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At Ease: Shall We go Downtown . . .In Historic Fredericksburg?

A Little City by the River

Founded in 1728 and incorporated in 1781, the city of Fredericksburg has a deep history, predating the Civil War. During the 1860's, though, the small city on the Rappahannock River faced destruction, economically and literally, as the armies swept through on numerous occasions. Even when battles or occupying troops did not directly impact the population, the city was often used as a supply base or hospital town. There is so much history in downtown Fredericksburg that it's been hard not to have 100 features in this email. Honestly! In the end, we decided to stick with an 1862 focus for the quotes, and you'll find 3 professionally crafted video clips to take you on a little virtual walking tour. And don't forget to scroll all the way to the end and leave a note about Spotsylvania Court House to help shape next week's discussion.


Survey Results

We're reporting the survey results a little differently this week since there were so many great answers! There are a few photos of the sites below and additional information later in the email.

  • Haydon Hall, 700 Princess Anne Street

  • Kenmore - George Washington's sister's home during the Colonial Era

  • The Confederate Cemetery inside the city cemetery.

  • Chatham Manor (2 votes)

  • Rising Sun Tavern

  • Sophia Street (2 votes) - site of Union pontoon assault landing on December 11, 1862

  • Old City Hall and Square

  • Farmers Bank Building - one of the places Lincoln stopped.

  • Hawke Street between Sophia and Caroline Streets - where the Union quickly learned that this was now urban warfare and not the time to line up in formation; so many died on that small stretch of road.


October 1862

On October 31, 1862—after a summer of Union occupation—Virginia Knox wrote to her son about the changes she found when she returned to town: "I have only been out once since I came home, except to church, and you cannot imagine how desolate Commerce & Main Sts look; no stores open at all; it is quite impossible to get any articles of dry goods here, except some which may by chance run the blockade...."


December 1862

An artillery barrage, urban warfare, and the soldiery's destructiveness turned the town into a war zone during the battle in December 1862. One soldier in the Federal Irish Brigade didn't quite feel comfortable with what he saw: "Now, to finish up the day, the 12th of December, 1862. At eight p.m., some of m comrades and I strolled into the first street near the river to kill time. Here we found the houses yet standing. Their former occupants had fled, and the residences were all taken possession of by our soldiery as quarters for the night. Those of them who could not get into houses quartered on the street where they had kindled numerous fires fed by such fuel as they could lay their hands upon. Here we saw elegant and costly furniture chopped up for firewood. In one instance, a magnificent rosewood piano. Yet the officers made no effort to prevent it. I thought this was wrong..."

Fredericksburg, February 1863


Downtown Fredericksburg Videos

In 2012, Tom Van Winkle (CVBT's President) created a series of videos with Heritage Media about historic buildings in downtown Fredericksburg. Here are three of our favorites with Civil War stories!

711 Caroline Street Learn about this "wounded building" from the Civil War and it's long history.

600 William Street

There's a Civil War story and murder related to this building...

725 Caroline Street

Learn about an Irish Family and a self-appointed British diplomat's adventures in 1862:


Central Virginia Battlefields Trust's mission is to preserve, protect, and educate about Civil War hallowed ground at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, The Wilderness, and Spotsylvania.

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