Yesterday my wife and I traveled to the Fort Harrison branch of the Richmond National Battlefield Park for a 33-mile tour – our longest tour yet. The weather was very pleasant with temperatures in the low 70’s and a light breeze. While at Fort Harrison I ran into Mike Andrus who is an employee with the Park Service. Mike and I were on a panel together last year at Virginia State University on African Americans in the Civil War. He has been working on a detailed history of U.S.C.T.’s at the battle of New Market. We rode out onto Kingsland Rd. and made our way towards Malvern Hill which served as our first break at mile 12. We stopped for a bit and I interpreted the site for my wife who actually knows quite a bit about the Civil War. This was my first trip to Malvern Hill since 2002 when I walked the battlefield as part of my research on Col. John Bowie Magruder and the 57th Virginia who took part in the battle. Magruder provides a detailed account of the battle and I was able to point out the spot to my wife where Magruder and the rest of his unit took cover during their advance.
From Malvern Hill we headed up the Willis Church Rd. and stopped for a few minutes at the Glendale Visitor Center and Cemetery. I’ve actually never stopped at this location so I decided to take a couple photographs. It is a very pleasant and peaceful spot; I was not aware that soldiers from other wars were also buried alongside those from the Civil War. The nicest part of this ride is the consistently flat terrain. Once on the Darbytown Rd it was smooth sailing for the next 12 miles. The roads are relatively quiet, but you do need to ride defensively. The final stretch runs along Osborn Turnpike and takes you right back to Fort Harrison. Much of the ride provides clear views of earthworks and the last few miles takes you by Forts Harrison, Johnson, and Hoke.
Once back at our car we loaded up the bikes and spent a few minutes walking through Fort Harrison. There were a number of reenactors camped inside the fort. I took a few pictures as they seemed to be looking for the attention. I struck up a conversation with one reenactor who was dressed in a Union uniform. I commented that it was nice to see a “Yankee” down here in these parts and he smiled and said that he was actually with the 15th Virginia. Of course, I should have known that there is always a shortage of Union reenactors, which he quickly confirmed. He was nice enough to take a photo with me.
All in all it was a great day. The legs were a bit sore, but I can definitely feel my stamina and energy increasing. The successful completion of a 40-50 mile tour doesn’t seem to be that far in the near future. I don’t know how I would organize it, but a quick look at the map suggests that a bike ride from Fort Harrison all the way up to Gaines’ Mill and Cold Harbor is feasible. The route would take me right through White Oak Swamp and over the Chickahominy River at the Grapevine Bridge. If only the nice weather sticks around for a few more weeks, anything is possible.