Sailor’s Creek Battlefield State Park

So it’s been a long time since I’ve updated the blog. A really long time. Almost ten months to be exact. Any parents who are reading will know that a lot can happen in ten months. In this case, the past ten months provided us with enough time to become parents again! Daughter #2 was born at the end of September of 2021.

I initially stopped writing because morning sickness left me feeling pretty miserable. When I finally felt better, I was still in the throes of virtual teaching. Then summer arrived, and when we weren’t traveling out of state to visit family and friends, I was doing consulting work for a television-based curriculum company. I also grew bigger, warmer, and more uncomfortable by the day. Before I knew it, I was diving into the new school year, and just a few weeks later daughter #2 arrived a month early. That’s when the real roller coaster began. In other words, it’s been a crazy year.

Here are some of Daughter #2’s New Year’s Resolutions. Mine are to visit new-to-us destinations in VA and update this blog more frequently. Fingers crossed!

Now that 2022 has arrived and I am emerging from the fog of the fourth trimester, I really want to get back to our family adventures – both experiencing them and writing about them. Before we embark on new journeys (and we already have a couple on the agenda!), I do want to highlight some of our past experiences, especially at different Virginia State Parks. We are still very much invested in the Trail Quest program, especially now that my friend who inspired me just visited her 41st and final park with her family – congrats, Heather! I am aware that having a baby in tow will result in slower progress, but we’ll make it happen. In any case, now that I’ve rambled on excessively for several paragraphs, I will finally move on to today’s subject: Sailor’s Creek Battlefield State Park.

Obligatory park sign photo

We wandered over to Sailor’s Creek on a rainy day in March of 2021. It is located in Rice, VA, which is a prime spot for exploring several state parks (we visited High Bridge Trail State Park and Twin Lakes State Park on the same trip). The park itself spans approximately 321 acres, which makes up about a quarter of the Sailor’s Creek Battlefield. Its trails are short and sweet, ranging in length from 0.1 to 0.9 miles, and only two are considered Moderate while the rest are labeled as Easy.

The park’s location in relation to other local natural and historical sites

Although we have visited other state parks with historical structures or exhibits, Sailor’s Creek is the first one we’ve been to whose main focus is preserving and retelling a portion of Virginia’s history (and there are more of these – we just haven’t gotten there yet!). As its full name implies, this park is first and foremost a Civil War battlefield. As a graduate of Gettysburg College, I am no stranger to battlefields, but I must admit that I had no knowledge of the significance of the battle at Sailor’s Creek until our visit. It turns out that this was the site of the Union army’s last major victory over the Confederates, prior to Lee’s surrender in nearby Appomattox Courthouse just a few days later.

The rolling landscape punctuated by old-fashioned fencing reminded me a bit of Gettysburg.

Our first stop was the park’s Visitor’s Center, which housed a thorough little museum. The well-lit space was lined with thoughtfully curated exhibits that narrated everything from the events leading up to the battle to the surrender at Appomattox. The staff wore clothing of the era and knowledgeably answered our questions as we explored.

Though we hoped to spend time on the trails, the rain had really picked up by this point, so we opted instead to hop in and out of our car at points of interest. One of the employees at the visitor’s center gave us a driving map of Lee’s Retreat to help us out. Since Lee’s Retreat covers a large span that stretches way beyond the park (see the map I included above), we opted for three close-by spots along the parkland.

First, we visited Hillsman House. As the sign explains, this farmhouse served as a hospital during the battle. While it was closed during our visit, the park does offer guided tours. We peeked through the window and spotted traditional 19th century furniture and amenities. This stop had a designated parking lot and a cute little picnic area. It was our favorite of the three stops we made.

Hillsman House can be seen in the background.

Then we stopped at Holt’s Corner. This intersection was where the Confederate Army encountered the Union Army and were subsequently attacked. Today, there isn’t much to see, but there is a sign there explaining its significance.

A rainy day at Holt’s Corner

Finally, we circled back and checked out Marshall’s Crossroads on our way out of the park. At this spot, more of Lee’s army were attacked by Union soldiers on horseback.

Reading the sign at Marshall’s Crossroads

Although the weather prevented us from enjoying the outdoors or visiting more points of interest, we still enjoyed our morning at Sailor’s Creek Battlefield State Park. We learned a lot about the final days of the Civil War, so it is definitely a worthwhile destination for history buffs. Let me know in the comments if you have visited this park or other stops along the Lee’s Retreat Trail!

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