Lynchburg: Gateway to the Civil War Trail

Lynchburg Old City CemeteryCentral Virginia is spectacular any time of year. In the spring, the hills look like Monet paintings dotted with dogwood white, red bud fuchsia and forsythia yellow. Summer’s lush green hillsides sparkle with magnolias and a rainbow of crepe myrtles. Even the stark bare branches of winter and the glistening snow bring stunning serenity to the farmlands, towns and rolling hills. Yet it’s the fall when this region nears perfection with swaths of crimson leaves lined with gold under brilliant blue skies with cotton-ball clouds. The temperature is ideal in the mid-70s, the scenery is spectacular, and the summer crowds are gone.

Historic in scope and picturesque in setting, the small town of Lynchburg’s proximity to major historic sites and cultural attractions from the Civil War Trail make it an ideal hub for a visit to central Virginia. Nestled along the James River at the base of the Blue Ridge foothills,Lynchburg is just a stone’s throw from the Blue Ridge Parkway. The town boasts world-class dining, lodging and entertainment, six colleges and universities, and shopping opportunities from bazaars to malls to antiques to outlets.

Settled in 1757, Lynchburg bears the name of its founder, John Lynch, who at seventeen years of age started the first ferry service across the James River, connecting the small hamlet to New London. He later oversaw the building of the first bridge in the town. These two improvements put Lynchburg on the map and by the mid-nineteenth century, Lynchburg was an important center for shipping and trade. Tobacco had long been a major crop in the fertile farmlands surrounding Lynchburg, buoying the local economy and drawing textile and hard goods manufacturing to the area.

As the industrial revolution marched through, Lynchburg, drew more commerce and with it came families, houses and schools. Evidence of Lynchburg’s prosperous place in pre-Civil war America can be seen all over town, but especially in the elaborate mansions that top the “Seven Hills” area of Lynchburg.

The Craddock-Terry Shoe Company, a major influence in the manufacturing and commercial development of Lynchburg, reigned over the area for nearly 100 years. The company survived the depression and bounded back during the World War II years by making military boots. At the apex of its operation, Craddock-Terry was the number one employer in Lynchburg and the sixth largest shoe manufacturer in the world. The influence of Craddock-Terry is still seen in building and street names, and in the fabulous Craddock-Terry Hotel adjacent to the James River in downtown Lynchburg.

Within minutes from downtown Lynchburg are such historic sites as Appottomox Court House, where in 1865 General Lee surrendered his army to General Grant; Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest summer house; statesman Patrick Henry’s Red Hill estate; the Booker T. Washington National Monument, the Legacy Museum of African-American History; Museum of the Confederacy; the National D-Day Memorial, and many others.

Author: Carolyn Burns Bass

Carolyn Burns Bass is editor of Travel Ovations. Personal quote: "With a sword swallower for a father and a repentant chanteusse as a mother, how could I not become a writer?" Carolyn writes travel and lifestyle features for a myriad of publications, in addition to editing and publishing the literary website LitChat. Read more about her at

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