Tuesday, Oct 13, 2009
On October 3rd, Petersburg National Battlefield opened its new visitor contact station at the Five Forks Battlefield. The event drew approximately 250 visitors to the new facility, located at 9840 Courthouse Road in Dinwiddie County.
Guest speakers included United States Congressman J. Randy Forbes, National Park Service Deputy Regional Director Mike Reynolds, Virginia House Delegate Rosalyn R. Dance, Dinwiddie County Board of Supervisors Chairman Donald L. Haraway, and Sailor’s Creek Battlefield Park Manager Chris Calkins. Petersburg National Battlefield Superintendent Bob Kirby provided the opening remarks and served as master of ceremonies.
The 2,400-square-foot visitor contact station, which is a modern interpretation of the tobacco barns that dotted the rural Virginia landscape, includes more exhibit space than the previous center. Parking has been greatly improved to easily accommodate full-size buses and recreational vehicles. An eight mile trail system also adds to the visitor experience by allowing visitors to see the battlefield by foot, bicycle or horse. A 1,600-square-foot maintenance facility has been constructed on the same grounds as the visitor contact station to enable park staff to maintain these new and improved resources.
The Battle of Five Forks occurred on April 1, 1865, when Union troops under the command of General Philip Sheridan attacked Confederate soldiers being led by General George Pickett. General Pickett had been told by General Robert E. Lee to “Hold Five Forks at all hazards.” Pickett’s men, positioned at the intersection of White Oak Road and Courthouse Road in Dinwiddie County, were all that stood between the Union troops and the South Side Railroad, Petersburg’s last remaining supply line. With all supply lines cut off, the Confederate troops surrendered Petersburg as well as Richmond. For these reasons, the Union victory at Five Forks was considered the “Waterloo of the Confederacy”. The new visitor contact station at Five Forks stands as a tribute to the significance of the Battle of Five Forks and will honor the men who fought, suffered, and died on behalf of the nation they believed in.
In addition to the grand opening, living history demonstrations and historical tours occurred throughout the weekend. Petersburg National Battlefield Superintendent, Bob Kirby stated, “Years of hard work and planning have paid off as we now have a facility worthy of a site where one of the most important battles of the Civil War took place. National Park Service staff members devoted much time and effort to complete this project so it was wonderful to see the support and positive feedback presented by community members who attended this very special event.”
Petersburg National Battlefield was established in order to commemorate the campaign, siege, and defense of Petersburg, Virginia, in 1864 and 1865 and to preserve for historical purposes the breastworks, earthworks, walls or other defenses or shelters used by the armies.