“ Address: VA 24 / Appomattox / Virginia „
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Appomattox Court House
Appomattox Court House National Historical Park is located in south central Virginia approximately 95 miles west of Richmond.
We visited this site a couple of years ago when we were staying in Virginia and then Tennessee, We called in to visit this site on our way between the two states as we had visited a number of historical and Civil War sites while in Virginia and we thought this being the site of the end of the Civil War would also be a symbolic last place for us to visit after seeing the other Civil War sites.
OPENING TIMES AND COSTS
This park is open year- round, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day It is a National Park site so if you have a America the Beautiful National park card you will get in free. The visitor's centre is open from 8:30am to 5pm each day.
Fees are $4.00 per person but only up to $10.00 per carload. Children under 16 are free. If you go visit off season (October to April), the price is only $3.00 per person, or $5.00 maximum per carload. However if you choose to take the audio tour, that will be extra.
A BIT OF HISTORY
On Palm Sunday, 1865, after a week or more of suffering great loses and a number of intense battles General Robert E Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House, Virginia . This was the end of the Southern States attempt to create a separate nation and the beginning of the United States as we know it today.
INSIDE THE PARK
The Visitor centre:
Appomattox Court House National Historical Park is comprised of thirteen original historic structures along with nine reconstructed buildings in rural Virginia. The park is about 3 square miles total which for a place of this kind is quite large and will require quite a bit of walking. It will take some hours to do the place justice and if you choose the audio tour it takes longer.
If you are short of time as we were then I would suggest that you make your way to the visitor centre initially where you will be given a map of the park which indicates where the main houses are and what the significance of the building is. In the visitor centre you can also learn the basic outline of Civil War history and the significance of this site as the surrender site of Robert E. Lee to Ulysses S. Grant.
The visitor centre is a reconstructed building of the original courthouse. Within the centre one of the most interesting displays in the 'Wall of Honor' which has photos and a short story of many of those who were here at Appomattox that day. The display changes from time to time to give each individual his time on the wall and many of the photos were given by families of the people represented on the wall.
Also in the Visitor centre you can see five paintings by George L. Frankenstein. These show the village of Appomattox Court House and surrounding area as it was in the months after the surrender. r Frankenstein spent four years travelling Civil War battlefields capturing scenes in paintings.
Another great place which gives you an overall insight is the theatre where you can view either of two slide show sand hear some of the important facts about the civil war and those who fought in it. The 15-minute slide show which is shown on the hour tells the story of the Civil War leading to the surrender while the second programme is "Soldiers' Diaries" which is quite a moving experience as you hear excerpts from diaries of soldiers who were at the site in 1865, and this is shown on the 1/2 hour.
If you feel inspired to find out more then you can then visit the shop where you can buy a number of different civil war- related texts.
The park is not really a park as we know it but has been taken over by the National Park Service because of its huge historical significance to the American nation. It is an area with a number of different buildings, in a country setting. The back roads or country lanes within the park which take you to all the different places cover about 6 miles in total, so there is a good amount of walking to do. If you take the audio tour then it will guide you to each building and explain the historical significance of what took place at each one.
The Mclean House:
The most important building to visit in my view is the Mclean Home. This is the actual site of the surrender of the Confederate army to General Grant. It was in the parlour of this house that Lee agreed to Grant's terms of surrender and the bloody four years of Civil War finally came to an end. This is a three-story building and inside is furnished with mid-nineteenth century furnishings. The parlor of the house, where the surrender meeting took place, is furnished with a mixture of original and reproduction furniture.
The actual table upon which the surrender was signed in not here because it is in the Smithsonian Museum of American history . It was given to the USA government by Libby Custer as her will states "...the table on which the surrender of General Lee to General Grant was written...and now located in the... War Department Building in Washington, D. C., I give and bequeath to the United States Government..."
If you want to explore further on this property you can also visit the outbuildings which include the slave quarters, exterior kitchen, and outhouse. We walked around but didn't actually go into these as we were a bit short of time
The Clover Hill Tavern
This is the oldest of the original buildings in the village. At the time of the surrender Brigadier General George H. Sharpe made the Clover Hill Tavern his headquarters Sharpe's job was to oversee the printing of parole passes to be issued to the Confederate soldiers which allowed them to travel unbothered back to their homes.
George Peers House:
We didn't go inside this house but outside it has a marker to say that the last shot of the Civil War was fired from this spot by a Confederate soldier and sadly killed a young lieutenant on the morning of April 9, 1865.
Mariah Wright House:
This small house is significant as this was where a marker lies stating that:
" At a last council of war held on Saturday, April 8, Lee ordered Gordon's infantry and Fitzhugh Lee's cavalry to clear the stage road of Union cavalry. The Union horsemen were pushed back but arrival of bluecoated infantry again blocked the escape route. A flag of truce halted the fighting while General Lee negotiated the surrender of his army."
It was when Union troops were at this site that they saw the Flag of Truce which General Custer then accepted.
APART FROM BUILDINGS
The Americans do this so well. They have people dressed in costume of the day who 'act' being someone who was there at the time of the surrender. These presentations or performances take place daily from memorial Day to Labor Day each year The presentations begin in the Visitor centre at twenty past each hour and then the character walks around the site for the rest of the time. You can ask them questions and they answer in performance as the person they are acting that day. The actors may be soldiers from either side or the wife of someone who lived in the area , the actor speaks in the manner of the day and answers questions that are on the same date in the year 1865, so if it April 23rd 2012 then they will answer being April 23rd 1865.
The park is more than a site of remembrance and historical significance it is also a place to enjoy nature and walk in the countryside , maybe even enjoy a picnic if you like.
THINGS TO BE AWARE OF
Each building is either original or reconstructed to be as original as it can be so this means there will be some stairs to climb in some of them. There are no lifts as the buildings are being preserved as they were so for those with walking difficulties or in wheel chairs this could be a problem.
Quite a large number of the rooms in the buildings are roped off, you can see into the rooms but not actually go in and walk around and in this way the items in the rooms don't get so damaged and everyone can see them.
If you want to see everything then this will take some time so plan your day. If you' have limited time for your visit then do like we did and plan what you want to see then head only for those buildings. Don't bother with the audio tour as this will take too long. I recommend the theatre and you must visit the McLean House where the surrender was signed.
OTHER INTERESTING THINGS I LEARNED
There were several regiments of black American troops fighting in the Civil War and some were at this site in 1865. The United States Army was NOT fully integrated until the Korean War and until then there were Black regiments led by white officers in their own separate regiments.
General Custer, he of Little Bighorn fame or infamy, was the man to receive the flag of truce at Appomattox Court House. This Original Truce Flag can be seen at Appomattox Court House today.
Other personal little stories such as Confederate Thomas Tibbs, who was a lieutenant in the 34th Virginia Infantry, led troops across his family farm during the last battle of Appomattox Court House which must have been very strange for him. In fact he fought in the last battle which was actually on his property.
WORTH A VISIT?
Yes indeed if you have any interest in the history of the USA this place is a must. It is well laid out and the self guided tour by the map is easy to follow. You can stay as long or as short a time as you like in each building. The guides around the site are helpful, knowledgeable and friendly, in fact sometimes we couldn't get away as they wanted to share so many stories with us.
Thanks for reading. This review may be posted on other sites under my same user name.