Civil War Historical Sites: Pamplin Park - A Unique Civil War Site

Pamplin Park is a Virginia Civil War site which features living history in a unique way. Home of the National Museum of the Civil War Soldier, it is a must-see for Civil War buffs and novices alike.

Pamplin Park is a relatively new complex that includes the National Museum of the Civil War Soldier within a 422-acre section of Virginia's Southside. Just south of Petersburg, it is also the site of Grant's breakthrough of General Lee's previously impenetrable defenses, only days before the surrender at Appomattox.

The Park encompasses numerous other significant areas""-Tudor Hall; the Military Encampment; the Battlefield Center, and several walking loops of the Breakthrough Trail which parallel many of the original fortifications. A replica of defense breastworks that were in place at the time of the Civil War is currently under construction.

Tudor Hall was a family home of the Pamplins' maternal ancestors and it has been restored to the Civil War era. The basement museum features recitations of free and slave civilians who lived on the plantation and some of its military occupants who were bivouacked in the house during the War--part of General McGowan's South Carolina Brigade.

A fibre optics map of the breakthrough plus a state-of-the-art surround-sound theatre presentation of the battle is featured at the Battlefield Center. There is also a "tent" with many uniforms and accoutrements that are available to young visitors for dress up.

There are many daily demonstrations. These include, but are not limited to, exhibitions of cavalry, artillery, small arms, and plantation life.

At the Museum of the Civil War Soldier, the visitor selects a combatant (both North and South are offered) from a dozen or so, and is given a CD player to take through the museum. The many exhibits of the daily life of a soldier are excellent and the recordings generic to all CDs, but in four places the personal story of the chosen soldier is narrated. The recordings on daily life--diseases, food, tents, winter camps, troop movement, uniforms, religion, insignia, leisure time, music and more--are enough to validate the visit. The personal stories add more depth and significance. There's also a walk through a simulated grove of trees where one comes under attack. It is most realistic""-from the sounds of gunfire and troops to the vibrations of the ground underfoot and breezes overhead.

There is one combatant--the Drummer Boy--who is in a special Discovery Series recommended for children. The Discovery Series emblem is seen throughout the park on various other living history displays geared to the younger generation.

The Hardtack & Coffee Café offers reasonably priced meals and there are picnic tables on the grounds near the parking lot. There's an excellent bookstore and gift shop.

The Remembrance Wall honors those who served in the Civil War. Plaques may be purchased for $50 and show the name of the honoree, the military unit and the name of the purchaser.

The Park, owned and operated by a private foundation, is open year-round from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and a day should be allowed for a visit. It's south of Richmond and Petersburg, just off I-85 at US 1.

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