On April 6, 1865, the same day as the Confederate defeat and capture of one-fourth of Robert E. Lee's Army of Nothern Virginia at Sailor's Creek, the Union cavalry attempted to set fire to High Bridge to keep the retreating Confederates on the south side of the Appomattox River and away from Farmville where rations awaited. The Confederate cavalry arrived and waged an attack in which almost all of the 800 Union troops were captured or became casualties. The following day, the Confederates crossed the bridge and then set fire to it behind them. The Union arrived and extinguished the blaze. Only four spans were burned, and the bridge was later repaired. Meanwhile, the Union crossed the wagon bridge beneath High Bridge, which had not been burned, and pursued the Confederates to the final stop of a long, tragic journey - Appomattox.

Visiting the High Bridge Battlefield

Your best bet to tour the Battle of High Bridge is to start at the High Bridge Trail parking lot off River Road in Farmville. There is a restroom here and a fee for parking on weekends. It's a one-mile walk out to the High Bridge, and the span of the bridge itself is one-half mile, making a 3-mile round trip. The trail is level and consists of gravel and wood plank. High Bridge is a multi-use hiking, cycling and equestrian trail, although riders must dismount horses and walk them across the bridge. The bridge offers magnificent views of the Appomattox River and Southside Virginia, and there are seating areas on which you can sit and relax and enjoy the view.

The original High Bridge was built by the South Side Railroad in 1853, completing the railroad's line between Petersburg and Lynchburg. The bridge was 125 feet high, a half a mile long, and built on 20 brick piers. At the time, High Bridge was considered an engineering marvel and the largest bridge in the world. A new bridge supported by steel towers was built after the Civil War, but it was decommissioned in the early 20th century. In 2006, the High Bridge found new life as the crowning feature of High Bridge Trail State Park.

Visit Civil War Trust for battle details and information about the preservation of this battlefield.

Pictured at the top: High Bridge crosses the Appomattox River near Farmville. The brick piers of the original bridge dating back to the Civil War era consist of nearly four million bricks and remain intact next to the steel supports of the new bridge.

high bridge trail sunset couple walking

At 125 feet above ground and a half-mile long, High Bridge is just above the tree tops and offers romantic views of Southside Virginia.

high bridge trail sunset

High Bridge is a multi-use hiking, biking and equestrian trail.

Historical Photo

high bridge appomattox

High bridge, Appomattox, Va. Timothy O'Sullivan, 1865 (Library of Congress)