Adventure and discovery! It's on everyone's bucket list, right? You can find thrills, surprises, and enlightenment close to home by cruising the Rappahannock River. But before you go, do a little armchair adventuring with Brent Hunsinger, who joins us to share his experiences paddling the entire course of the Rappahannock, from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Chesapeake Bay, raising awareness of the river for the Friends of the Rappahannock. Brent will present at the Headquarters Library on Tuesday, September 29, at 7:00 PM.
Our rivers, lakes, and beaches are beautiful, but are they safe? Every day, the toxic runoff from parking lots, busy roads and quiet subdivisions makes its way into our streams and oceans. Even the oil burning off from cars on the roads gets washed into the groundwater and streams by way of the storm drain every time it rains.
The more houses we build, the more pollution we will add to our environment. Every time we lay down a new parking lot or piece of roadway, there is an impact on our environment.
One fine morning, the old wooden dam went up in clouds of smoke and broken timber. It was a huge thing—ancient and strong, built to tame the Rappahannock River. Once the power of the water pushing against it had provided electricity for the town. But that was years ago. The dam was falling apart, but so slowly that it was becoming dangerous. So the Army Corps of Engineers blew it up one morning.
Virginia's many rivers were strategic points in the Civil War. Thousands of men had to cross them at a time, whether by boat or pontoon bridge, or, in shallower places, on foot. Major rivers slowed down--or, in the case of flood, could block movement entirely. Generals placed their supply depots on rivers, and gunboats patrolled the waters, blasting artillery positions as well as enemy strongholds in large plantation houses.
In Mark Nesbitt's Rebel Rivers, readers are treated to an easy-to-follow guide to river sites and their Civil War history. Rebel Rivers, published by Stackpole Books, is available to check out from the library. The author is also the creator of the Ghosts of Gettysburg Candlelight Walking Tours® and the Ghosts of Fredericksburg Tours.
This excerpt is used with the author/copyright holder's permission.
In the year 1675 four interesting events were recorded in Stafford County. Three of these were considered omens of the fourth, and the fourth was considered of significance to the history of our area.
The first event was in the heavens. In the southwestern sky, for more than a week, each day appeared a large comet with a long tail resembling that of a horse on a windy day. The Indians and the whites alike wondered what might be the meaning of this heavenly sign.
By T.M., a planter and representative from Stafford County
But to return from this digression, the Susquehanoughs were newly driven from their habitations, at the head of Chesepiack bay, by the Cineca Indians, down to the head of Potomack, where they sought protection under the Pascataway Indians, who had a fort near the head of that river, and also were our ffriends.
By General G. Moxley Sorrel
In the aftermath of December 1862's bloody Battle of Fredericksburg, in the midst of the tending of the wounded and removal of the dead, there were some surprising flashes of cordiality between the enemy camps. General G. Moxley Sorrel, Longstreet's Chief of Staff, gives a very human side to the war in his recollections.
The old wines of the good people of Fredericksburg have been referred to. They suffered in the fortunes of war. A few nights before the opening of the battle, which was then imminent, considerable quantities of fine old Madeira and other varieties were taken out of cellars and bins, and sent by the citizens to our fellows in camp, equally ready for drink or for battle. It was known that the town would be shelled and occupied by the Federals, probably looted and plundered; therefore it was thought safest to see priceless old vintages passed around campfires and quaffed in gulps from tincups. Of course the men would have better liked whiskey, but they did not refuse the wine.
Since the body of water known as the Rappahannock River separated two important areas of commerce and trade, it had, of course, to be crossed constantly. The Indians had their canoes and the early settlers had their boats and ferries. The first bridge was built about 1800 and was referred to as Scott's Bridge.
When we think of Fredericksburg history as it relates to Sophia Street, we immediately bring to mind a few specific remaining structures and sites as we see them today: The Toll House at the foot of Rocky Lane; the present Half Way house at Wolfe and Sophia Streets, once an early tavern. The Center for the Creative Arts, referred to as the Silversmith's House; and the Sandstone Warehouse at the bridge at Sophia and William Streets.
Beneath the silt of the Rappahannock and its shores lie objects and structural remains related to the earliest periods of Leaseland and Fredericksburg activity.