Park programs mark 160th anniversary of the Overland Campaign

by | Apr 30, 2024 | ALLFFP, Events, Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania

In the spring of 1864, the American Civil War entered its third year with no end in sight. The United States had fully embraced a policy of emancipation, but it was unclear what, exactly, freedom meant. An upcoming U.S. election pressured Lincoln to demonstrate progress in the war and gave the Confederates hope that a different U.S. president might accept the Confederacy. The U.S. Army had a new commander, General Ulysses S. Grant.

Beginning with the Battle of the Wilderness, the U.S. and Confederate armies clashed again and again throughout May and June 1864. The constant fighting resulted in the U.S. Army advancing but came with a steep cost in casualties. The Overland Campaign tested both the endurance of soldiers to continue fighting and the will of the public to continue supporting the war. The future of American democracy was at stake, but the outcome of the war was undetermined. What kind of nation would emerge from this violence?

The events that played out in Virginia in 1864 had a lasting impact beyond the Civil War and the Fredericksburg area. This month, Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park commemorates the 160th anniversary of the beginning of the Overland Campaign. Anniversary programming will include opportunities for people of all ages and interests to explore, discover, and reflect on these events that shaped our nation and society today. All programs will be free and open to the public. For a detailed schedule of events visit go.nps.gov/overland-anniversary.

Highlights of this year’s anniversary programming include:

Thursday, May 2, 2024

  • All Look Forward to This Campaign as the Last of the Series: 7 p.m., virtual talk, 1 hour.
    In partnership with Historic Germanna, this program examines the political and military contexts leading to the Overland Campaign. How would a new general-in-chief, the onset of a presidential election, and a warring nation headed into its third full year of bloody civil war shape the events to come? Tune in to this virtual talk to learn what was at stake. Register for the event online through Historic Germanna. Contact Historic Germanna for questions ([email protected] or 540-423-1700).
Friday, May 3, 2024
  • A Day at the Wilderness: Remember the Battle of the Wilderness with day-long programming at Ellwood and around the Wilderness Battlefield.
  • Virtual Talk with Dr. Drew Gilpin Faust: “The Spring of 1864 and the Meaning of Civil War Death”
    7-7:45 p.m. Dr. Faust is a professor, former president of Harvard, and author of six books including This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War. This talk will draw on Dr. Faust’s expertise in Civil War memory and her examination of American cultural change around death in the Civil War. Follow the event on Microsoft Teams Live
Saturday, May 4, 2024
  • Community Day at the Spotsylvania Court House Battlefield: Join park staff for a day of family and community programming centered around the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House at the Bloody Angle. Programs will include pop-up tents, children’s activities, and two battlefield hikes. In the evening, join us in Fredericksburg on the Brompton grounds for a special program featuring University of Mary Washington professor Michael Spencer.
Sunday, May 5, 2024
  • Reflections on the Overland Campaign: Hike the Spotsylvania Battlefield in the morning and tour Fredericksburg Civil War hospital sites in the afternoon.

Saturday, May 11, 2024

  • Looking Back at the Bloody Angle, 160 Years Ago: 10 a.m. & 2 p.m., Bloody Angle Walking Tour, Battlefield walk, about 0.5 mile, meet at the Bloody Angle (tour stop 3 on the Spotsylvania Battlefield), 45 minutes. The Civil War reached a new level of intensity when Federal attackers overran Confederate trenches on May 12, 1864. The initial assault sparked 22 hours of close combat. What was gained from this combat? What was the cost?

Saturday, May 18, 2024

  • History at Sunset: 6:30 pm-8 pm, One Final Try: Grant’s Last Attack at Spotsylvania, Two mile battlefield hike, meet at the Bloody Angle (tour stop 3 on the Spotsylvania Battlefield), 90 minutes. Join park rangers on a guided walk to examine the often-overlooked fighting on May 18, when Grant tried one last attempt to break through the Confederate defenses. Two weeks of heavy combat led to this moment. Would it all be for nothing? How far would you go for victory?
For a detailed schedule of events visit go.nps.gov/overland-anniversary.


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