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160th Anniversary of the Overland Campaign
May 3 @ 8:00 am - May 5 @ 5:00 pm
In May 2024 Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park will commemorate the 160th anniversary of the beginning of the Overland Campaign from May 3 to May 5, 2024. All programs will be free and open to the public.
The anniversary will feature a special virtual talk featuring historian Drew Gilpin Faust on the evening of May 3, 2024. Dr. Faust is a professor, former president of Harvard, and the author of six books including This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War. This talk will draw on Dr. Faust’s vast expertise in Civil War memory and her examination of American cultural change around death in the Civil War, highlighting the scale of casualties suffered in the spring of 1864.
Anniversary programming from May 3-5, 2024 will included opportunities for people of all ages and interests to explore, discover, and reflect on these events that shaped us into who we are today.
- On Friday, May 3 remember the Battle of the Wilderness with day-long programming at Ellwood, two battlefield hikes, and the virtual talk with Dr. Faust in the evening.
- Saturday, May 4 join park staff for a day of family and community programming centered around the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House at the Bloody Angle. Programs will include pop-up tents, children’s activities, two battlefield hikes, and an evening talk.
- On Sunday, May 5 we will be wrapping up the weekend with a hike on the Spotsylvania Battlefield in the morning and a tour of the hospitals of Fredericksburg in the afternoon.
In addition to the anniversary weekend, other May programming will focus on the 160th anniversary. Join us on May 11, 2024 for a quieter, more reflective day at the Bloody Angle. On May 18, the 2024 History at Sunset programs will kick-off with a program at the Spotsylvania Battlefield.
A detailed schedule of events will be published in March 2024.
About the Overland Campaign
In the spring of 1864, the American Civil War entered its third year with no end in sight. The United States had fully embraced a policy of emancipation, but it was unclear what, exactly, freedom meant. An upcoming US election pressured Lincoln to demonstrate progress in the war and gave Confederates hope that a different US president might accept the Confederacy. The US Army had a new commander, General Ulysses S. Grant.
Beginning with the Battle of the Wilderness, the US and Confederate armies clashed again and again throughout May and June 1864. The constant fighting resulted in the US Army advancing slowly against Confederate forces, but came with a steep cost in casualties.The Overland Campaign tested the both the endurance of soldiers to continue fighting and the will of the public to continue supporting the war. The future of American democracy was at stake, but the outcome of the war was undetermined. What kind of nation would emerge from this violence?
The events that played out in Virginia in 1864 had a lasting impact beyond the Civil War and the Fredericksburg area.