Follow Marlborough Point Road down to the eastern tip of Stafford County, and you will pass by lots of new housing mushrooming into the forests and fields that were once favored by both the Native Americans and colonial settlers. This section of the county is home to not just centuries of local history but millennia.
One hundred and forty-seven years ago, lines of blue advanced on a hillside near the outskirts of Fredericksburg. Those heights were manned by gray-uniformed soldiers, powerfully well-armed and rather surprised that the Union commander should send wave after wave of troops into their maelstrom of cannon and rifle fire. What followed was a slaughter about which Confederate General Robert E. Lee said, "It is well that war is so terrible...we should grow too fond of it."
When some Yankee looters tried to supplement their rations with stocks from Fredericksburg homes and businesses in December of 1862, they bit off more than they could chew.
December 14th, 1862
In Fredericksburg, Va.
In 1873, a steamboat loaded with passengers, livestock and produce caught fire and sank on the Potomac River near Aquia Creek. Traveling from Washington, the overloaded vessel carried three times more people than allowed by its license, and the engulfing flames and churning waters claimed 76 passengers, most of them women and children. A new book, Disaster on the Potomac: The Last Run of the Steamboat Wawaset, by Alvin Oickle, gives the details of that terrible day.
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“I was reading a book at the time and at 10.59 the guns all quit at once. It was to [sp] good to be true. I didn’t cheer as I cheered myself hoarse while at Souilly and it was a false report so I didn’t want to do it again. It wasn’t long till the Co came back. They were turned back just as they came under shell fire. One of K Co men got a shrapnel in the arm at the last minute. The boys looked more like gohsts [sp] than human when they came in, for want of rest and grub but that night we all sure put away some sleep."
On this day, we remember the sacrifice of soldiers in England, the United States, and France who fought and died in the Great War, the war to end all wars. While their noble goal is not yet realized, their noble deeds continue to be honored from the 1921 burial of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery to our daily remembrances of those who have been or are in the armed services.
From the Central Rappahannock Regional Library
- Fort Lowry and Raiders on the Rappahannock by Carroll M. Garne.
- A study of the Confederate fort, whose construction south of Fredericksburg was ordered by General Lee in 1861. Fort Lowry was designed to protect the Rappahannock waterway and used mines to damage Federal vessels. Includes chapters on John Wilkes Booth's attempted escape through the nearby countryside.
Four Mayors of Fredericksburg: An Oral History by Archer Williams.
Former mayors Charles Cowan, Josiah Rowe, Edward Cann, and Lawrence Davies give their impressions of the city's growth under their administrations, from the 1950s to the 1980s.
By Jane Kosa, CRRL Staff
Imagine living in Fredericksburg in the 1860s and seeing the bustling riverfront shut down during the first year of the war. Picture the remains of the railroad bridge across the Rappahannock that the retreating Confederates wrecked in April 1862. See the pontoon boats that the Army of the Potomac used to construct temporary bridges to cross the river. Stand at the southern end of Marye's Heights and relive the December 1862 Battle of Fredericksburg. Take a walk down Hanover and Liberty Streets in 1864 and view the shattered buildings. Such is the power of the photographic lens.
From the Central Rappahanock Regional Library
Divided Highways: Building the Interstate Highways, Transforming American Life by Tom Lewis.
The monumental story of the largest engineered structure ever built -- the American interstate highway system -- is told in dramatic text and pictures. This is the companion volume to the PBS documentary series of the same name.
Getting There: The Epic Struggle Between Road and Rail in the American Century by Stephen P. Goddard.
A well-done bit of social history, with its focus on the triumph of the road builders.