The American Revolution didn’t start with the Tea Party.
For more than 100 years before that, the immigrants who came to America had very cogent reasons for leaving the civilized world. Many were hotheads—rebels against the king and his policies on religion. Others had come to the colonies hoping to make their fortunes and discovered much to their dismay that the king was very interested in taking a cut of their profits through high taxes, particularly on tobacco.
In Virginia, high taxes meant that the small farmers were left landless when they could not pay. Their farms were taken by wealthier landholders and the dispossessed went to the frontier to find new land to support them and their families. Not surprisingly, this meant clashes with the native population, some of which were quite bloody. Royal Governor Berkeley’s refusal to support the frontier farmers with soldiers—and his obvious friendships with the wealthier Tidewater land barons--led to Bacon’s Rebellion against the king’s most powerful representative and was but one example of the tension felt between the colonists and their royal masters’ representatives.
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.
In the Library:
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.
Weaver’s Daughter, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, is a great story for mothers and daughters to share together!
Every fall Lizzy gets sick…very sick and no one knows why. Each year it gets worse and worse. It’s 1791, and doctors are expensive and hard to come by, and her family does not know what to do. Lizzy just knows that she won’t be able to get better when it happens again this year. What did families do back then when their children were sick? They didn’t know about asthma and allergies.
In partnership with the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park we continue to commemorate the Civil War Sesquicentennial with "The Civil War Comes to Stafford" lecture series presented at the England Run branch. Join us for the next lecture:
Stuck in the Mud, Stung by Defeat: The Union Army in Stafford
Lecture by Frank O'Reilly, England Run, Thursday, September 8, 7-8pm
To the Europeans, the West was a great unknown. Many people believed that over the western sea there was nothing but darkness and danger. Yet throughout the past, travelers tried to find out what was on the other side of the water. There are very few traces of those first explorers. They lived in times when most people could not write, so stories of their discoveries were passed down as tales told around hearth fires. Sometimes they were believed, sometimes not. Russell Freedman’s Who Was First? Discovering the Americas looks at the evidence behind this puzzle.
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 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.
George Mason, future patriot, spent part of his childhood in Stafford County. His father died by drowning when he was very young, so he sometimes stayed with relatives including his uncle, John Mercer who lived at Marlborough Point. His uncle was a lawyer and landowner. He had a large library for the time—more than 1,500 books—and 11-year-old George enjoyed the library, including law commentaries his uncle had written.
Civil War Sesquicentennial programs at the library kick off with a lecture series, "The Civil War Comes to Stafford," to be presented at the England Run branch. Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park Historians will bring the Civil War to our backyard.
Join us for the first lecture in this series:
The Crossing: Slaves, Stafford, and the Great 1862 Exodus to Freedom, lecture by John Hennessy
England Run, Thursday, February 10, 7-8pm
In the spring and summer of 1862, Fredericksburg and Stafford witnessed one of the greatest flights to freedom in American history. As many as 10,000 slaves fled homes, farms, and plantations in nearby counties, bound for the Union army along the Rappahannock River. For individual slaves, the exodus represented an immense risk and an uncertain journey into freedom. For white residents, the exodus meant rapid and profound social change--the end of a labor system more than 200 years old. And for the army and federal government, the flood of freedom seekers--months before the Emancipation Proclamation--raised a profound and simple question for: what now? This program will look at the great 1862 exodus across the Rappahannock from the human level, men and women forcing change on a community, state, and nation unprepared.