Monday, August 6, 2018

Pamplin Historical Park, Virginia

The Pamplin Historical Park and The National Museum of the Civil War Soldier is a privately owned historical park just outside Petersburg, Virginia. During the American Civil War, Petersburg was besieged by the Union Army from June 1864 to April 1865. The city was the key to breaking the Confederate capital, Richmond. Petersburg had many supply routes (mostly rails) in and out and was amply fortified. The siege ended on April 2, 1865, when the Union was able to break through the middle of the Confederates' earthworks and cut off all the supply lines into the city. General Robert E. Lee retreated from Petersburg that night. The surrender at Appomattox Courthouse happened less than a week later. The park is the site where the Union broke through. The museum commemorates the battle and all the soldiers who fought during the war. It also covers some Antebellum history of the area.

Pamplin Historical Park main building

The main building has a walkway commemorating the Americans who served and died during the war, along with a nice statue showing a relaxed moment of service.

Front statue commemorating Civil War soldiers of either side

Maryland's contribution

Inside is a floor map of the division of the country into Union (blue), Confederate (grey), territories (red), and border states (green).

Looking at the country

The museum has an extensive exhibit on the lives of the soldiers called "Duty Called Me Here." No pictures were allowed. They did provide audio guides for adults or children that enhanced the experience greatly. A few interactive exhibits gave the kids buttons to push and quizzes to take.

We went outside. The grounds still have the original Tudor Hall, the main house of the plantation in the area. The Boisseau family (descendants from French Huguenots) lived there from 1815 to 1864. They originally farmed tobacco. The fields became depleted and the farm switched over to grains and produce. In 1864, the house was taken over by Confederate General Samuel McGowan as a headquarters during the siege.

Tudor Hall

Not so interested in reading about it

The entrances to the hall are in the back.

Back of the house

The basement has displays on life at the plantation both during the Boisseaus' time and the army's time.

Display on the battlefield

The house as a home

The house as a headquarters

The land as a plantation

For no particular reason, after we left the basement we went over to the barn, which has tools from back in the day. (I should note that the other buildings besides Tudor Hall are recreations of period buildings, not the original buildings). We also heard a rooster crowing, which we first thought was an over-amplified audio enhancement. Sure enough, around the corner were some chickens and their rooster crowing his heart out. Our youngest decided we had seen enough of the barn and headed back to the house! That was one scary rooster

Tudor Hall barn

Farm tools

Inside the barn

We made one more stop before seeing the upstairs of the house. We went to the kitchen, a building just behind the main house.

Tudor Hall kitchen

The right side of the building was devoted to cooking meals and is set up with the usual fireplace, utensils, fake food, etc.

Antebellum kitchen

The left side was set up as slave quarters, showing their various tools and chores. The upstairs was sleeping quarters for the kitchen and house slaves.

Slave quarters' fireplace

Cleaning the cotton


Another section of the grounds has a recreation of the field slaves' quarters. We didn't make it there due to the heat (the high was upper 90s Fahrenheit with too much humidity).

We finally went back in the big house, which is half decorated as a home and half as a military headquarters.

Downstairs parlor as military work/leisure area

Dining room as antebellum home

The dining table

My son was shocked to see the chess board set up incorrectly! We were going to submit some feedback about that but never found a comment box in the main museum.

Black's knight seems to have promoted himself, among other errors

Upstairs, one bedroom was set as the plantation owners' boudoir.

Cosy, non-war bed

The other two rooms were set up as the commander's quarters and a bunk room for other officers.

Commander's bed

Commander's desk

Officer bunk room

Another bed in the officer bunk room!

Back outside it was getting very hot, so we walked past the tobacco barn and field and onto the battlefield museum.

Tobacco barn

Tobacco field

Battle museum

Outside the museum is a recreation of the Confederate earthenworks. In addition to the parapet (a mound of dirt thick enough to withstand cannon fire), the defenses have a deep ditch and wooden shafts driven into the ground to hamper charges.

Recreated defenses

View of the ditch

The defenses included cannons, which had the range of about a mile but were generally used for much closer targets. Most of the trees had been cleared out but there was still limited visibility along the line.


Nearby is a model Confederate encampment with some tents and more permanent structures.


Outside the tent/log cabin hybrid

Inside the hybrid

One building seemed like the main gathering area. The sign calls it "Hotel d'Louse," making me wonder if it was a delousing station. It also lists "faro nightly," which is a card game, along with "prayer to follow," which I guess was ironic?

A larger building for activities?

Just a short walk away is the original earthenworks, or what is left of them. The trail goes on for short, medium, or long walks but we were too hot and tired to go on. We admired the embankments and headed back to the main building.

View of earthenworks

Side view, now overgrown a bit

We learned more about the battle in the battlefield museum. They have an excellent ten minute movie and some displays showing the various positions and movements during the siege.

Map of Petersburg and contested area (little dot in the middle is the Park!)

No comments:

Post a Comment