The opportunity to save a key piece of land between the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Courthouse, including the historic tavern location!
A ramshackle tavern sat at the intersection of the Brock and Catharpin Roads, an important road junction connecting the Wilderness to the county seat of Spotsylvania County, Spotsylvania Court House. The tavern carried the name of Charles Todd, who died about 1850. The Todd family had sold the property to Flavius Josephus Ballard about 1845. The tavern was no longer operating as a business in May 1864, and the buildings were deteriorating rapidly. But for the fact that a significant cavalry battle was about to rage there, there was little of interest about this unremarkable place. However, the arrival of the cavalry of the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac put this otherwise ordinary tavern on the radar screen of history.
The Battle of the Wilderness began on May 4, 1864, when Maj. Gen. George G. Meade’s 122,000-man Army of the Potomac blundered into Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in Saunders Field in the Wilderness adjacent to the Chancellorsville battlefield of a year earlier. The battle, fought primarily on May 5 and 6, was a bloody slugging match that ended largely as a draw. Lee believed that Grant would continue moving toward Richmond and shifted his army southward toward Spotsylvania Court House to block him.
Lee gave his cavalry chief, Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart, the task of delaying the Union advance. Grant instructed Maj. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan, commander of the Army of the Potomac’s Cavalry Corps, to cut the route that the Confederates would take to Spotsylvania and to seize and hold the crossroads at Todd’s Tavern. The opposing cavalry forces clashed at Todd’s Tavern at about 4:00 p.m. on May 7 and fought a severe engagement until after dark, when the Confederates retired. The battle resumed the next morning, with heavy losses on both sides and with the Confederate horsemen being slowly shoved back upon Spotsylvania. They were about to abandon the crossroads when the first elements of Lee’s infantry arrived, using a bridge that Sheridan had ordered his cavalry to destroy, ending the battle. Ultimately, the Confederates won the race to Spotsylvania Court House as a result.
The cavalry made a very handsome fight here this afternoon. We found the whole rebel cavalry here, Hampton's and Fitzhugh Lee's divisions, and drove them on the Spotsylvania road about 3 miles.
Maj. General Philip H. Sheridan in a report to Maj. General Andrew A. Humphreys, May 7, 1864
Off and on we drove them and they us. A very warm time indeed.
Lt. John Holtzman
the 4th Virginia Cavalry
In the summer of 2020, the owner of the Todd's Tavern parcel reached out to the preservation community looking to preserve the land. She said that it was important to her family, especially her late father, that this ground, so important to the story of America's history, remain undeveloped and preserved forever.
The Central Virginia Battlefields Trust, in partnership with the American Battlefield Trust, had a unique opportunity to save nearly the entirety of the Todd’s Tavern battlefield, which remains largely pristine. At stake was a 141 acre tract of land that was the site of the tavern and which saw the bulk of the cavalry battle.