This article was first printed in the May 1978 issue of the Fredericksburg Times magazine and appears here with the author's permission.
This American who is truly deserving of the terms "great" and "famous" was born January 14, 1806 in Spotsylvania County. He was the seventh child of Richard and Diana Minor Maury.
In November, 1775, Harrower tells us of a muster of the minute men of the district, composed of the counties of Spotsylvania, Caroline, King George, and Stafford, which was held at "Belvideira," below the town. In the list of members of the Spotsylvania committee of safety chosen by direction of ordinance of convention on November 17th, of this year, by an assembly of freeholders of the county, meeting in Fredericksburg we find the town represented by Fielding Lewis, Charles Washington, George Thornton and Hugh Mercer. Throughout the Revolutionary War Fredericksburg was a center of distinction. "There is not one spot in the State so generally useful in our military operations," wrote James Mercer in April, 1781. The spring of 1781 witnessed in Virginia that remarkable campaign of the gallant young Marquis de LaFayette; the wonderfully conducted retreat from Richmond leading Cornwallis away from that important center and attempting a juncture with Wayne, who was on his way from Pennsylvania with reinforcements.
What a date, My Dear Heart, and what a country from which to write in the month of January! It is in a camp in the middle of woods; it is fifteen hundred leagues from you that I find myself buried in midwinter. Not too long ago, we were separated from the enemy by a small river; now we are seven leagues away from them and it is here that the American army will spend the winter in small barracks hardly more cheerful than a jail. I do not know if the general … will decide to visit our new abode; should he, we would show him around. The bearer of this letter will describe to you the pleasant place which I seem to prefer to being with you, with all my friends and amidst all possible pleasures.
2007 marks the 250th anniversary of General Lafayette's birth. Born into wealth and privilege, Lafayette nevertheless was an enthusiastic supporter of both the American and French revolutions. As one of the drafters of France's Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (La Déclaration des droits de l'Homme et du citoyen), he asked his good friend, Thomas Jefferson, to look over the wording, as the U.S. ambassador to France had experience writing documents for posterity. Having served faithfully in our American revolution, Lafayette was and is highly regarded as a friend to America. Just this year, Congress passed a measure that granted Lafayette honorary American citizenship.
Fredericksburg's Mary Ball Washington was an intrepid 18th-century woman who raised five children alone. The oldest became the first President of the United States.
Mary Washington's name and heritage are alive and well in the Fredericksburg area and beyond. Her home is at the corner of Lewis and Charles streets; the Mary Washington Monument is on Washington Avenue, which was originally Mary Washington Avenue.
On July 14, 1789, a Parisian mob broke down the gates of the ancient fortress known as the Bastille, marking a flashpoint at the beginning of the French Revolution.
"What is the third estate? Everything. What has it been up till now in the political order? Nothing. What does it desire to be? Something."
--Emmanuel Joseph Sieyes, French political activist
On Sunday, April 24, 2005, the parade of 19th-century-era coaches came again to historic Stratford Hall, once home to two signers of the Declaration of Independence, a Revolutionary War hero, and Robert E. Lee. The triennial event is a major fundraiser for the National Historic Landmark in Westmoreland County.