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Spotsylvania County, VA
Created in 1721, Spotsylvania County was named after Alexander Spotswood, who served as lieutenant governor of the Virginia Colony from 1710 to 1720. A number of historic places dot the landscape of Spotsylvania County. These sites include the first commercially successful ironworks in North America, an attempted slave revolt in the 1810s and one of the most productive gold mines in the nation from the pre-1850s era.
Despite this rich history, the county is probably best-known for being the location of some of the most brutal battles of the Civil War. Spotsylvania County’s strategic location between the Confederate and Union armies made its land actively contested throughout the war. Combined, the Confederate and Union armies lost more than 100,000 troops to battles within Spotsylvania County lines.
Civil War Life Museum
—This museum shows the life of soldiers on both sides through an impressive collection of relics encompassing the full term of the soldier’s time in the army. The exhibits and life-size dioramas provide a look at the soldier’s life from enlistment to training camp and onto combat.
—The Battle of Chancellorsville involved more men and in turn more casualties than any other battle ever fought in the state of Virginia. It is considered Gen. Robert E. Lee’s greatest victory due to the daunting odds his army faced and the tactics he employed to overcome them. Today the battlefield is located within the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park and includes a visitor’s center, five walking trails, a self-guided driving tour and historian guided walking tours to the spot where Gen. “Stonewall” Jackson was injured.
Old Salem Church
—An important and often overlooked building from the Battle of Chancellorsville, the Old Salem Church is located nearby the battlefield in the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. It served both sides as a hospital during the battle. Also, during the Battle of Fredericksburg, the church was a civilian refugee center.
Spotsylvania Courthouse Battlefield
—Also located within the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, this battlefield marks the site of a bitter battle between North and South in May 1864. The fight lasted two weeks and featured brutal hand-to-hand combat. Two self-guided walking tours are available here and, while there is no visitor’s center, there are typically historians present to answer questions on most weekends in the spring and early fall and daily during the summer.