Virginia History

Wed, 06/27/2018 - 3:11pm
It's a Great Month for National Parks

It’s time to gather friends and family and head to a national park or national historic site. How does the National Park Service provide fun, memorable, and inspiring experiences? Camping, fishing, hiking, history, grand vistas, and horseback riding - there are so many possibilities in our national parks. Head to a local national park or even plan a longer trip for an end-of-summer big adventure! If you are traveling with children, be sure to check out the Junior Ranger program, available at many parks.

Fri, 06/08/2018 - 9:40am
Patawomek village coming to the Salem Church Branch

Members of the Patawomeck Tribe will recreate one of their Living History Villages at the library. On the front lawn, you'll smell venison and fish roasting on an open fire. Hear one of our Tribal members playing the flute and drumming. You can explore a replica of an actual long house and sit in a dug-out canoe. You and your family can pound corn to make meal and beat on the drums. Inside of the theater, you can see artifacts that are 10,000 years old, learn to speak our native Algonquian language, and make a craft with Tribe members. Come get your picture taken with Chief John. 

Save the date: Fredericksburg Branch, Saturday, August 11, 9:00-3:00!

Wed, 05/30/2018 - 2:45pm

The time was sunset on Sept. 23, 1779.A full moon was rising. The place was the bloody deck of John Paul Jones’ ship the Bon Homme Richard. There a young Spotsylvanian named Laurence Brooke would show the stuff of which heroes are made. At age 21, he was the lone surgeon on the Bon Homme Richard as it engaged the 50-gun HMS Serapis in the North Sea off Scarborough, England. The burning Serapis surrendered after a 3 1/2-hour battle during which John Paul Jones proclaimed: “I have not yet begun to fight!”

It is said that the blood ran ankle-deep as Laurence Brooke tended to more than 100 wounded and dying. And an excellent job he did, according to Nathaniel Fanning, midshipman on the Bon Homme Richard:

“He was the only surgeon in the fleet who really knew his duty: ...this man was as bloody as a butcher from the commencement of the battle until towards night of the day after. The greater part of the wounded had their legs or arms shot away, or the bones so badly fractured that they were obliged to suffer under the operation of amputation. Some of these poor fellows having once gone through this severe trial by the unskilled surgeons, were obliged to suffer another amputation in one, two, or three days thereafter by doctor Brooks; and they being put on board the different vessels composing the squadron, made it difficult for doctor Brooks to pay that attention to them which their cases required: besides, the gale of wind which succeeded the action, and which I have made mention of, made it altogether impracticable for him to visit the wounded, he being all this time on board the Serapis, excepting such of them as were on board of this ship. (From Fanning's Narrative)

Wed, 05/30/2018 - 12:48pm

From a Scottish port to colonial Fredericksburg to the royal courts of France and Russia, the little man who famously refused to give up the fight was perfectly at home in both cottages and elegant salons, but he was always eager to set sail for adventure and glory.

Tue, 04/17/2018 - 12:56pm

Fredericksburg rises from the fall line of the Rappahannock River. Its natural hills are generally considered to be just part of the scenic landscape. Wealthy townspeople, such as the Willis and Marye families, built their mansions on the heights. Before the Civil War, the scenery was pleasant but otherwise unremarkable.

In November and December of 1862, Confederate troops, under the command of General Robert E. Lee, fortified the hills above Fredericksburg. The townspeople were mostly evacuated, which was well as what was to follow certainly resembled a hell on earth.

Wed, 02/28/2018 - 11:01am

What kinds of people settled the new lands of America? They had their own ideas about laws, religion, and what makes a good government. They were, in a word, independent.

In 1776, England was far away, and people on this side of the Atlantic were heartily sick and tired of paying taxes on top of taxes to finance England's empty treasury. They were tired, too, of losing money by having the Crown interfere with their trade overseas. The men in the assemblies shouted that King George was a tyrant, so the King's men stopped the assemblies. When they still protested, the King brought in the army, making the colonists put them up in their houses. Any crimes the soldiers committed against the colonists were handled in the King's court by the King's judges.

Mon, 01/08/2018 - 8:23am

By Janet Payne

Janet Payne is the retired fine arts coordinator of the Stafford (VA) County Public Schools. This article originally appeared in the International Review of African American Art, volume 16, number 1, and is reproduced here with the permission of this publication.

In 1996 on one of my many visits to the Hampton University Museum, I had the opportunity to see the recently acquired Countee Cullen collection. As I viewed the familiar names of African American artists, I noticed an artist unknown to me—Palmer C. Hayden of Wide Water, Virginia. Could that be the same Widewater in Stafford County where I am the fine arts coordinator? How could this be? My research on the Stafford-born artist Palmer C. Hayden began in this moment.

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 11:57am

Present-day Christmas conjures memories of snow, lighted trees, cinnamon, gifts, parties, and music. If we lived during the Civil War, what kinds of memories would we have? Would they be of family, food, warmth, and parties, or would they be of just trying to survive and stave off hunger? Would there be presents under the tree, or would we be happy just to be present with our loved ones. To learn a bit more about Christmas during the years 1861-1864, explore the items in the library and the Web sites listed below.

Mon, 10/02/2017 - 1:55pm
Cover to Soldier Song: A True Story of the Civil War

Two armies faced each other in winter camps across the Rappahannock River. The fighting in December had gone very badly for the Union as they tried to take the Confederate position at Marye’s Heights. Friends and sometimes family had been killed, and the Southern town of Fredericksburg was largely left in ruins.

For months, these two enemy armies went about their business on opposite sides of the river. During those long days and nights, they weren’t firing cannons anymore, but they were sending out volleys of music to lift their soldiers’ spirits. Each side had its patriotic songs. Often they had the same tune but different words, and each side would sing and cheer their own bands.

On those winter nights, they might close with a special tune. One that everyone sang the same words to: “Home, Sweet Home.”

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 2:49pm

Everybody knows that the Pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving, right? Well, probably not, but it was the Pilgrims' Thanksgiving that gave us our Thanksgiving holiday as we know it today.

The Pilgrims came to the New World looking for a way to worship God as they wished. They were not Puritans. Puritans wanted to change the Church of England to do away with its bishops but keep its ties to the government. The Puritans went on to settle the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Pilgrims at the Plymouth Colony were Separatists.

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