Historic Tredegar


Open Daily  10:00AM–5:00PM

480 Tredegar St.
Richmond, VA 23219
(Get Directions)

804–649–1861 ext. 100

At the American Civil War Museum at Historic Tredegar

Two floors of exhibits will take you on a journey from the very beginning of the Civil War to Reconstruction and beyond. Located in downtown Richmond on the James River, the museum sits on the site of the Tredegar Iron Works. Cannons made at Tredegar fired the first shots of the Civil War at Fort Sumter. The thick armor plating that protected the ironclad CSS Virginia (Merrimack) during its fight with the Monitor was rolled at Tredegar. More than half of the cannon used by the Confederate army were cast here.

Parking is available on site and is free with Museum admission.
Please allow approximately two hours for your visit to Historic Tredegar.

Richmond, Va. View of the Tredegar Iron Works, with footbridge to Neilson’s Island

It all started in 1837, when the first iron forge and rolling mill were built on this site. The vast iron-making machinery ran on water power supplied from raceways fed by the Kanawha canal, turning a 22-foot overshot water wheel and a 15-foot, 6-ton, cast iron flywheel.

Joseph Reid Anderson, a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, was hired as a purchasing agent for the iron works in 1841, at the age of 28. He used his military acquaintances to secure government contracts for ordnance and cannon. In a few short years, he was running the place. By 1849, he owned the foundry. Between 1844 and 1860, Tredegar produced 881 cannons for the Federal government. Besides government ordnance, Tredegar made products to support the booming railroad industry: railroad spikes, rails, and axles.

In 1852, Anderson added a boiler and locomotive shop. The iron works continued to grow and by 1860 had a workforce of about 250, including 100 enslaved workers. Increasingly, enslaved laborers were used to fill the positions created by the expanding iron works. During the Civil War, Tredegar produced more than half of the cannons used by the Confederacy and the armor plating used on the new ironclad ships. It had a workforce of more than 1,500 men, half of whom were enslaved and worked in the foundry, the machine shops, and as boatmen in Tredegar’s bateau fleet, transporting supplies along the canals.

Tredegar continued operations after the war making products for the railroad industry and munitions for both world wars. With increasing competition and the inability to make the necessary upgrades for full scale steel production, Tredegar Iron Works ceased operations in 1957.

Current Exhibits

Robins Theater & Original Film:
“A People’s Contest: America’s Civil War and Emancipation”

During Museum hours, visitors will have the opportunity to view the original film “A People’s Contest: America’s Civil War and Emancipation”, which is just under thirteen minutes in length. This film was developed to inspire an understanding of the motivational causes, course, and consequences of the War, and compliments the ACWM flagship exhibit, A People’s Contest: Struggles for Nation & Freedom in Civil War America.With an original script and musical score, the film reflects themes of the Museum’s flagship exhibit by presenting distinctive and unexpected elements.

The immersive short-film A People’s Contest: America’s Civil War & Emancipation is an indispensable part of the visitor experience designed to inspire an understanding of the motivational causes, course, and consequences of the American Civil War.

A People’s Contest
Struggles for a Nation and Freedom in Civil War America

Our new permanent, core exhibit, A People’s Contest: Struggles for Nation and Freedom in Civil War America, features hundreds of original artifacts, dynamic theater experiences and compelling imagery. Visitors will be able to explore, understand and feel the dramatic story of the American Civil War and its legacies.

Organized chronologically as well as by topic, each gallery within the exhibit explores an aspect of the War that occurred during the 1850’s and 1860’s. Political developments are interwoven with civilian experiences and military events, providing multiple perspectives in a multifaceted manner. Technology is used selectively to impact the visitors’ experience and encourage their engagement with artifacts and images.

If you have a young person who wants to explore the Civil War, ask for one of our I am Harriet Tubman Family Packs, inspired by the book by Brad Meltzer. Follow Harriet’s lanterns as she lights the way to freedom and work on activities to uncover empowering stories from the War.
Recommended for ages 5-10.
Click here to view more info about the Family Packs

Greenback America

This temporary exhibit tells the story of how the United States’ decision on how to pay off the Civil War transformed the relationship between government, the economy, banks, and citizens.

Using poems, songs, cartoons, newspaper clippings, and more, visitors will explore how Americans assigned cultural meaning to money and how doing so helped them interpret politics, patriotism, and race.

Southern Ambitions

Southern Ambitions explores the Confederate States’ aspiration to become global players on their own terms. With the fifth largest economy in the world prior to the Civil War, the Confederacy sought total independence. Their goal was prominence in economic, technological, and diplomatic partnerships among the leading western nations. At the heart of their vision lay plans for the growth and expansion of slavery.

But what happened when western nations rejected the Confederacy’s hopes?

Southern Ambitions is presented in both English and Spanish.

Research for this exhibition was made possible in part by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon

  • A wide shot of a room in the Southern Ambitions Exhibit.

Richmonders at War

What happens when wars come home to Americans? From the moment the new Confederate States moved their capital to Richmond, Virginia in late May 1861, capturing the city became a primary objective of United States armies. Richmond was the industrial and political hub of a new nation, the destination for conscripted and impressed soldiers, white and Black, and a place where wounded and sick men either recovered or died. In these ways, Richmond is unique in American history.