Named after the hometown of the Welsh builders and engineers who completed it in 1837, the Tredegar Iron Works was the largest iron works and munitions factory for the Confederacy during the Civil War and was the primary factor in the decision to move the Confederate capital from Montgomery, Alabama to Richmond, Virginia.
Today, Tredegar is home to the Richmond National Battlefield Park Visitors Center. Maps, artifacts, video, and activities inside the building highlight life in Civil War-era Richmond, making it a rich educational opportunity for NationsClassroom school groups.
In peacetime, Tredegar supplied the vast expansion of the railroads; in wartime, it manufactured half of the Confederacy’s artillery (more than 1,100 cannon) and made armor plating for Confederate naval gunboats, notably the ironclad warship CSS Virginia (the “Merrimack”).
As one of the few structures to survive the Union siege of Richmond at the end of the Civil War, Tredegar remained operational until a severe fire forced its closure in 1952. A few buildings were salvaged and restored, including the large 1861 cannon foundry.
(Check out our video overview of the American Civil War Museum here.)
Student groups visiting Richmond often want to include Tredegar Iron Works in their itinerary. The National Park Service hosts a variety of ranger-led educational programs suited for students from the elementary to the high school level. All are free, but require a reservation which can be arranged by your student travel consultant by phone or email. Be sure to give the following: name of school, contact person, phone number, grade level, number of students, desired program, date and time.
In the 30-minute long The Cannon’s Roar activity, students learn the significance of Civil War artillery by role-playing an eight-member artillery crew with an actual cannon made at the ironworks. The park ranger goes over the components of the cannon and instructs students on the process of loading and firing one.
Afterwards, students will usually embark on Treasures at Tredegar, a 35-minute scavenger hunt through the museum’s exhibits as to gain a better understanding of Richmond’s influence during the Civil War.
Student groups can also choose from the following activities:
The Common Soldier of the Civil War’s 45-minute long program in which students listen to stories from both Union and Confederate soldiers who fought in and around Richmond. A park ranger presents a duffel bag filled with uniforms, equipment, and gear related to a soldier’s everyday life.
In Mills, Waterwheels, and Raceways students participate in a tour by observing and studying canals, mills, raceways, and waterwheels.
Meet Mr. Lincoln is a two-hour interactive program where students study the life and Presidency of Abraham Lincoln.
Tredegar’s location, history, and resources definitely make it a perfect place to take students while visiting Richmond. It will enable them to relate to the city and its history, especially its Civil War history.
The SCHOOL TRIP SPOTLIGHT is written by NationsClassroom's expert, licensed guides and features exciting attractions from the most popular student travel destinations on the historic East Coast.
Originally published April 2019, updated September 2020.