Battles fought during the Civil War forever transformed the places where they occurred. Whether a sprawling, epic battle involving tens of thousands of troops or a small-scale skirmish with just a few dozen, the Virginia and North Carolina landscape is filled with reminders of the conflict that nearly tore the nation apart.
Today, those historic places remain, including throughout the Dan River Basin. Every county in the region bears some mark from the War Between the States.
Here is an incomplete list, by county or city:
Halifax County, Virginia
Staunton River Battlefield State Park preserves land around the site of the Battle of Staunton River Bridge, which took place in June 1864 when two Federal calvary regiments tried to destroy the bridge in an attempt to sever the Richmond and Danville Railroad. A small Confederate regiment and 600 locals fought back, eventually repulsing the Federals. According to James “Bud” Robertson’s “Civil War Sites in Virginia,” “A modern metal trestle now stands at the site, but remnants of earthworks exist along the river’s edge. On the lawn of the Legion Hall in downtown South Boston is the barrel of one of the Confederate cannon used in the engagement.”
Person County, North Carolina
Person County supplied hundreds of troops to the Confederate cause, and like many southern communities, its economy suffered during the conflict. It was the birthplace of Edwin G. Reade, a Roxboro lawyer who served in Congress in the 1850s and in the Confederate Congress during the war. He advocated for state officials meeting with Federal representatives in 1863, and two years later opened the Constitutional Convention in Raleigh. At the court house in Roxboro, you can find a monument, erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1922, that is topped by a statue of Capt. E. Fletcher Satterfield, who was killed on July 3, 1863, at Gettysburg.
Danville, a city on the south end of the county, was the western terminus of the Richmond and Danville Railroad, which was a crucial supply chain for Confederate forces. The city was an important supply base. Near the end of the war, six of the city’s storied tobacco barns were used as prisons for captured Federal soldiers, many of whom died there. After Robert E. Lee’s lines around Richmond and Petersburg broke, Danville briefly became the third—and final—capital of the Confederacy. You can visit the Danville Museum of Fine Arts and History, which was home to Maj. William T. Sutherlin, who was a Confederate quartermaster, as well as Jefferson Davis during the week of April 3-10, 1865. Several blocks away, find Danville National Cemetery, home to 1,100 Federal soldiers who died as prisoners of war. Two of the six former prisons still stand as well, although Robertson’s “Civil War Sites in Virginia” advises visitors to obtain local help in finding them.
Caswell County, North Carolina
The courthouse in Yanceyville was completed in 1861, at the dawn of the Civil War. The courthouse was the site of the murder of John “Chicken” Stephens, a white, Republican state senator popular with African Americans, by the Ku Klux Klan in 1870. That led Republican Governor William W. Holden ordering the assembling of a militia, which resulted in about 100 arrests and a battle with the Klan in when became known as the Kirk-Holden War. Another Civil War site is the Woodside Inn, a manor house available for overnight stays that once housed Confederate Major General Stephen Dodson Ramseur as he recovered from wounds at Malvern Hill and Chancellorsville. Ramseur eventually fought in the 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign before being fatally wounded at Cedar Creek.
Henry County, Virginia
Martinsville’s Courthouse Square was the site of one of the last engagements of the Civil War in Virginia. Early on the morning of April 8, 1865, Union Colonel William J. Palmer’s Tenth Michigan Cavalry encountered Confederate Colonel James T. Wheeler’s troopers at Henry Court House. Palmer’s troops were part of the First Brigade of General George Stoneman’s command and Stoneman’s Raid through parts of Virginia and North Carolina in the spring of 1865. The site is marked by an interpretive sign that’s part of the Virginia Civil War Trails Program.
Rockingham County, North Carolina
Rockingham County saw no large troop movements or battles, but has seven markers on the North Carolina Civil War Trail. One marks the birthplace of Alfred M. Scales, who served in the state legislator and Congress in the 1850s before becoming a Confederate brigadier general who led five regiments. A home two miles east of Madison was the site of Stephen Douglas’ 1847 marriage; Douglas went on to lose to Abraham Lincoln in the 1860 presidential race. Another Civil War marker can be found in Eden at the Leaksville Cotton Mill, which produced cloth for Confederate uniforms and tents early in the war.
Patrick County, Virginia
No battles occurred in the county and Federal troops only invaded the county once, but like many other southern counties, it was disrupted as many of its men went off to fight, while its agriculture and industry suffered. The county is home to the birthplace of Confederate Major General J.E.B. Stuart, at Laurel Hill in Ararat. In October each year, Laurel Hill hosts a Civil War Reenactment and Living History Weekend, with battle reenactments, live period music, and more.
Franklin County, Virginia
No Civil War battles were fought in Franklin County, but it was home to two national leaders— Confederate General Jubal A. Early, whose home place is on the National Register of Historic Places, and future educator and leader Booker T. Washington, who was born a slave on a plantation that is also on the National Register and is managed by the National Park Service as a national monument. Visitors to Booker T. Washington National Monument, near Smith Mountain Lake, will find a visitors center, reconstructions of the nineteenth century farm buildings, an 1850’s tobacco barn, active gardens, fields, and farm animals and interpretive staff.
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