The Peninsula Peninsula Battlefield Notes

AA484

Private
Joined
Jan 17, 2020
I visited the peninsula this past weekend and essentially toured every battlefield of note between Hampton Roads and Richmond, restricted to those which were part of the 1862 peninsular campaign. Here are some of my notes about the condition and accessibility of the respective battlefields:

Hampton Roads: Not really a battlefield, per se, but there are enough interpretive signs to give you a good impression of how the battle went. There are two "overlooks" which respectively concern the Virginia's initial foray against the blockading squadron and the resulting battle with the Monitor. In addition, there are also several area museums which offer supplemental information concerning the battle, particularly the Mariner's Museum in Newport News, which houses the remnants of the Monitor and is one of the best museums I have ever visited.

Yorktown: Most of the interpretive material concerns the Revolutionary War siege and surrender. Information concerning the 1862 movements and engagements are mostly concentrated at Dam No. 1, which was where the heaviest fighting occurred. Extant earthworks can still be found in the area and Yorktown's are still in excellent condition, even if the ACW isn't the central focus.

Williamsburg: There are several sites of interest but they are scattered throughout the area and some are hidden away or difficult to find. The battlefield itself is fragmented but not completely destroyed (see a couple of later entries) so some understanding of the movements can still be gathered.

Eltham's Landing: A recent effort has been made to add interpretation to the battlefield, which still looks about the same as it did nearly 160 years ago. These additions enabled me to gain a quick and easy understanding of this relatively obscure site.

Drewry's Bluff: The earthworks surrounding the fort are still in good condition and the view of the river makes it easy to understand the importance of the site. There are plenty of interpretive signs in and surrounding the fort. The only complaint (and a minor one at that) is that the site is heavily forested compared to the area's more barren landscape of 1861-1865, but this is understandable considering the NP service does not own all the surrounding land.

Hanover Courthouse: The battlefield, despite being little changed since 1862, mostly falls on private lands, so there really isn't much to see here. Compared to Eltham's Landing, the interpretation was minimal.

Seven Pines: Really a shame that this battlefield is essentially obliterated. Along with Nashville and Hood's battles for Atlanta, Seven Pines shares the worst preservation to importance ratio. After the war, all of these battlefields were quickly engulfed by their neighboring metropolises so preservation efforts were essentially killed in the womb. There are a few signs concerning the action here but the area is almost completely developed, reducing the effectiveness of the information they contain.

Oak Grove: A small engagement by any measure, this battlefield was swallowed up by Richmond's airport. One small marker and a cannon commemorate it but the airport has installed "no parking" signs in the vicinity, rendering them virtually inaccessible.

Beaver Dam Creek: Besides a small patch preserved by the NPS, this battlefield has mostly been lost to development. The preserved area around Ellerson's Mill is still worth visiting, however.

Gaines' Mill: The largest battle of the campaign, the Gaines' Mill battlefield has also retained the most integrity, with the exception of Malvern Hill. The existing interpretation is adequate and the area of preservation is mainly focused on the Watt House area, where the heaviest fighting occurred. However, the battlefield as a whole is huge, and the attacks stretched all the way to Old Cold Harbor. Much of this land is still in private hands but more property has been purchased for preservation, specifically the area including the approach and staging of the climactic Confederate attack. Hopefully more preservation opportunities become available in the future.

Garnett's & Golding's Farm: Lost to development. Not really much to see here.

Savage's Station: Imagine my surprise when I returned nine years after my last visit to find the area covered by solar panels! This area still has a couple of CWT signs but the landscape is obviously significantly altered. Most of the fighting occurred at the intersection of 64 and 295 so it was disappointing to see that the small part of the battlefield that had been preserved had been nearly obliterated.

Glendale/White Oak Swamp: Herculean preservation efforts have been made in recent years to save this battlefield. Although the battlefield's appearance still bears a high resemblance to that of 1862, most of the land is in private hands and interpretation is limited to a few markers in inconvenient areas. I also missed the new area off of Long Bridge Road (it may be closed off?) which had been purchased and preserved by the Civil War Trust at some point in the past few years. The area is still worth visiting but it will probably be helpful to have a basic understanding before doing so.

Malvern Hill: A real gem. The battlefield itself is about as good as you can ask for in the 21st century and interpretation and walking trails are plentiful. Highly recommended. Not a lot of shade, so if you can't deal with the sun or heat, make plans to come in a more agreeable season, although I don't mind as it adds a greater understanding of what attackers and defenders had to deal with. Side note: my ankles got decimated by chigger bites when I last visited about nine years ago but I think that was just bad luck and not anything specifically related to Malvern Hill's environment as I came out fine this go-round.
 

Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
I visited the peninsula this past weekend and essentially toured every battlefield of note between Hampton Roads and Richmond, restricted to those which were part of the 1862 peninsular campaign. Here are some of my notes about the condition and accessibility of the respective battlefields:

Hampton Roads: Not really a battlefield, per se, but there are enough interpretive signs to give you a good impression of how the battle went. There are two "overlooks" which respectively concern the Virginia's initial foray against the blockading squadron and the resulting battle with the Monitor. In addition, there are also several area museums which offer supplemental information concerning the battle, particularly the Mariner's Museum in Newport News, which houses the remnants of the Monitor and is one of the best museums I have ever visited.

Yorktown: Most of the interpretive material concerns the Revolutionary War siege and surrender. Information concerning the 1862 movements and engagements are mostly concentrated at Dam No. 1, which was where the heaviest fighting occurred. Extant earthworks can still be found in the area and Yorktown's are still in excellent condition, even if the ACW isn't the central focus.

Williamsburg: There are several sites of interest but they are scattered throughout the area and some are hidden away or difficult to find. The battlefield itself is fragmented but not completely destroyed (see a couple of later entries) so some understanding of the movements can still be gathered.

Eltham's Landing: A recent effort has been made to add interpretation to the battlefield, which still looks about the same as it did nearly 160 years ago. These additions enabled me to gain a quick and easy understanding of this relatively obscure site.

Drewry's Bluff: The earthworks surrounding the fort are still in good condition and the view of the river makes it easy to understand the importance of the site. There are plenty of interpretive signs in and surrounding the fort. The only complaint (and a minor one at that) is that the site is heavily forested compared to the area's more barren landscape of 1861-1865, but this is understandable considering the NP service does not own all the surrounding land.

Hanover Courthouse: The battlefield, despite being little changed since 1862, mostly falls on private lands, so there really isn't much to see here. Compared to Eltham's Landing, the interpretation was minimal.

Seven Pines: Really a shame that this battlefield is essentially obliterated. Along with Nashville and Hood's battles for Atlanta, Seven Pines shares the worst preservation to importance ratio. After the war, all of these battlefields were quickly engulfed by their neighboring metropolises so preservation efforts were essentially killed in the womb. There are a few signs concerning the action here but the area is almost completely developed, reducing the effectiveness of the information they contain.

Oak Grove: A small engagement by any measure, this battlefield was swallowed up by Richmond's airport. One small marker and a cannon commemorate it but the airport has installed "no parking" signs in the vicinity, rendering them virtually inaccessible.

Beaver Dam Creek: Besides a small patch preserved by the NPS, this battlefield has mostly been lost to development. The preserved area around Ellerson's Mill is still worth visiting, however.

Gaines' Mill: The largest battle of the campaign, the Gaines' Mill battlefield has also retained the most integrity, with the exception of Malvern Hill. The existing interpretation is adequate and the area of preservation is mainly focused on the Watt House area, where the heaviest fighting occurred. However, the battlefield as a whole is huge, and the attacks stretched all the way to Old Cold Harbor. Much of this land is still in private hands but more property has been purchased for preservation, specifically the area including the approach and staging of the climactic Confederate attack. Hopefully more preservation opportunities become available in the future.

Garnett's & Golding's Farm: Lost to development. Not really much to see here.

Savage's Station: Imagine my surprise when I returned nine years after my last visit to find the area covered by solar panels! This area still has a couple of CWT signs but the landscape is obviously significantly altered. Most of the fighting occurred at the intersection of 64 and 295 so it was disappointing to see that the small part of the battlefield that had been preserved had been nearly obliterated.

Glendale/White Oak Swamp: Herculean preservation efforts have been made in recent years to save this battlefield. Although the battlefield's appearance still bears a high resemblance to that of 1862, most of the land is in private hands and interpretation is limited to a few markers in inconvenient areas. I also missed the new area off of Long Bridge Road (it may be closed off?) which had been purchased and preserved by the Civil War Trust at some point in the past few years. The area is still worth visiting but it will probably be helpful to have a basic understanding before doing so.

Malvern Hill: A real gem. The battlefield itself is about as good as you can ask for in the 21st century and interpretation and walking trails are plentiful. Highly recommended. Not a lot of shade, so if you can't deal with the sun or heat, make plans to come in a more agreeable season, although I don't mind as it adds a greater understanding of what attackers and defenders had to deal with. Side note: my ankles got decimated by chigger bites when I last visited about nine years ago but I think that was just bad luck and not anything specifically related to Malvern Hill's environment as I came out fine this go-round.
Nice summary. A couple of years ago, Doug Crenshaw did some excellent detective work and was able to identify the location of Johnston's wounding at Seven Pines. If I recall correctly, it's at the location of an an auto body shop or something similar. Much of the field is part of the airport today. As for Glendale, I believe the NPS isn't going to open it until they've done the interpretation. No idea where that is at this point. Saving that tract and a good chunk added to Gaines's Mill are major victories for the ABT.
 

AA484

Private
Joined
Jan 17, 2020
Nice summary. A couple of years ago, Doug Crenshaw did some excellent detective work and was able to identify the location of Johnston's wounding at Seven Pines. If I recall correctly, it's at the location of an an auto body shop or something similar. Much of the field is part of the airport today. As for Glendale, I believe the NPS isn't going to open it until they've done the interpretation. No idea where that is at this point. Saving that tract and a good chunk added to Gaines's Mill are major victories for the ABT.
This was the "new" Glendale marker but apparently it has been around since 2010 (I last visited Glendale in 2012 and don't remember it then, either): https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=32291

I looked on the street view and there is a barrier over the (presumed) entrance with no marked parking. They may be looking to add more interpretation as you suggested but it seems strange to have this sign isolated for nine years.

Thanks for the information about Johnston's wounding; I actually made a stop right near the railroad tracks where the markers are (historic location of Fair Oaks Station) so I was unknowingly very close.

Edit: forgot to add link
 
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Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
This was the "new" Glendale marker but apparently it has been around since 2010 (I last visited Glendale in 2012 and don't remember it then, either): https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=32291

I looked on the street view and there is a barrier over the (presumed) entrance with no marked parking. They may be looking to add more interpretation as you suggested but it seems strange to have this sign isolated for nine years.

Thanks for the information about Johnston's wounding; I actually made a stop right near the railroad tracks where the markers are (historic location of Fair Oaks Station) so I was unknowingly very close.

Edit: forgot to add link
On Glendale, I know for a fact that they were going to do the interpretation work first, before opening it. As usual, there were federal budget issues that got in the way, and then the pandemic further screwed things up. I had a communication with Jason Roth of Blue & Gray (not too long before it folded) about Glendale being a great topic for a future issue and a "General's Tour" but at the time my recollection is that they needed the NPS to finish their work first.

As for Seven Pines, you could have seen where Johnston was hit and gotten the dent in your fender fixed at the same time. 😎
 

Jamieva

Captain
Forum Host
Joined
Feb 7, 2006
Location
Midlothian, VA
The NPS is not opening up Glendale until the trails and signs are done. They have the vast majority of the battlefield in their hands now. I am hoping we get it opened up by next summer since at this point we have heard nothing about it this year. Doug Crenshaw or Bert Dunkerly would probably know more about that.

the trust is acquiring more and more of Gaines mill at a rapid rate including an area that overlaps with cold harbor. The area where the Texas monument and attack signage approaching the battlefield parking area were added in the last 5 years. Gaines mill is my favorite battlefield to visit.
 

Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
The NPS is not opening up Glendale until the trails and signs are done. They have the vast majority of the battlefield in their hands now. I am hoping we get it opened up by next summer since at this point we have heard nothing about it this year. Doug Crenshaw or Bert Dunkerly would probably know more about that.

the trust is acquiring more and more of Gaines mill at a rapid rate including an area that overlaps with cold harbor. The area where the Texas monument and attack signage approaching the battlefield parking area were added in the last 5 years. Gaines mill is my favorite battlefield to visit.
That Gaines's Mill/Cold Harbor tract is an important "two for one" acquisition. Rare opportunity.
 

AA484

Private
Joined
Jan 17, 2020
The NPS is not opening up Glendale until the trails and signs are done. They have the vast majority of the battlefield in their hands now. I am hoping we get it opened up by next summer since at this point we have heard nothing about it this year. Doug Crenshaw or Bert Dunkerly would probably know more about that.

the trust is acquiring more and more of Gaines mill at a rapid rate including an area that overlaps with cold harbor. The area where the Texas monument and attack signage approaching the battlefield parking area were added in the last 5 years. Gaines mill is my favorite battlefield to visit.
Thanks for the update on Glendale. The area is still very open with farmland and fields encompassing much of the territory. Lots of opportunity here. The residences that are there don't take too much away from the landscape.
 
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