High Bridge Trail State Park - Background

Background

High Bridge had been built in 1854 across the Appomattox River connecting Petersburg to Lynchburg. The bridge is 2,400 feet (730 m) long and ranges from 60 to 125 feet (18 to 38 m) high. It was originally made of wood, standing on 21 brick piers and included a pedestrian walkway next to the tracks and a nearby wagon bridge. During the American Civil War, both Union and Confederate forces attempted to destroy the bridge to their advantage. Confederates succeeded in setting the bridge on fire, but the fire apparently self-extinguished, and the bridge was not repaired until 5 months later. After the Battle of High Bridge and his surrender at Appomattox, Robert E. Lee told the very men who had destroyed the bridge – including civil engineer Major General William Mahone – to go home and start its rebuilding.

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