In traditional biographies of the Washingtons, the subject of slavery rarely comes up, or, if it does, it is given a paragraph or perhaps a chapter to explain the “peculiar institution” as it related to the first First Family. There is nothing like a personal story—a slave’s personal and true story—to get a deeper perspective. In Erica Armstrong Dunbar’s Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave Ona Judge, that is exactly what we have.
James was a slave in Virginia when the American Revolution began. Wanting to earn his freedom while helping the new country, he volunteered for the Revolutionary Army, with the promise of his freedom at the war’s end—if the Americans were victorious.
He was assigned to work for the young and brilliant French commander who was helping George Washington, the Marquis de Lafayette. Lafayette had a special job for James. He wanted him to become a spy. James agreed and appeared at a British camp in tattered clothes, asking for work. The British, discovering how clever James was, asked him to spy for them!
Lin-Manuel Miranda worked for six years to do the book, music, and lyrics for his hip-hop musical Hamilton. The musical explores the life and legacy of Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant from the Caribbean, who came to America and helped found our country’s financial system and, of course, was killed in a duel with Aaron Burr. The musical has won the Pulitzer Prize, a Grammy, and 10 Tony awards. I love all 23,000 words of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical Hamilton. The songs become earworms as they just make you replay them.
If you don’t have enough Hamilton $10 bills to get a pricey ticket to the Broadway production or time to wait in line for the cheaper Broadway lottery tickets for the play, check out the music CDs at the library from the original Broadway cast, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s backstage pass in Hamilton: The Revolution; and the book it is based on, Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton.
The Washington Monument’s starkly simple design and imposing presence on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., both belies the complex machinations that led to its construction and embodies the singularity of George Washington, in whose honor it was erected.
What was it like to live long ago when Virginia belonged to England? When there were no cars, no computers, few hospitals and no free public schools?
Without cars, trains or airplanes, people traveled by boat, horseback or on foot by "shank's mare". The reason so many colonial towns were located next to rivers is that often the roads were terrible seas of mud. It was so much easier to travel on the rivers!
For more than two hundred years, this Spotsylvania farm has stood as a witness to Virginia history. Originally carved from land given to colonial Governor Alexander Spotswood, Ellwood willingly hosted two armies-that of the Marquis de Lafayette during the Revolutionary War and General Robert E. Lee during the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863. However, in 1864, during the Battle of the Wilderness, Ellwood became the headquarters for Generals Gouverneur K. Warren and Ambrose E. Burnside. General Grant took his position a few hundred yards away from the house, at a spot still called Grant's Knoll.
You can find them on a map. Barely. Little towns that used to be rather important hubs dot the Virginia countryside, dating from the days when agriculture ruled along with the horse and buggy or mule and wagon. These central spots, often near rail stations, rivers, or better roads, were communities in their own right and many have faded away as the interstate system grew. The Lost Communities of Virginia, by Terri Fisher and Kirsten Sparenborg, takes a look at these fading places, several of them near our area, including Mineral, Woodford, and Milford.
Fans of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café can relate to little Milford, situated in Caroline County and still located on a railroad line. Originally the popular area here was Doguetown, named for the Dogue Indians who used the Mattaponi River for transportation. Milford, named for a nearby plantation in 1792, also used the river as a point for shipping—and inspecting—tobacco. The Mattaponi River was connected to both the York River and the Chesapeake Bay. By the early 1840s, the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad ran from Richmond to Aquia Creek with a stop in Milford. Milford’s North-South railroad connections made it a target in the Civil War.
George Mason, future patriot, spent part of his childhood in Stafford County. His father died by drowning when he was very young, so he sometimes stayed with relatives including his uncle, John Mercer who lived at Marlborough Point. His uncle was a lawyer and landowner. He had a large library for the time—more than 1,500 books—and 11-year-old George enjoyed the library, including law commentaries his uncle had written.
From the Central Rappahannock Regional Library
The Antiques Book: Outstanding, Authoritative Articles on Ceramics, Furniture, Glass, Silver, Pewter, Architecture, Prints and Other Collecting Interests edited by Alice Winchester and the staff of the magazine Antiques.
Lake Anna State Park is a favorite local destination for campers, boaters, and families who just want to spend a summer day at the lakeside beach. For most of us, the way to the lake runs down Lawyers Road. These days, there’s not much to take in with the view from this one-lane road, which passes through as quiet a stretch of Spotsylvania countryside as remains in the 21st century. But in centuries past, the western part of the county was the scene for tribal wars, slave labor, religious awakenings, whiskey barrel politics, gold mining, and Civil War armies on the march.