Virginia History

12/08/2011 - 10:16am

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:

10/31/2011 - 12:10pm
The Smoothbore Volley That Doomed the Confederacy, Chapter 1, by Robert K. Krick

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.

09/08/2011 - 3:31am
Weaver's Daughter by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

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.

09/02/2011 - 12:28pm
Union soldiers in Falmouth, VA

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
 

For more on Sesquicentennial events and resources visit our Civil War Susquicentennial page and the National Park Service web site.

Image: From the Library of Congress American Memory Collection - Selected Civil War Photographs, 1861-1865, Falmouth, Va. Drum corps of 61st New York Infantry

08/25/2011 - 8:02am

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.

07/18/2011 - 3:03pm
Cover to We Were Always Free

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. 

04/26/2011 - 2:50pm
CRRL Presents: Al Conner, Stafford County Historian and Author

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.

03/01/2011 - 2:21pm

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. 

After studying at a private school in Maryland and with tutors (including his uncle), George Mason took control of his family’s lands. He was the second largest land owner in Fairfax County—the largest being George Washington. When Washington went to serve as head of the Continental Army, George Mason took his place in the Virginia legislature. 
02/09/2011 - 1:10pm
Library of Congress Picture of Fugitive Slaves Crossing the Rappahannock

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.

Find out more about Civil War Sesquicentennial events and resources.

01/31/2011 - 10:27am
CRRL Presents: Louellen Whitefeather Young Silver, Discovering Your Heritage

This interview airs beginning February 2.
Caring and curious about her ancestry and her extensive family's place in the history of White Oak, in Stafford County, Lou “Whitefeather” Silver has explored her genealogy on a journey back through 400 years and 16 generations. She shares her extensive knowledge and amazing memory in an interview with Debby Klein on CRRL Presents, a Central Rappahannock Regional Library production.

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