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Hello Summer, Hello History

Civil War Summer

It's been hot these last few weeks, and we thought it would be interesting to collect some "summer quotes" from the Civil War experience in Central Virginia. From determination to survive-the-heat-mood, soldiers and civilians wrote about their summers, leaving unique stories.


Summer of Freedom

During the summer of 1862, Union troops occupied Fredericksburg and Stafford. Although the Emancipation Proclamation had not been issued yet, precedent was already in place that Federal troops would not return escaped slaves to bondage. Hundreds of enslaved men, women, and children escaped that summer and found freedom within the Union lines. Others—encouraged by the soldiers—stayed and started asking to work for wages.

"The Federal army has abolished slavery wherever it has gone..." explained on Fredericksburg woman in her journal.


Summer Storms

Elizabeth Maxwell Alsop Wynne lived in Fredericksburg and kept a journal of her war experiences there and at her school in Richmond. In summer 1862, Fredericksburg experienced occupation by Federal troops (much to Elizabeth's dismay), but a summer thunderstorm prompted this entry and the effects of the distant battlefields on the homefront: August 12th, 1862 The thunder is now rumbling in the distance, and the sound sings a melancholy, yet sweet song, and the rain drops fall with such a busy splutering sound while the trees throw up their tall arms and again come down in despair as if bewailing their lost limbs & foliage, then remaining motionless as if overwhelmed by the fury of the storm, that the picture suggest many a sad thought. In one week our little town may be changed, mothers may bewail their lost darlings and all may be one picture of despair, for possably now, even while I sit & write, our beloved ones may be lying faint, weak and wounded on the battle field. for Oh! God spare them.... [spelling is original]

Ambrotype, Elizabeth Maxwell Alsop Wynne Virginia Museum of History & Culture Archive


Thoughts of Home from Summer Camp

Sketch of a Confederate signal station, Summer 1863

On August 15, 1863—after the Gettysburg Campaign—Robert Taylor Knox wrote to his mother from a camp in Orange County. The Knox Family lived in Fredericksburg, but destruction during the battle in December 1862 had forced them from their home. In this letter, Robert offers perspective and news from the Confederate camp that summer and also thoughts on his family's home:

"...I don't think the Yankees intend to try immediately at Fredericksburg again, but they may have large forces near to Falmouth from time to time. I suppose Genl Meade is doing what Gen Lee is, gathering all the men he can for the next struggle. Our Regt now numbers 410 men. We drill every day & have a Brigade Drill by Genl Corse himself in the evening. It is a fine sight to see a whole Brigade going through the evolutions of the line. Our men are very healthy & in good spirits throughout our Division now.

It is very distressing to me to hear of father's desire to sell the house, if it is obliged to be sold.... If I had the money I would buy it back my self & hope to see the day yet if I get out alive when I will be able to do so....for I want to live & die in Fredericksburg my self. "[spelling and grammar original]


"If It Takes All Summer"

Although the words were spoken in the spring of 1864, Union General Ulysses S. Grant declared in a letter on May 11, 1864: "We have entered the sixth day of very hard fighting. . . The result to this time is much in our favor. . . I propose to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer." [emphasis added]

As we know, the fighting shifted from Central Virginia to the upper Peninsula and Petersburg as the summer of 1864 actually arrived. The quote itself reflects Grant's determination which is rooted and developed for the campaign in the Battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House.


Parting Shot

Artillery in the dry summer fields at the Chancellor House Site


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

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