Richmond National Battlefield

As the capital of the Confederacy and one of the South’s most developed cities, Richmond, Virginia was the primary target of Union campaigns in the East during the Civil War. The city’s location next to a waterpower source, its proximity to working coalfields, and the development of the railroad industry in the 1830’s and 1840’s made Richmond the iron and coal center of the South.

The Tredegar Iron Works opened in 1837 and stood as Richmond’s foremost business concern for more than a century. Tredegar produced more than 1,000 cannons for the confederacy. It also made armor plating for use on Confederate ironclad warships, including the famous CSS Virginia.

The iron works continued production until 1952, when a fire destroyed the majority of its buildings. Three antebellum buildings have been salvaged and restored; a small office building, a pattern ship, and the much larger cannon foundry that dates from 1861.

In 2000 the National Park Service developed Tredegar into its primary visitor center for the Richmond-area Civil War battlefields. In 2006, a private nonprofit museum opened in the cannon foundry, now called The American Civil War Museum at Historic Tredegar. The museum tells the story of the Civil War from the Union, Confederate, and African American perspectives.

Across from the visitor center is Brown’s island which was formed in 1789 with the development of the Haxall Canal. Visible from the island is the Belle Isle, the Manchester Bridge, and the ruins of the Richmond and Petersburg railroad bridge.

Location: Richmond field studies take place on Brown’s Island. Start at the Civil War Visitor Center at Tredegar Iron Works. Traveling South on I-95 use exit 75 (3rd Street) for Civil War Visitor Center. The off ramp will merge onto 3rd Street. Stay on 3rd Street to Cary Street (9 blocks). Turn left onto Cary Street. Stay on Cary Street to 5th Street (2 blocks). Turn right onto 5th Street and stay on it until Tredegar Street (about 2 blocks). Turn right on Tredegar Street and then turn right again into the parking lot for the American Civil War Center and Richmond National Battlefield Park’s Civil War Visitor Center.

  • Field Studies available: Watershed Watchdogs, Exotic InvadersDon’t Get Sedimental, & Talkin’ Trash
  • Habitat: Brown’s Island (heavy pedestrian use/landscaped park)/James River
  • Terrain: Accessing Brown’s Island is a short and easy walk from the Civil War Visitor Center. A popular riverfront park and event venue, Brown’s Island has paved walking paths and mowed grass fields. A walkway extends south from the island into the James River.
  • Additional Info: Ideal group size is 60. The site could accommodate larger groups if enough rangers/educators are able to participate. Students may be able to participate in a ranger-led history or cannon program upon request.
  • Facilities: The Civil War Visitor Center has restrooms

For more information on Richmond National Battlefield Park, including directions, visitor information and hours of operation, visit their official website: http://www.nps.gov/rich