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Special Tour at Petersburg National Battlefield Highlights Fortifications and Military Engineering

Petersburg National Battlefield

Fortifications at Petersburg National Battlefield. Photo by ken_lund via Creative Commons and flickr.

Do you know the difference between a parados and a banquette, or a bastion and a re-entrant? You'll get the answers during a special tour at Petersburg National Battlefield, which will explore military engineering and fortifications as they were employed during the siege of Petersburg.

“Picks and Shovels—Fortifications in the Siege of Petersburg"—will be conducted at the park on Saturday, January 16, 2010. During the full day "caravan tour," participants will follow along in their personal vehicles as Ranger Randy Watkins leads the group to a number of key locations in the park.

Sites visited will include the Howlett Line, Dantzler Battery, Forts Darling and Stevens on Bermuda Hundred and Fort Clifton in Colonial Heights. Petersburg area fortifications will include the Dimmock Line and later siege and defense lines around Petersburg, out to Hatcher’s Run and Confederate Fort Gregg on the far Confederate right flank.

Fortification schemes and construction techniques will be featured and compared with the little-known World War I trenches located on portions of the battlefield that were part of Camp Lee, now Fort Lee.


Petersburg National Battlefield commemorates the siege and defense of Petersburg, Virginia, in 1864 and 1865. According to park publications, the 292-day siege of Petersburg was the longest siege in American warfare. During the ten-month stalemate,

Union forces slowly cut off Petersburg from the world and brought about the fall of the Confederacy.

Only twenty-five miles south of Richmond, Petersburg was an important supply center to the Confederate capital. With its five railroad lines and key roads, both Grant and Lee knew if these could be cut, Petersburg could no longer supply Richmond with much needed supplies and subsistence. Without this Lee would be forced to leave both cities.


The siege began in June 1864 and ended on April 2, 1864, when Lee evacuated Petersburg. The final surrender at Appomattox Court House occurred a week later. During the siege, a dozen major engagements and over a hundred military actions were fought on a battlefield that eventually covered 176 square miles.

The eight-hour tour will begin at 9:00 a.m. on January 16 at the Eastern Front Visitor Center in Petersburg, Virginia. You'll find driving directions to that location and other destinations in the park at this link. A bag lunch, comfortable walking shoes and weather-appropriate clothing are encouraged.

The cost of the tour will be the normal per vehicle entrance fee of $5.00. Petersburg Annual Passes, Senior Passes, Access Passes, and NPS Annual Passes will be honored.

Pre-registration will be required since the tour capacity is ten vehicles. To pre-register, call 804-732-3531, ext. 205, prior to noon on Friday, January 15, 2010. When registering please provide your name, best telephone contact number, and e-mail address, if you have one, and the approximate number in your party. Your registration will be confirmed by telephone.


Similar tours in the past have attracted more registrations than can be accommodated, so if you're interested, sign up early. Registrants in excess of the tour limit will be placed on a waiting list pending cancellations. If there's sufficient demand, one or more additional caravan tours may be added later in the year. If you need additional information on the tour, call 804-732-3531, ext. 205, and Ranger Watkins will return your call as soon as possible.

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