Appomattox Courthouse

Visiting The Historic Appomattox Courthouse National Historic Park

If you’ve read some of our other blog posts, you know that we love history and National Park’s of any kind. At Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia, you literally walk in history’s footsteps. 

The Village of Appomattox Courthouse was brought to the national forefront with Robert E. Lee’s formal surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia which was signed at the McLean House. Thousands of soldiers descended on Appomattox Courthouse and the time for healing began.

What was once a small village, Appomattox Courthouse became a National Historic Park in 1954.  

Appomattox Courthouse National Historic Park is open 9:00am – 5:00pm everyday except for Christmas Day, Thanksgiving Day and New Year’s Day. Best of all, there is no entrance fee! 

 There’s a Junior Ranger program that is fantastic for kids and the Rangers were knowledgeable, friendly and clearly had a passion for sharing the history of Appomattox Courthouse. 

We visited Appomattox Courthouse National Historic Park as part of a larger road trip through Virginia. To read about visiting the homes of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington click HERE 

Appomattox Courthouse National Historic Park Sign

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Appomattox Courthouse

Although the original courthouse was built in 1846, it burned down in 1892, but was quickly rebuilt. Now it’s the visitor’s center and museum.  A lot of people believe that the courthouse is where the terms of surrender took place, but that is incorrect. Since it was Palm Sunday, the Courthouse was closed so the actual meeting took place at the nearby McLean house. 

Tip: When the Park Rangers tell you that you can watch a movie on Appomattox, you’ll probably think “I don’t want to watch a boring movie”. Trust us and watch the short film as it’s incredibly well done and interesting. Our kids liked the film very much and it provided them with a  better sense of what they were going to see and why it’s so important to American history.

Appomattox Courthouse
black and white picture of civil war soldiers standing in front of appomattox courthouse
Photo of soldiers about 2 months after the Civil War's end. Photo courtesy of NPS
appomattox courthouse

Clover Hill Tavern

Built in 1819, Clover Hill Tavern is the oldest structure in the Village of Appomattox Courthouse. After the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, Federal Troops printed more than 30,000 Confederate paroles in just 26 hours. As a visitor, you can print a parole on the same type of printing press. Our boys really enjoyed doing that! 

old brick tavern
old sign for tavern hanigng on a fence

McLean House

On April 9th, 1865, the surrender at the McLean House in the small village of Appomattox Courthouse effectively ended the Civil War. Protocol at the time meant that Lee’s camp had to decide on a suitable place for the Generals to meet. Since it was Palm Sunday and the courthouse was closed, Wilmur McLean offered his own home and that’s where the terms of surrender were signed. 

After the War, the house was dismantled and was scheduled to be moved to Washington, D.C for display. That move never happened and the materials sat outside, unprotected for 50 years. The National Park Service worked to rebuild the house with as much of the remaining materials that were left. 

Due to World War II, the McLean house didn’t open until 1949. About 20,000 people were in attendance including Major General Ulysses S. Grant III and Robert E. Lee IV who cut the ceremonial ribbon.  

McLean House
historic marker sign for mclean house
wooden table inside mclean house
Replica table & chair inside the parlor at the McLean house. The originals are at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C

Other Buildings On The Property

The Woodson Law Office was originally built in 1854. Mr. Woodson died of typhoid fever in 1864 and the building was moved to be near the Plunkett-Meeks store sometime before 1874. 

small yellow house
Woodson Law Office

Built by John Plunkett in the 1850’s, the village’s general store was later purchased by Albert Meeks. Mr. Meeks was the postmaster, druggist and storekeeper. As such, Plunkett-Meeks was the social heart of this small village. I’m sure they had no idea how central a part that Appomattox Courthouse would play in effectively ending the Civil War. 

old building
Plunkett-Meeks Store

Construction on the New County Jail began in 1860, but did not finish until 1867 due to the Civil War. The District of Clover Hill used it as a polling place from 1892-1940.  

old brick jail
The "New" County Jail
The Peers House

Upcoming Events

September 27-28 8th Annual Lantern Tours
September 28 Public Lands Day
October 12 Storytelling around the campfire
October 12 Healthy Parks Healthy People Dog Walk 9:00 AM
October 19 Healthy Parks Healthy People Walk with a Doc – 9:30 to 10:30 AM
November 9 Healthy Parks Healthy People Dog Walk 9:00 AM
November 16 Healthy Parks Healthy People Walk with a Doc – 9:30 to 10:30 AM
December 8 Holiday Open House with SANTA!

Additional Things To Do Nearby

The home of Thomas Jefferson – Monticello, Virginia

American Civil War Museum – Appomattox

Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest – Forest, Virginia

The National D-Day Memorial – Bedford, Virginia

Red Hill Patrick Henry National Memorial – Brookneal, Virginia

The home of George Washington – Mount Vernon, Virginia

Colonial Williamsburg – Williamsburg, Virginia

The home of James Madison – Montpelier Station, Virginia

The home of James Monroe – Charlottesville,Virginia

University of Virginia – Charlottesville, Virignia

 

Hiking

With over 1300, acres there’s a great opportunity to stretch your legs and take a nice hike. 

hiking trail map

Final Thoughts

History doesn’t have to be boring and a visit to Appomattox Courthouse is anything but boring! Walking among the streets and buildings that Generals Lee & Grant walked as the end of the Civil War was looming was quite the experience. The Rangers are so well informed and the park has some amazing artifacts from the time that will certainly spur interest. Along with the buildings and visitor’s center, make sure to visit the gift shop and stamp your Park Passport and pick up a Christmas ornament for your family travel tree

Appomattox Courthouse also offers an interesting driving tour, hiking, birdwatching and additional guided programs. This is ideal for all types of travelers from history buffs to families and everyone in between. 

Travel Well, 

 

Nicole

This Post Has 18 Comments

  1. Ha! I’ve never heard about it before. Definitely something to add to the Civil War road trip we’ll need to do in a couple of years. Thank you!

    1. Sounds like a fun road trip! Definitely must include Appomattox Courthouse in a Civil War road trip. Come back and let
      us know how it went.

  2. This looks like a great day out! I must confess I don’t know much about American history so it would be extra interesting for me.

  3. This area of the US has a lot of history that I must admit, I don’t know a Tom about. But it seems like the kind of place where there’s lots to see and do, including Appomattox courthouse

  4. This is so cool, we’re actually heading to Virginia in a few weeks so I’ll def be looking into this!

  5. I love historical sites! It looks like Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia has so many great places to visit – and it’s perfect if you want to learn history while seeing the houses where various events took place!

  6. I’ve never heard of this place, but I love how in one trip you can mix history and nature. All those hiking trails look fantastic, and the historical buildings seem super interesting!

    1. Yes, fantastic area for hiking. Virginia is such a beautiful state and it’s a very peaceful place to walk.
      Plus, history is awesome and Appomattox Courthouse has it in spades. 🙂

  7. Love all the history here, my daughter would love to explore all these buildings!

    1. It’s a really neat place to visit, very family-friendly too!

  8. I love visiting historic sites so this sounds like such a cool place to visit! My boyfriend and I love taking weekend trips but Virginia isn’t a place we’ve really considered – I’ll have to suggest this as it’s not too bad of a drive from where we’re currently living!

    1. I hope you can. Virginia has so many historic sites that are well worth a visit.

  9. Interesting post! I’ll definitely check out the movie first if I go here! Also, I love that you added upcoming events and other things to do nearby, very nice touch 🙂

    1. Thank you so much Destiny!

  10. This place looks amazing! I feel like I’ve seen it in movies before, but not the one you’re referring to. It would be so interesting to visit one day 🙂

  11. Love this! As a history lover and teacher, Appomattox Courthouse has always been on my bucket list! We hope to travel there soon and hit other exciting historical places.

  12. I love learning about U. S. history but I would never have known about this place. An interesting piece of history for sure – if I ever find myself in Virginia I’ll for sure be visiting

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