Excerpt from War So Terrible: A Popular History of the Battle of Fredericksburg, by Donald C. Pfanz, (pp. 44-46)
Donald C. Pfanz is staff historian with Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. He is also the author of Abraham Lincoln at City Point and Richard S. Ewell: A Soldier’s Life. This chapter is reprinted on CRRL's history site with his permission.
“The Sacking of Fredericksburg”
By the time the fighting ended on Dec. 11, Fredericksburg was desolate. Fighting in the streets combined with a bombardment by more than 180 cannons had left the venerable old town shattered and ruins. Those citizens who had not fled Fredericksburg had seen their homes riddled with bullets, shot and shell.
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.
James Wallace McGinly visited the Central Rappahannock region several times. Nothing unusual about that -- except that McGinly visited in 1862, 1863 and 1864; he was wearing a blue uniform at the time; and he recorded the details of his visits in a diary.
CRRL has been given a photocopy of that diary, thanks to Edward G. Nix of Illinois. It will be cataloged, and placed in CRRL’s Virginiana Collection.
It’s been said an army travels on its stomach, and though many of the starving Confederate troops at the war’s end were still willing to fight, ultimately it was a physically broken army returning to their devastated, burned out farms that sounded the death knell of the nascent nation, so contends gastronomical historian Andrew F. Smith in his recent book, Starving the South.
The first eighteen pages of The Smoothbore Volley That Doomed the Confederacy, by Robert K. Krick, are reprinted here with permission from the author and publisher, Louisiana State University Press, which retains all republication rights. Library copies of The Smoothbore Volley are available for check-out.
Nineteen men in two distinct groups rode forward from the coalescing Confederate lines west of Chancellorsville at about 9:00 P.M. on May 2, 1863. Only seven of the nineteen came back untouched, man or horse. Although one of those nearest the offending musket muzzles, Major General A. P. Hill escaped among the unscathed handful. Lieutenant General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, among those farthest from the flash point, was one of the five men killed or mortally wounded. The capricious paths of a few dozen one-ounce lead balls caroming off the dense shrubbery of Spotsylvania’s Wilderness that night had much to do with the course of the Civil War.
From every imaginable perspective, the afternoon of May 2 had been a stunning Confederate success of unprecedented magnitude. Lee and Jackson had crafted between them a dazzling tactical initiative that sent Stonewall covertly all the way across the front of a Federal army that outnumbered the southerners by more than two to one. The redoubtable corps commander managed the remarkable march without serious interruption, arrayed his first two divisions in a wide line, and descended upon the Federals like a thunderbolt. Those northerners who rallied bravely against the tide faced an inexorable outflanking by the outriders of Jackson’s line, who stretched far beyond the center of the attack in both directions. In this fashion Jackson routed one Union corps, trapped another out of the line, and left the others shaky, uncertain, and vulnerable to be stampeded.
This interview airs beginning October 5.
Dr. Crawley is the Distinguished Professor of History who brings the story of the university to life. He is the author of author of University of Mary Washington: A Centennial History, 1908 to 2008. With fascinating anecdotes and an insider’s perspective, he talks with Debby Klein.
Multiple-choice standards of learning tests are not concerned with the details that fill out American history. Who wants to know that those who disagreed with the Revolutionary patriots risked their lives and fortunes in a time of mob rule? What state examiner wants to hear tales of men of honor who refused to break their oaths of loyalty to the king and were whipped, tarred and feathered, or "smoked out" of their homes, as happened to 65-year-old Israel Williams, a respected Loyalist legislator, whose signature in support of the rebel cause was only gained after a night of gasping for air inside his smoky home? In Thomas B. Allen's Tories, many of these stories from across the colonies are well-preserved and well-told so that they might be well-remembered.
Fiction authors sometimes begin historical narratives by announcing the discovery of a long-forgotten strong box in a dusty attic containing purportedly true accounts of times passed handily preserved for the modern reader’s enjoyment. T.O. Madden, Jr.'s We Were Always Free starts with just such a scenario, but unlike historical fiction, this is no ploy. The history unearthed is real and traces back to colonial Virginia when Mary Madden, an Irish woman, gave birth to a child of mixed race on August 4, 1758 in Spotsylvania County.
Because of the laws of the time, just as the mother was free so would Mary’s child, Sarah, be considered free, as would all of Sarah’s descendents. Mary and her newborn were first tended at the Collins farm in Spotsylvania, and the church vestry paid the Collins for their year of upkeep with 600 pounds of tobacco taken in tithes from the parishioners. In 1759, still being paupers, Mary was sent along with her baby, to the local workhouse where the poor labored to support themselves.
This interview airs beginning June 8.
D. P. Newton has preserved and arranged a most remarkable record of life during an era of turmoil in our nation. The White Oak Civil War Museum reflects his passion and dedication to accuracy in compiling this unique and extensive collection. In this video, host Debby Klein meets Mr. Newton at the museum on CRRL Presents, a Central Rappahannock Regional Library production.
This interview airs beginning April 26.
Many years of work with the Stafford County Historical Society, an extensive collection of historic artifacts, and authoring a definitive history of the county have made Al Conner an authority and the person to talk to about Stafford County history. Debby Klein does just that when she visits Al Conner on CRRL Presents, a Central Rappahannock Regional Library production.