Following Lee's Retreat/Civil War trails


Aug 23, 2021
Spent two days this week following the Lee's Retreat trail established by Civil War Trails in Virginia, via motorcycle (2006 BMW RT1200R), from Petersburg to Appomattox Courthouse. My inspiration has been the regimental history of 30th North Carolina infantry. My wife has three great great great uncles who were in the 30th, and I have been using the regimental history to visit as many of its battlefields as I can, and especially to visit the exact location they fought in, if possible, and to read the first person accounts from the soldiers about that battle. The 30th NC was involved in some key rear guard fighting around Amelia Springs to Deatonville, and was the far right of the last Confederate advance on the morning of April 9th.

The trial follows a lot of windy back country roads, which makes for great motorcycling. Most of the sites along the way are pretty sparse, to be honest, but you can at least get a gist of the lay of the land. For example, one site was Clifton, which was the house Grant spent the nigh of the 8th in. Today you are looking out at a field, as the house was removed long ago.

I do wish the trail was a little bit better marked, as there were a couple times when I found myself wondering which way to go. Leaving Amelia Courthouse was one such occasion. I suggest that if you want to follow the trail you need, in addition the Civil War Trails flyer, a local map in order to make sure you can follow the path. The flyer only shows the roads on the trail and not the surrounding roads, so if you get off the trail its hard to find your way back using only the flyer. On at least two occasions I had to turn around and seek out the right path. You also need to keep a sharp eye out for the stops on the trail as some of the stops are well marked with big signs, and others just use small markers. The large signs, when they are present, are nice in that they also tell you how far it is to the next stop, which was useful when I took the wrong turn.

In terms of total time, I'd say it took me about 3-hours of actual driving time, but pulling out the regimental history, reading anything related to the site, and trying get oriented took a lot of time. The path also includes, besides Petersburg and Appomattox Court House, the Saylor's Creek battle field. Total time spent on the trail was probably about 8 hours. However, I would recommend more time at Petersburg, just to take some of the trails that go through the woods in order to see more of the remains of the earthworks.