Step back in time at the site of the Battle of the Wilderness between Spotsylvania County and Orange County. Several generations of historical markers mark important locations on the auto tour, including Ellwood Manor, where Grant made his headquarters and where General Stonewall Jackson received his wounds at Chancellorsville.

A national battlefield preservation nonprofit is challenging an Orange County planning board’s approval of a massive development on a historic site adjacent to the Wilderness Battlefield. Learn more here.


The Wilderness Battlefield is located near the Chancellorsville and Spotsylvania Court House battlefields in central Virginia. The battlefield was the opening phase of Grant’s Overland Campaign, and some historians believe it marked the beginning of the end of the Confederacy.

Federal forces marched south from Gettysburg, through a forested region known as the Wilderness, to get on General Lee’s vulnerable flank at Orange Court House. The fighting here was intense, despite the Union’s numerical advantage. Battles raged in Saunders Field and along the Orange Plank Road on May 5, 1864, and again at the Brock/Plank Road intersection the following day.

The Wilderness Battlefield is also home to Ellwood Manor, a plantation from the 1700s that was used as a Union headquarters during the battles of Chancellorsville and the Wilderness. The ruins are open seasonally for special exhibits and tours.

Tour Stops

The Wilderness Battlefield is part of the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Battlefield Park, which commemorates four important American Civil War battles. The park’s many monuments and markers remind visitors of the terrible cost of this bloody conflict that claimed a million lives.

A driving tour of the battlefield can be conducted from the Wilderness Battlefield Exhibit Shelter or the Chancellorsville Visitor Center on Plank Road. The driving tour includes 8 stops that highlight the two-week fight, with a climactic battle at the Bloody Angle, tour stop 3.

Start your drive at Grant’s Headquarters, Tour Stop One on the auto tour. From a roadside pull-off, take a short trail to the knoll where General Ulysses S Grant set up camp during the battle. The Orientation Marker beside the pull-off gives you an overview of this area’s importance during the battle. A series of cast bronze compasses – Stop Three and Eight on the Auto Tour – also give you distance and direction to key battlefield sites. Explore more!


The Wilderness Battlefield is a “Class A” battlefield in the Congressional Civil War Sites Advisory Commission’s highest preservation priority category. The development proposal threatens the battlefield’s historic character and imposes a new road through lands that Congress has designated as worthy of perpetual protection.

The Battle of the Wilderness was fought in early May 1864 as part of Grant’s Overland Campaign. The field was rugged terrain that proved to be a real challenge for both sides, as they struggled to maneuver through the thick underbrush.

The main entrance to the park is on Constitution Highway, Virginia Route 20, which was known as Orange Turnpike during the Civil War. Parking is available in the lot to the left of the Exhibit Shelter. Follow the signs to the tour stops. The Battlefield Exhibit Shelter is Stop Two of the tour. The Hill-Ewell Drive is Stop Three of the tour. A paved path allows visitors to access the Hill-Ewell Drive and other markers on the battlefield.


In 2012 the Wilderness Battlefield Coalition and Hill Studio completed a study of the battlefield gateway area – a long-term effort to identify preservation-friendly development patterns that support heritage tourism, enhance economic vitality, and serve residents in eastern Orange County. This multi-year, intensive community discussion resulted in a consensus-based Preferred Development Plan for the Wilderness Gateway region.

Start the tour from the National Park Service’s Wilderness Battlefield Exhibit Shelter, located at 35347 Constitution Highway in Locust Grove. This facility is not staffed and does not have water or indoor restrooms.

A massive residential and commercial development is planned at the entrance to the battlefield, where it would impact adjacent core battlefield land and loom over Congressionally authorized boundaries for Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania Battlefields National Military Park. This development will increase traffic, strain local roads, and impose significant infrastructure costs that will disproportionately affect current residents. The public can speak out to urge the county to adhere to its guidance for development in this sensitive and historic area. Check this helpful information.



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