Before there was a Park
Before Lee Memorial Park was established, the lands around the park were privately owned and remained relatively undeveloped until the Civil War. During the siege of Petersburg in 1864, the Confederate army built a series of defensive earthworks along the contours above Willcox Branch, forming a segment of the famed Dimmock Line surrounding Petersburg. After the war, the presence of these historic earthworks helped to protect the surrounding lands from development for several decades. In 1893, the city of Petersburg bought 1,700 acres of private farmland, including the Willcox Branch watershed, to supplement its inadequate water supply. These lands included the 462 acres that would one day become Lee Memorial Park.
This map shows the relationship of Fort Walker and Battery Pegram to Lee Park and the City of Petersburg.
The map below shows the intersection of the 1864–65 Confederate defense lines around Petersburg with the area that is now Lee Memorial Park.
Pictured here is Brigadier General Reuben Lindsay Walker, for whom Battery 35, Fort Walker, is named. He initially served with the Richmond Purcell Battery, eventually reaching the rank of colonel, as chief of artillery with General A.P. Hill’s 3rd Corps. He was promoted to brigadier general of artillery February 18, 1865. After the war he farmed and worked with railroads throughout the country. He died on June 7, 1890.
On the right is Colonel William Johnson Pegram, for whom Battery 37 is named. He originally served with the Purcell Artillery early in the war. During the siege he commanded a battalion consisting of twenty guns under General R.L. Walker. “Willie,” as he was affectionally known, was mortally wounded in the Battle of Five Forks on April 1, 1865, and died the next day.