Friday, Jun 29, 2012
Since Saturday, June 23rd, more than 4,500 visitors have attended events at Richmond National Battlefield Park commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Seven Days’ Battles. Commemorative events will continue through this coming Sunday.
From June 26 to July 1, 1862, the Union and Confederate armies of George B. McClellan and Robert E. Lee fought five major battles over the fate of the Confederate capital of Richmond, a series of engagements known as the Seven Days’ Battles, which drove the Union army from the gates of Richmond, but at a cost of more than 35,000 combined casualties.
The Union army’s failure to take Richmond increased the momentum in the North for an emancipation proclamation, and hundreds – possibly thousands – of enslaved African Americans escaped to the promise of freedom behind Union lines during the campaign.
The park held a living history and anniversary weekend at Gaines’ Mill this past Saturday and Sunday. More than 75 living history volunteers, representing Union and Confederate infantry, artillery and cavalry, as well as civilians, provided demonstrations of battlefield tactics and held discussions of life in and around Civil War Richmond. The displays also included the Union balloon corps of Professor T.C.S. Lowe, which was recreated on the battlefield a short distance from where the Union observation balloon went aloft on the morning of June 27, 1862, to scout the Confederate positions and movements towards the battlefield.
Along with the living history demonstrations, ranger guided walking tours of the site emphasized both the military actions of the campaign and their impact on the civilian population of the area – both free and enslaved.
On Saturday evening, park staff, in partnership with the American Civil War Center and with support from Fredericksburg NMP, presented “Voices from the Storm – Richmond, 1862,” a special outdoor multimedia program that utilized images and quotations of Union and Confederate soldiers, Richmond civilians and enslaved African Americans to present insights into their struggles and hopes, and the transformations that occurred in and around the Confederate capital during the momentous events of the summer of 1862.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the 150th anniversaries of the battles of Beaver Dam Creek and Gaines’ Mill, the park conducted a series of real-time tours and programs at each of the sites, designed to coincide with the actual time at which the historic events unfolded a century and a half earlier. The anniversary events climaxed on June 27th at Gaines’ Mill with a commemorative address by NPS Chief Historian Emeritus Ed Bearss and the playing of “Taps” over the battlefield.
Planning and execution of the anniversary programs were hampered considerably by severe storms that blew through the Richmond area on Monday, downing trees and power lines throughout the area and forcing the closure of both the Beaver Dam Creek and Gaines’ Mill park sites just hours ahead of the anniversary programs. Park staff cleared trees and storm debris from the sites in order to get them open in time for the planned events.
Anniversary programming at Richmond NBP continues this Saturday and Sunday with commemorations of 150th anniversary of the Battles of Glendale and Malvern Hill, the final two of the Seven Days’ Battles.