For Immediate Release: 03/30/12
Civil War Trust and Pamplin Historical Park Mark "Breakthrough" Anniversary with Trail Opening
New interpretive trail will connect properties, help visitors access pristine earthworks
(Petersburg, Va.) – On Saturday, March 31, the Civil War Trust, the nation’s largest battlefield preservation organization, and Pamplin Historical Park will unveil a new walking trail designed to help visitors more thoroughly explore the Petersburg Battlefield’s historic resources, including its nearly pristine earthworks. The new Jones Farm Loop Trail is a unique partnership between the two organizations; although based primarily on land owned by the Trust, the .8-mile spur is accessed from Pamplin’s Headwaters Trail, part of its extensive Breakthrough Trail system.
The trail traverses a portion of a 685-acre area of the Petersburg Battlefield purchased by the Trust in 2005 and features access to a pristine section of surviving earthworks associated with both the Battle of Jones Farm and the Breakthrough assault. It is the first time these trenches are available to the public, following decades of inaccessibility. Originally constructed by Confederate troops, these earthworks were captured by the Union on March 25, 1865, and then used as a springboard for the launch of the final, climactic assault on April 2.
“Pamplin Historical Park strives to bring the past to life for its visitors, a mission greatly enhanced through its outstanding network of trails,” said Trust president James Lighthizer. “The idea at the very heart of the Civil War Trust is that the best way to understand the action that occurred on a battlefield is to walk the land, and the Jones Farm Loop Trail will enable more people to access and appreciate this portion of the Petersburg Battlefield.”
Pamplin Historical Park executive director A. Wilson Greene agreed, emphasizing that such trails allow visitors to experience how both the natural landscape and any man-made alterations to it shaped the battle.
“Earthworks, such as those on the Jones Farm Loop Trail are among the most valuable battlefield features,” said Greene. “Soldiers didn’t just fight there: they lived there, warily eyeing the enemy just a few hundred yards away. More than just the scene of desperate and bloody fighting, this land witnessed bartering sessions between Union and Confederate soldiers, and hundreds of desertions by homesick and hungry Southerners.”
By late March 1865, the nine-month Petersburg Campaign was drawing to a close. Although little known today, the results of the March 25 Battle of Jones Farm influenced the Union Sixth Corps’s assaults on April 2. The Union assault launched from here pierced the Confederate line, giving that battle the dramatic appellation of the Breakthrough. The breach was exploited so successfully that by the following evening the Southern capital of Richmond had fallen to Union forces and the Army of Northern Virginia was retreating toward Appomattox.
The Civil War Trust is the largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization in the United States. Its mission is to preserve our nation’s remaining Civil War battlefields and to promote appreciation of these hallowed grounds through education and heritage tourism. Since 1987, the organization has helped save more than 30,000 acres of battlefield land in 20 states. Learn more by visiting www.civilwar.org, the home of the Sesquicentennial.