LAST UPDATED July 9, 2020
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
With over 1300, acres there’s a great opportunity to stretch your legs and take a nice hike.
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.