The Central Virginia Battlefields Trust is pleased to bring forward this ninth volume of its annual historical journal, drawing upon an astonishing wealth of material related to Fredericksburg during the Civil War


Thousands upon thousands of northern and southern troops passed through the area at one time or another (most of them multiple times), leaving their impressions in letters and diaries.  Photographers with the Union army took dozens upon dozens of photographs and post-war photographers exposed further images of the blood soaked landscapes of 1862-1864.  Period newspapers also provide insights and a recent discovery is included as one of this year's contributions.  In addition, artists accompanied the Civil War armies and one of those sketches is also discussed in relation to preservation of the depicted scene.

 

There are several noteworthy diaries written by local residents during those tumultuous years and it has been our privilege to share some of them with our readers.  Russell P. Smith, superintendent of the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, for instance, has transcribed and annotated large portions of a diary kept by Dr. Brodie S. Herndon.  His careful work has appeared in three volumes of this journal so far and we look forward to sharing additional sections of the Brodie diary as Russ Smith's effort continues.  The diary of Betty Herndon Maury is another local gem and we are pleased to be able to share it with our readers in this volume.

 

The difference between the two diarists is striking.  Dr. Brodie was a mature observer and his private writing has the feel of someone who thought that his observations would be of interest to later generations of his extended family.  Betty Maury was younger and more blunt in her personal observations, exhibiting none of the self conscious restraints that would be evident if she had anticipated future publication.

 

Carolyn Carpenter has provided the diary of Betty Herndon Maury, which she carefully transcribed from the original handwritten manuscript on microfilm, on file at the Library of Congress.  In 1980, local historian and meticulous indexer Robert A. Hodge also developed a typescript from the microfilm, a copy of which is bound and available in the Virginiana Room of the Central Rappahannock Regional Library.  Bob Hodge readily noted, however, that he had not checked his typescript against the original, as a consequence of time constraints rather than inattention.  In this instance, Ms. Carpenter was able to check her work against the original and this carefully proofed version is presented here, in its entirety, with the diarist's various spellings and misspellings intact.

 

The importance of the Betty Herndon Maury diary cannot be overstated.  It is a wonderfully unrestrained first hand account from a Virginia community in the midst of the chaos and destructive upheaval of war.  It appears in Richard B. Harwell's bibliography In Tall Cotton: The 200 Most Important Confederate Books for the Reader, Researcher, and Collector (1978).  Still, significance has not translated into availability.  In 1938, Alice Maury Parmalee, Betty Maury's second daughter, saw to the private publication of 25 copies of the diary and these items are very much in demand by collectors and bibliophiles.  An excellent discussion of the Betty Herndon Maury diary can be found in Robert K. Krick's book The Smoothbore Volley That Doomed the Confederacy: The Death of Stonewall Jackson and Other Chapters on the Army of Northern Virginia (2002).

 

The two primary documents in this volume are from the Civil War period, but our third article, by Noel G. Harrison, looks at the political discourse in Spotsylvania County, during a period when a newly written Constitution was up for ratification.  The arguments at the nation's founding are remarkably similar to the ones expounded upon during the mid-nineteenth century sectional crisis.  Noel Harrison is a National Park Service historian at the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park whose considerable research has extended to the historic industries in and around Fredericksburg, aspects of the region's African-American experience, as well as considerable work in gleaning new information from Civil War images.  His contribution to this volume relates to the Constitutional debates of 1787-1788.

 

The other primary document from the Civil War period is a newspaper article recently uncovered by a student working with the National Park Service.  Breck O'Donnell is an eleventh grader who has been interested in the Civil War since moving to Fredericksburg six years ago.  He has combed through Civil War period newspapers, looking for Fredericksburg related content and recently uncovered the account of the Union occupation, presented herein.  John J. Hennessy, who has overseen this effort, is the Chief Historian at the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.  He is the author of three books and many articles on the Civil War and preservation.

Click Here to Purchase New and Previous Journals

 

CVBT HOME PAGE