History

A Family Narrative of a Revolutionary Officer

Francis Brooke, later of St. Julien in Spotsylvania County, was only sixteen when he became an officer in General Harrison's artillery regiment. This short memoir of his military service and his days afterward as an eminent jurist is peppered with the names of famous Virginians, many of whom were his friends and family members.

The Ice Harvest

From The Fredericksburg News, Thursday, January 10, 1878

 THE ICE HARVEST is a large one, and the business activity of the past few days to gather it in, has been a stirring scene on our wintry streets. Men and horses, waggons and carts, have improved the fleeting hours in the most rapid manner and the rumble of wheels over the icy ground has been unceasing from morning till night. Mr. A. P. Rowe's pond has furnished a large amount of excellent ice, about five inches thick, and all the Ice houses in town and country will be filled with this indispensable luxury, of home production this Season.

Letter to Adrienne Lafayette from Valley Forge, January 6, 1778

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.

Lafayette's Declaration

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.

Conversations with Jefferson Davis

Whatever may be any ones opinion in regard to the justice of the cause he advocated, the man who headed for four years the greatest revolt of modern times, can not but be deemed one of the formost figures of American history. Whatever crime against his country some think he has commited (and it may be state here that the writer is not one who holds any such belief) he has drained his full cup of suffering. As he stated not long ago, he did not seek the position in which he was placed, but obeyed a command which he, with Lee and thousands of other good & true men regarded as imperative, the voice of his native state calling him in her defense.

Nurse and Spy in the Union Army

Emma Edmonds kept a wartime journal which she later expanded into a book, available today as Nurse and Spy in the Union Army. In this selection, "Frank Thompson" volunteers to substitute for General Hancock's aide-de-camp. Here she tells of a wild ride, an unexpected death, and a wounded officer.

Battle-field, Fredericksburg, VA.,
December 13, 1862

I rode three miles with General H. to General Franklin's headquarters, the second night we were at Fredericksburg, and all the night that I can recall to mind that was the darkest. On our way we had numerous ditches to leap, various ravines to cross, and mountains to climb, which can be better imagined than described. It was not only once or twice that horse and rider went tumbling into chasms head first, but frequently.

Excerpts from The Monroe Doctrine

James Monroe expressed his thoughts on how foreign policy should be conducted at his seventh annual message to Congress on December 2, 1823. His words are considered an essential part of America's political history and became known as "the Monroe Doctrine."
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Sounds Spooky: Watchmen Weaken on Their Job at Chatham.—Strong Armed Guard There Tonight

By The Daily Star—10 August 1921

In an advertisement on the second page of this issue it will be noted that all trespassers on the grounds of Chatham Manor between the hours of sunset and sunrise will be there at their own risk. Watchmen employed by the architect and contractor declare that ghosts invade the domain during the midnight hours and five individual watchmen have tendered their resignations after staying at the historic mansion one night. The watchman on duty Tuesday night declares that a stumpy black figure, accompanied by a grotesque shape in white passed within a few feet of him at midnight. He fired a double-barreled shot gun at them point blank and was greeted by a hollow guttural laugh as they continued their rounds about the manor. This was too much for the guard to stand and he left the premises for good. Another watchman relates that he saw three women in white roaming around the estate exactly at 3 a.m. a few mornings ago, while others tell of strange noises and strangling sounds.

"The old wines of the good people of Fredericksburg have been referred to."

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.

Mapping the Past

With Google's now infamous detailed photos, it's rather easy to see how a town is laid out today. But what about 50, 100, or 150 years ago? Where are the maps that show how the towns and counties grew through the years? One excellent source of information, the Sanborn fire insurance maps, is available online to our patrons at no charge.