On May 29, 1864, the Union army reached Totopotomoy Creek and the family home of Patrick Henry's wife, Sarah, on Patrick Henry's birthday. Union troops drew inspiration from the Shelton home's connection to the Revolutionary War patriot and orator who declared 'Give me liberty or give me death!', even as the Shelton family hid in the basement and Union troops scarred their fields with entrenchments and signalmen directed artillery fire from their rooftop.

The Confederate army was entrenched on the south side of Totopotomoy Creek blocking the Union advance to Richmond. Several days of skirmishing and Union attempts to cross the creek ended in a draw, and Grant abandoned the site, pressing on to Cold Harbor.

Visiting the Totopotomoy Battlefield

Your best bet to tour The Battle of Totopotomoy is to start the Totopotomoy Creek Battlefield at Rural Plains. There is a kiosk with interpretive signs and a park brochure and trail map at the car park. The trail is an easy, scenic hike that can be done as a 1-mile or 2-mile round-trip if you go all the way down to the creek itself. There are numbered signs along the trail that correspond to stops in the park brochure describing actions during the battle. A scenic foot bridge crosses Totopotomoy Creek, and Confederate entrenchments are visible on an unmarked trail on private property on the other side of the bridge.

Scotchtown, the marital home of Patrick Henry and Sarah Shelton, is located about a half hour northwest of Totopotomoy. Preservation Virginia has restored the original ca. 1719 home and provides a tour of the home, a cell-phone audio walking tour of the grounds, picnic area, recreated gardens and outbuildings, and a gift shop.

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

Pictured at the top: The Rural Plains and Totopotomoy Creek Trail is an easy, scenic 2-mile round-trip walk on a mowed grass track that takes you past the house and down to the creek and a scenic footbridge. Built in 1723, the Shelton House remained in the family for nearly 300 years before becoming part of the Battlefield Park in 2006. It is said that Patrick Henry married Sarah Shelton in the first-floor parlor of the house.

totopotomy creek bridge

The walking trail at Totopotomoy Creek follows the Union army's path down to the creek. A scenic foot bridge crosses the creek.