Abraham Lincoln said "War, at the best is terrible, and this war of ours, in its magnitude and duration, is one of the most terrible...It has destroyed property and ruined homes...it has carried mourning to almost every home, until it can almost be said that 'the heavens are hung in black.'"
The area surrounding Holliday Lake State Park was mostly impacted by the American Civil War in the last few days of the war. On the night of April 7, 1865, the Confederate troops camped at New Store. They were retreating to Appomattox to get much-needed supplies and food. The Union troops were hot on their heels, camping just a few miles to the East of them, at Clifton. Local legend says the Confederate troops marched just north of the park, while the Union troops marched just south, crossing the Appomattox River just south of the modern-day dam.
On their way to Appomattox Court House, they were tired and hungry. They would have raided homes and farm houses along the way looking for food. Some families willingly gave the soldiers food. Some were robbed. Being short on food and supplies themselves, the farmers were greatly affected by this. Giving up anything to the soldiers would have resulted in extreme sacrifice. In some cases, it would have meant starvation. The killing of one chicken by soldiers would mean less eggs (or no eggs) for the family, possibly their only source of protein.
After the surrender, soldiers were paroled and then they made their way home. Many passing by again on the land we call Holliday Lake State Park. Did they drink from the streams here? Camp on the hills? Did they snare or capture small game or eat a few berries? We can imagine them so close to the land, out in the open, sleeping under the stars.
If you'd like to learn more about the American Civil War, you should plan to visit Appomattox Court House National Historical Park and The Museum of the Confederacy when you stay at the park. Both are a wealth of information about the war, including what was happening on the home front.
The next time you are here, take a moment to think about those young men, fighting for what they believed in, often against friends or relatives on the other side. And also think about the families who were trying to keep farms running and their family safe without their husbands, fathers, brothers. Many never returned.
Drive Time: Northern Virginia, three and a half hours; Richmond, two hours; Tidewater/Norfolk/Virginia Beach, four hours; Roanoke, two hours. Click here for a map.