Make a day of it

Published 9:31 pm Wednesday, March 11, 2015

It might not get the press of Gettysburg, Fort Sumter or Appomattox Court House, but Suffolk played an important role in the Civil War that can’t be ignored by any self-respecting historian.

This Friday and Saturday, homage will be paid to that history with the visit of the Civil War 150 HistoryMobile, a traveling project of the Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission. The 53-foot expandable tractor-trailer will present the viewpoints of all who experienced the Civil War in Virginia through a variety of interactive exhibits.

The HistoryMobile has been touring Virginia for the past several years and is scheduled to wrap up its tour in 2016. Its visit to Suffolk is thanks to an application by the city’s Division of Tourism.


Email newsletter signup

But the fun will extend beyond the trailer on both Friday and Saturday, as many other historic sites in the city are getting in on the action.

Right next door to the Visitor Center, where the HistoryMobile will be parked, is Riddick’s Folly, which played a central role in the Civil War in Suffolk. During the Union occupation of the city, it was the headquarters of Maj. Gen. John J. Peck, who commanded the forces occupying Suffolk.

The Folly will offer tours both days and have Civil War re-enactors on the grounds on Saturday.

Also getting in on the act is the Suffolk Seaboard Station Railroad Museum, which will offer tours both days. Although the Civil War predates construction of the train station, the museum tells the story of how the city flourished following the war, thanks in no small part to the railroads that criss-crossed it.

Tours to the Great Dismal Swamp Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Pavilion will be offered both days, giving a look at how the swamp served as an essential part of the path to a better life for thousands of runaway slaves from the South. Also in the swamp will be tours to the Washington Ditch area.

Historian Kermit Hobbs will examine the Battle of Suffolk through the letters of soldiers, and a genealogy workshop by the Daughters of the American Revolution also is planned. Downtown narrated bus tours and ghost walks round out the offerings.

Anyone of any age who’s wanted to learn more about the history of their city or about the Civil War in general would be well served to come to downtown Suffolk on Friday or Saturday. Take in lunch at a downtown restaurant and make a day of it.