Based in Charlottesville, Virginia, Navigator Tours conducts history tours all across Virginia (and beyond). Your guide is Rick Britton, an award-winning historian with over 25 years of experience guiding tours.
Charlottesville History Tours
The Civil War in Charlottesville Tour
The most requested Charlottesville tour! Learn how Central Virginia supported the Confederate war effort, visit an extant slave block, and stand on the site of the area’s only Civil War combat. The stops include: Charlottesville’s Court Square; Maplewood Cemetery, final resting place of a number of Civil War notables; and Rio Hill, the area’s only Civil War combat—where Brig. Gen. George Armstrong Custer came a calling on February 29, 1864.
The Thomas Jefferson in Central Virginia Tour
Learn about our nation’s third president with three stops in Charlottesville and Albemarle County: Court Square, where Jefferson worshipped and planned the University of Virginia; the gorgeous original Grounds of the University of Virginia; and the site of Monasukapanough, the Monacan Indian village where Jefferson in 1781 excavated a large burial mound (an organized dig that made him one of the fathers of modern archaeology).
The University of Virginia Tour
Take an in-depth look at the educational institution Thomas Jefferson called “the hobby” of his old age! Visitors will learn about the University’s creation, tour each floor of the world-famous Rotunda, and walk the original gardens and grounds. Along the way we’ll discuss the fascinating people who comprise U.Va.’s amazing historical legacy, including Jefferson, the Marquis de Lafayette, Edgar Allan Poe, and William Holmes McGuffey, just to name a few!
The Revolutionary War Tour
Learn how Albemarle County—despite being a backwater region of Virginia—played a significant role in the American Revolution. The stops on this tour include: the site of the Barracks, where the Convention Army—the 5,000-man enemy force that surrendered at Saratoga—was quartered for several years; Charlottesville’s Court Square, where you’ll hear of how the entire Virginia Legislature, and Governor Thomas Jefferson, were almost captured by enemy cavalrymen in 1781; and the Farm, the nearby plantation that British commander Lieut. Col. Banastre Tarleton used as his headquarters.
The Presidential Estate Tour
Thanks to Rick Britton’s extensive knowledge of the life and times of Thomas Jefferson, he’s frequently called upon to escort groups visiting Monticello, Jefferson’s stunning neoclassical home near Charlottesville. Once outside of Monticello, Rick will conduct a tour of the grounds and nearby Mulberry Row, where the mountaintop’s enslaved community lived and worked. The Monticello tour is often paired with a visit to Highland—the home of fifth President James Monroe, only three miles away—and lunch at wonderful Michie Tavern, famous for its amazing fried chicken. (For devoted presidential history buffs, it is also possible to add in a tour of Montpelier, the gorgeous home of James Madison, the nation’s fourth president.)
Other Charlottesville Tours
The Charlottesville-area tours feature three stops each (except for the tour of the University of Virginia). Depending on the time you want to spend, consider these stops as items on a historical menu—you can group them together however you’d like. A frequent request, for example, is a combination of the first two tours, with stops at Court Square, the University of Virginia, and Rio Hill.
Civil War Battlefield Tours
The Battle of Fredericksburg Tour
Visit one of the Civil War’s bloodiest battlefields! Fought on December 11 and 13, 1862, the Battle of Fredericksburg featured two unique aspects—an amphibious assault and a brutal street fight. This tour’s stops include: Chatham Manor, an antebellum estate boasting a fantastic view of Fredericksburg and the Rappahannock River; Prospect Heights on the Confederate right flank, a site that witnessed vicious fighting, including a Union breakthrough; and the famous Stonewall and Sunken Road at the base of Mayre’s Heights, the Confederate position that proved itself impregnable. The battlefield’s Visitor Center, and its great Bookstore, are located adjacent to the Sunken Road.
The Battle of Chancellorsville Tour
Fought on May 1-4, 1863, Chancellorsville was Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s greatest victory. Union Gen. Joseph Hooker’s battle plan was excellent, but Lee’s aggressive response—despite being outnumbered two to one—was extraordinary. The Chancellorsville stops include: the Lee-Jackson bivouac site, where Lee and Gen. T. J. “Stonewall” Jackson met to plan Jackson’s audacious flanking march; the flank attack jumping-off point, where Jackson’s attack on the Union 11th Corps began; the Jackson wounding site (along with a visit to the adjacent Visitor Center); and the Chancellor-house clearing. (The Chancellorsville Battlefield features other stops that can be added in, time permitting, including: Confederate Gen. Lafayette McClaws’s battleline; and Hazel Grove, which features a fabulous artillery display.)
Combined Fredericksburg & Chancellorsville Tour
Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville can be toured in one day. Naturally, for this fast-paced, whirlwind tour, the battlefield stops are limited in number.
The First Battle of Manassas Tour
The Civil War’s first major battle, First Manassas (also called First Bull Run) was fought on July 21st, 1861, only 25 miles from Washington, D.C. For this tour the battlefield stops include: the Stone Bridge, where Confederate Col. Nathan “Shanks” Evans, posted on his army’s extreme left, discovered the Union flanking movement; Matthews Hill, where Evans moved his small brigade to confront the Union turning column; and site of the battle’s bloodiest fighting, Henry Hill, where Confederate Gen. T. J. Jackson became “Stonewall.” On Henry Hill we’ll also tour the wonderful Visitor Center.
The Battle of Gaines’s Mill Tour
Fought on June 27th, 1862, Gaines’s Mill was the third of the famous Seven Days’ Battles, the week-long campaign during which Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee fought and maneuvered Union Gen. George B. McClellan’s massive army away from the capital of the Confederacy. Just outside of Richmond, Virginia, the battlefield is wonderfully preserved. This tour features an initial stop at the Watt House—where we’ll discuss the Peninsula Campaign and the Seven Days—and a fantastic loop trail that will take us along the powerful Union defenses above Boatswain Creek. In a number of places, the earthworks and rifle pits are still visible.
The Battle of Sailor’s Creek / Appomattox Court House Tour
Learn about the Civil War’s final days in Virginia! At Sailor’s Creek, Virginia, on April 6th, 1865, the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia—on the retreat from Richmond and Petersburg—suffered a terrible defeat, losing one-fifth of its number killed, wounded, or captured, including nine generals. Nowadays it’s a beautifully preserved state park with a fabulous museum. Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House 30 miles to the west just three days later. An absolute must see for Civil War enthusiasts, this gorgeous hilltop village will take you back in time!
The Battle of Brandy Station Tour
Fought on June 9, 1863, Brandy Station was the Civil War’s largest cavalry battle. Just outside of Culpeper, Virginia, the battlefield was saved from development by the diligent efforts of preservationists. Today there are numerous battlefield stops, including Fleetwood Hill, where the Union horsemen first proved themselves the equal of their Confederate counterparts. (This tour is often paired with a visit to the nearby Graffiti House museum, a period structure where soldiers drew pictures, and scrawled their names, on several of the upstairs walls.)
The Battle of Trevilian Station Tour
Second only to Brandy Station in the number of cavalry combatants, Trevilians was fought 25 miles east of Charlottesville, Virginia, on June 11th and 12th, 1864. The battle featured two of the war’s most aggressive cavalry commanders—Union Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan, and Confederate Maj. Gen. Wade Hampton—and wooded terrain that was unsuited to mounted combat. A wide-ranging affair, Trevilian Station today boasts numerous interesting stops, and a fascinating story!
Other Battlefield Tours
Over the years, Rick Britton has guided numerous other Civil War- and Revolutionary War-related tours. With enough advance notice, tours can be provided for these other notable battlefields: Cross Keys and Port Republic, fought on June 8th and 9th, 1862, the final victories of Confederate Gen. T. J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s brilliant Shenandoah Valley Campaign; New Market, fought on May 15th, 1864, famous for the charge of the V.M.I. Cadets; the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House, the first two battles of Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s 1864 Overland Campaign; Petersburg, the siege conducted by Union. Gen. U. S. Grant between June 1864 and April 1865; and Yorktown, the brilliant siege conducted by Gen. George Washington that essentially ended the American Revolution. If you’re interested in touring a battlefield that you don’t see on my list, ask about it.