In April 1862, the Confederate Army was entrenched in Yorktown, Virginia, as the Union Army began its Peninsula Campaign toward Richmond. A siege against the Confederate Army in Yorktown began on April 5th and ended with the Confederate withdrawal on the night of May 3rd.
Union forces garrisoned Yorktown for the remainder of the war and established a contraband community known as “Slabtown” on the Yorktown Battlefield in July 1863. By war’s end, over 600 Union soldiers were interred on the 1781 battlefield. In 1866, this “Union Cemetery,” became the nucleus of a new national cemetery, established as the final resting place for those Union soldiers who perished in the surrounding areas during the war.
On April 14th and 15th, the park comemmorated these Civil War events with special programming and the opening of new exhibits. As an American battlefield that witnessed sieges from two different wars, a program entitled "Artillery Through the Ages" was presented and featured reproduction and original cannons from the 17th to the 20th centuries. Volunteer living history groups and U.S. Army soldiers from nearby Fort Eustis demonstrated the firing of these weapons with an overview of the evolution of the weaponry provided by a ranger. Petersburg National Battlefield staff also assisted by bringing their education mobile for children and adults to learn more about the Civil War.
A new exhibit in the National Cemetery Lodge opened to the public. Funded by the recreational fee program, the exhibit focuses on Yorktown during the Civil War, the national semetery, and Slabtown and its place on the road to freedom for thousands of formerly enslaved African Americans. In addition, a new exhibit featuring artifacts from the Civil War era made its debut in the Yorktown Visitor Center.