The exhibit Duty Called Me Here: The Common Soldier's Experience in the American Civil War at the National Museum of the Civil War Soldier at Pamplin Historical Park employs artifacts, interactive exhibits, life-size murals and dioramas, and an audio tour with a 'soldier comrade' to reveal the everyday lives of Civil War soldiers. This is the story of the soldiers' experience not on the battlefield, but off the battlefield in their daily lives at camp, marching to battle and recovering from the horrors of battle.

Civil War soldiers spent the many days between battles in camp whittling away at the monotony with daily marching and drilling, receiving, organizing and stocking food, supplies and weapons, cooking, eating, playing cards, gambling a little, writing letters home, eagerly awaiting news from home, even hoping for a visit from a loved one - a wife, a sister or a mother - and trying to avoid the rampant diseases of the crowded camps.

On long days spent marching to battle columns of men, wagons and horses carrying artillery and supplies moved slowly along poor, narrow dirt roads upon which men choked from dust in summer and slid on mud in winter. Their heavy packs were loaded down with equipment, supplies and rations. When their shoes wore out, they marched barefoot, even in winter. They were often stumped by unknown terrain and unreliable maps. They were often stopped by rivers needing bridges to be built for crossing. Along the march some men fell out of ranks to forage for food and supplies while others fell out in desertion.

At the end of bloody battles triage called for hasty, crude medical procedures to be performed in unsanitary conditions. More soldiers died from disease and infection than from gunfire during the Civil War. For the men still standing after battle was left the task of burying the dead. During burials soldiers searched the faces of the fallen for men they knew so they could bury them properly in marked graves. Yet, most could not be identified and they were buried in mass, unmarked graves.

The powerful exhibits at the National Museum of the Civil War Soldier include the Trial By Fire battlefield simulation as well as nearly 1,000 artifacts including battle flags, uniforms, weapons, haversacks and mess kits. Allow plenty of time to see all of the life-size and multi-media exhibits and original artifacts. For those requiring accessibility assistance, wheelchairs are available by request at the front desk.

Included in the price of admission to the museum are outdoor exhibits including a recreated Civil War encampment and fortifications as well as the Battlefield Center and Petersburg Breakthrough Battlefield Trail that passes by nearly a mile of impressive, well-preserved Confederate fortifications.

Pictured at the top: A life-size sculpture at the entrance to the Museum of the Civil War Soldier depicts camp life of Civil War soldiers.

Pamplin Historical Park

In addition to the Museum of the Civil War Soldier, Pamplin Historical Park features an artillery display and recreated fortifications.

Pamplin Historical Park

Once the site of raging battle, the Petersburg Breakthrough Battlefield Trail at Pamplin is now a peaceful forest walk.

Historical Photo

Civil War Soldier Camp

Camp in front of Petersburg, Va., 1861-1865 (Library of Congress)