 a.m. Opening Ceremony at Spotsylvania Court House Battlefield
Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park is proud to host the Opening Ceremony for the Sesquicentennial observance of the 1864 Overland Campaign, a National Park Service Signature Event. The ceremony will occur at the Bloody Angle. Noted Civil War historian James I. Robertson, Jr. will be the keynote speaker.
1-3 p.m. Decisions and Consequences: Grant and the Landscape of War (Walking tour will meet at Ellwood).
3:30-4:30 p.m. Home Interrupted: Civilians, War, and Freedom at Ellwood
May 4, 2014
8 a.m.-12 p.m. Morning Bus Tour: March to Battle: To the Rapidan. Fee and reservations required.
1-5 p.m. Afternoon Bus Tour: Grant and Lee at War: The Wilderness. Fee and reservations required.
Noon-1 p.m.: Across Saunders Field (with Living Historians)
2-3 p.m.: The Rage of a Home Invaded: The Higgerson Farm.
4-5 p.m.: “Dark, Close Wood”: A Walk in the Wilderness. Orange Plank Road.
7:30-8:30 p.m.: Eve of Battle: A Campfire Program at Ellwood.
This night marks the 150th anniversary of the last peaceful night in 1864. Both armies entered the Wilderness anxious and hopeful of victory. Both sides would be shocked and disappointed.
May 5, 2014
1-3 p.m. Real-Time Walking Tour: Opening Shots at Saunders Field
The early afternoon advance sparked a conflagration that set the whole Wilderness ablaze in battle.
5-7 p.m. Real-Time Walking Tour: Life and Death at the Crossroads
This was the key to the whole battlefield. Lee wanted it—and Grant struggled to keep it.
May 6, 2014
6-8 a.m. Walking Tour: Sunrise in the Widow Tapp Field—Lee to the Rear!
A crushing Union attack took the Confederates to the brink of disaster—until Robert E. Lee personally entered the fight.
9:30 a.m.-Noon Walking Tour: Longstreet’s Flank Attack and Wounding
Fresh Confederate troops turned the tide of battle, until their commander was accidentally shot while leading the flank attack.
1-3 p.m. Walking Tour: Horror on the Plank Road
The seesaw battle along the Plank Road revealed an intensity that few soldiers had ever experienced. The fate of the battle depended on their actions.
6—8 p.m. Walking Tour: Gordon’s Flank Attack
Confederates exploited an unguarded Union flank and came close to victory—until Grant struck back in the dark woods.
Battle of Spotsylvania Court House 150th, May 8-18, 2014
May 8, 2014
9-11 a.m. Walking Tour: Deadly Encounter at Laurel Hill
Both armies were in a race to Spotsylvania—a race that ended in a surprise clash just north of the village.
1-3 p.m. Walking Tour: Melee and Madness at Laurel Hill—The Battle Escalates.
A late afternoon push by the Union 5th and 6th Corps, led to one of the more confusing debacles of the campaign.
4– 6 p.m. Walking Tour: A New Kind of War: Building the Mule Shoe Salient
Spotsylvania reveals the emergence and perfection of trench warfare. The remainder of the Civil War would be largely a subterranean experience—Spotsylvania best demonstrates this transition from open-field fighting to trench warfare.
May 9, 2014
7-8 p.m.: City of Hospitals, Fredericksburg—a Talk.
A program commemorating Fredericksburg’s role in the 1864 Overland Campaign, when peaceful churches and beautiful homes played host to a terrible parade of wounded brought there from the battlefields. Hundreds died here, but surgeons and volunteers saved many hundreds more in a veritable City of Hospitals. (Location: Fredericksburg Baptist Church)
May 10, 2014
8 a.m.—12 p.m.: Race to the Crossroads: Spotsylvania May 8-12, 1864. A Bus Tour. Fee and reservations required.
This tour will be an overview introduction to the opening movements of the Battle of Spotsylvania
1 p.m.—5 p.m.: Spotsylvania’s Grueling Punishment: May 12-21, 1864. A Bus Tour. Fee and reservations required.
This tour will be an overview introduction to the later days of the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House.
12:30 p.m.-3 p.m.: Warren and Hancock in Crisis: Laurel Hill on May 10th: A Real-Time Walking Tour
Laurel Hill witnessed further slaughter on May 10, with futile assaults by the Union Fifth Corps and a brief penetrating attack by the Union Second Corps. This was just as successful as Upton’s more famous attack, but has been little recognized or appreciated.
4 p.m.-6 p.m.: Upton Gets His Star: Revolutionizing Warfare: A Walking Tour
This “real-time” tour will examine one of the most famous attacks of the Overland Campaign. Emory Upton challenged conventional wisdom and created a new form of attack that could overrun manned trenches. Upton’s temporary success became the template for the May 12 attack that led to the Bloody Angle.
7:30-9 p.m.: Signature Culminating Moment
Join us as we commemorate the intensity of the Battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House with words, music, and sounds, capturing the drama, voice, and flavor of the Overland Campaign.
May 11, 2014
2—3 p.m.: “Mothers’ Friendship Day” and the Civil War: Mothers and their Soldier-Sons—A Talk
One of the earliest attempts to establish a Mother’s Day came from various peace groups. One of their more dynamic activities gathered groups of mothers whose sons had fought and died on opposite sides during the Civil War.
9 a.m.—4 p.m.: Hidden Spotsylvania: A Hiking Tour
The battle and battlefield of Spotsylvania are large and often misleading. This is an opportunity to see and experience the lesser-known but important aspects of Spotsylvania.
May 12, 2014
150th Anniversary of the fight for the Bloody Angle at Spotsylvania Court House
5-7 a.m.: Union Onslaught: The Initial Attack—A Walking Tour
One of the largest assaults of the entire Civil War, Winfield S. Hancock’s Union attack, started at 4:35 a.m., May 12, 1864—triggering one of the most brutal combat experiences of all American history.
8-10 a.m.: Lee to the Rear: Confederate Crisis—A Walking Tour
To avert disaster, Robert E. Lee literally threw himself into the fight.
12:30-2:30 p.m.: Fighting on the East Face of the Salient: Stemming the Tide—A Walking Tour.
Confederates stemmed the tide by halting the Union Second Corps’ attack here—and repulsing the Union Ninth Corps in turn.
4-5 p.m.: Union Footsteps—A Walking Tour
6-7 p.m.: Confederate Footsteps—A Walking Tour
8-9 p.m.: Hallowed Ground/Consecrated Ground—A Candlelight Vigil
A candlelight vigil focused on the Bloody Angle and the eye of the storm.
6 a.m. (May 12)—4:15 a.m. (May 13): Silent Sentinels at the Bloody Angle:
The National Park Service will provide a “real-time” silent tribute to the men on both sides who endured the battle for the Bloody Angle from 4:35 a.m., May 12, 1864
(5:46 a.m., May 12, 2014) to 3:00 a.m., May 13, 1864 (4:11 a.m., May 13, 2014).
May 17, 2014
A Celebration of Freedom: Fighting For Freedom and Firesides
May 18, 2014
1-3 p.m.: The Battle of Lee’s Last Line—A Walking Tour
This attack finally convinced the Union army that they could not break the stalemate at Spotsylvania.
Memorial Day Weekend 2014, May 24-26, 2014
May 24-26: Reverberations–Fredericksburg and Our Sister Communities
Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, in conjunction with the Richmond and Petersburg National Battlefield Parks, will commemorate the 1864 Overland Campaign and Memorial Day with a community outreach program. Each park will adopt “sister communities,” North and South, and send historians to those communities to link their history to that of our 1864 battlefields.
May 24, 2014
Annual Fredericksburg National Cemetery Illumination
A memorial tribute to the soldiers buried in the National Cemetery at Fredericksburg, many of whom gave their “last full measure of devotion” fighting around the Wilderness or Spotsylvania during the 1864 Overland Campaign.
May 26, 2014
Annual Memorial Day Program
A commemorative procession from downtown Fredericksburg to the National Cemetery, followed by a short address to conclude the program.
For further details and updates about these events, visit the special park website.