One evening several of us took a "Ghost Walk Tour" around old, downtown Fredericksburg and this turned out to be a really fun night. Just as dusk was falling, the "guide", dressed in period clothing, walked us through town stopping at various buildings, and sights where he recounted stories of ghosts, odd and unexplainable happenings and general town history. I'm not sure I could believe everything, but it was all so interesting.
Several buildings with ghost legends were historic places of note. The church cemetery we visited in nearly full darkness held many very old graves and its associated church had historic significance as well. The tour lasted about 1 to 1 1/2 hrs. The deepening darkness and dropping temperature certainly added to the atmosphere that evening.
I don't remember the exact cost, but I believe it was about $10pp and we paid for the tour at the Visitor's Center. When the tour was over, we all met up for snacks, drinks, etc., at one of the interesting cafe/bars on the main street. Anyone care to share their own ghost story?
The VT meet organizers left us several hours of unplanned time which was gratefully used to explore further on our own. So on the spur of the moment we decided to visit the nearby "Chatham Manor" which is situated in Stafford County on a high bank overlooking the Rappahannock River. It literally took only minutes to reach this beautifully preserved home which is maintained by the National Park Service.
During its over 200 year history, this gracious, early manor home hosted several presidents and luminaries of early American history such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Walt Whitman and Clara Barton. Chatham Manor was built in 1771 by William Fitzhugh, and was a thriving plantation encompassing over 1,200 acres with several outbuildings such as unattached laundry and kitchen buildings, barns, stables and an ice house. It was virtually self-sufficient too because there were large gardens, orchards, a gristmill, dairy and even a fish hatchery. The ornamental gardens have now been restored and I was especially glad that it was Fall when we visited because grounds were especially lovely. (The chestnut trees were flush with delicious chestnuts falling to the ground and waiting to be roasted.)
We were able to look at a few rooms in the main house, and a short film on the history of Chatham was shown in one of the rooms there which provided a good source of information on the history of the house. It was unfortunate that there was only one piece of furniture that may have been original to the house, but there were several portraits of early owners. A cannon has been placed on the grounds facing the Rappahannock River and a replica pontoon like that used in the Union's advance on Fredericksburg along with several informational plaques are there for the reading as well.
Admission is free and open to the public.
Hours are 9am - 4:30pm daily.
National Park Service guides were ready and waiting to answer any and all questions by visitors.
My husband and I both love history and civil war history. We knew we wouldn't have enough time to visit the nearby battlefields, but we could squeeze in a visit the the Confederate Cemetery which was about 5 -6 blocks from old, downtown Fredericksburg. The cemetery is surrounded by a fine brick wall, and entry is through a finely wrought, gray metal gate with arch inscribed with the cenetery's name and the year, 1870. The cemetery was bathed in warm morning light, the air was still and the temperature was a bit chilly when we visited. A beautiful monument to the Confederate war dead is next to one towering tree but unfortunately the shade it provided prevented me from getting a good, clear photo.
Located off of Washington Avenue and William Street, the cemetery shares space with the city cemetery as well. According to the website, "Six Confederate generals and more than 3,300 Southern soldiers lie buried there amid quiet, peaceful surroundings; 2,184 of them are unknown. ..."
The cemetery was established thanks to the The Ladies Memorial Association, a group of Fredericksburg women who purchased land adjoining the City Cemetery in 1867 for the purpose of a cemetery.** While previously dutifully caring for the graves of the Confederate dead on the battlefields themselves which must have been an arduous job, the association they formed could now have approximately 600 soldiers re-interred in the new cemetery. Once the graves were marked by cedar posts only, but later various Southern states were able to replace the cedar posts with headstones. Indeed, straight rows of simple headstones mark the graves of Confederate soldiers now---some stones have no names, those that do may have no other information but the state the soldier came from. The rows are laid out in order interspersed with very old trees which shade parts of the cemetery. In an odd way, this graveyard felt familiar and "homey."
As we walked along looking at the headstones, we came upon one that had crumbled or was intentionally damaged. Amazingly, some kind person had placed a plate on the grave. On the back of the plate was information that had once been chiseled on the headstone; below that information was a small confederate flag. (See accompanying photo.) To preserve the information in this way, and ensure that the grave remains marked, was a very touching and reverential gesture in my opinion.
The visit here was a sobering reminder of the countless young men who gave their lives fighting for what they believed in, and the families they left behind in a war-torn nation.
**I recently viewed a documentary which explained the advent of a new policy promoted directly after the Civil War which, thanks in large part to the efforts of Clara Barton and a Mr. Bowditch, lead to the establishment of national cemeteries. In thousands of cases the soldiers of both the Union & Confederate armies had no proper burial, and in fact bodies were left on the battlefield to decay, and their families never knowing where or how they died. The lucky were buried by fellow soldiers; however, some or most unknown, were actually "thrown" into mass graves -- the farthest thing from being "laid to rest." Even this was not an easy task due to the fetid state of the battlefield and the decomposition of bodies. It was not uncommon to see fields littered with unburied bones. Efforts were made by some to gather information about soldiers listed as missing and about the names, units, place of death, and home state of Union soldiers. Responding to posted requests for information, many surviving Union soldiers were able to supply at least some information about when and where their fellow soldiers died. A movement to expatriate the remains of some Union soldiers to their home states was successful. At the time, the Lincoln administration established national cemeteries for Union soldiers, completely ignoring their southern counterparts. It was to this end that contingents of southern women sought to right this wrong by expending their own funds to repatriate the remains of southern soldiers when possible, and at the very least affording them a proper burial marked with a grave stone. ~ October, 2012
There appears to be some contradiction of this information, or omission of certain information on the site: http://www.qmfound.com/early_growth_of_the_national_cemetery_system.htm
The cemetery is open daily.
It's a great place to visit to get a feel for what it was like living here in the early 1900's. Gari Melcher was an artist and his work can be seen in his studio which is on the grounds. There is also a beautiful garden to walk in and trails that lead to the river. It's a great place to take kids to show them some art and to have a picnic afterwards at.
Virginia is blessed with many splendidly preserved historic homes. Chatham, from its earliest beginnings, ranks highly among these.
The Early Years
Built between 1768 - 1771 by William Fitzhugh in a grand Georgian style, Chatham was once a very large plantation, and as such, required close to 100 slaves to operate. As you are walking the grounds of Chatham, you can imagine the amount of work it took to successfully operate a farm/plantation of this size, not to mention running the large manor house. Although Fitzhugh employed some skilled African-Americans, the majority were slaves. In 1805, Chatham was the site of a slave rebellion which was put down by an armed posse. The manor was possibly already for sale when this occurred.
The 1800's and Civil War Years
In 1806, the plantation was sold for $20,000 which must have been a large sum at this time. By this century, the house had been visited by several illustrious Virginians and may be the only house to have been visited by 3 presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. Robert E. Lee was was also a guest at Chatham.
By the time of the Civil War, the home was owned by James Horace Lacy. Lacy later left his home to become an officer in the Confederacy and in 1862 Union forces occupied Chatham and used it as a headquarters, forcing the remaining Lacy family to flee across the Rappahannock River. Only months after Lincoln's visit, the Battle of Fredericksburg began. Chatham literally became center stage when the Union launched a seige against Fredericksburg and bridged the Rappahannock with pontoons. The Union's Army of the Potomac, being led by Gen. Ambrose Burnside, was decisively defeated by Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. The Union lost 12,600 in the battle and Chatham was forced to function as a Union hospital for the wounded and dying. Stories abound of the piles of amputated limbs and dead bodies on Chatham's grounds. One particular window casement in Chatham still reveals the scribblings of the Union soldiers quartered there. More than 130 Union soldiers were buried on the grounds of Chatham itself, only later to be removed to the Fredericksburg National Cemetery.
At different times, battles raged around Chatham and Fredericksburg, and the city suffered mighitly. From Chatham's sweeping front lawn, the destruction of much of Fredericksburg could be seen, and today many landmarks can still be seen across the river. We walked these grounds as far down as to the river; it is difficult to imagine what misery there must have been here in those days of civil war.
Post Civil War Days to the Present
With the end of the Civil War in 1865, Chatham's reflection became one of destruction and desolation. The house itself had suffered from its use as a hospital and soldiers' needs as a headquarters. The plantation farm had been ravaged for food and forests destroyed for firewood and other material necessities for war. All the gentile attributes of the estate were gone. The Lacy's sold the property in 1872 after which it was used for several purposes until purchased by Mr. & Mrs. Daniel Devore who had the desire to restore it, but later sold it to it's last private owner, John Lee Pratt.
Mr. Pratt willed Chatham Manor to the National Park Service who cares for it so wonderfully today. Thanks to these last 2 owners the public has the opportunity to appreciate the history and beauty of Chatham today at no charge.
Pictures to follow
UPDATE (July, 2011): There appears to be another multi-entrance pass available named, "Timeless Ticket." It offers admission to all, if not more, of the same attractions listed under the "Pass to Historic Fredericksburg." It is not clear if Timeless Ticket has replaced the original Pass or not. It is offered at Visitor Centers in Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, and Stafford, Virginia. The 2011 prices listed are: $32 for each adult with a free student pass (ages 6-18) with each adult pass purchased. Additional student tickets are $10 each.
Info: Phone 1-800-654-4118.
For the true lover of history, no trip to Fredericksburg would be complete without visiting some of the most historic buildings and Civil War battlefields in the area. Purchasing a "Pass to Historic Fredericksburg" allows you admission to 8 attractions at a combined reduced price:
Kenmore ~ 1770's Historic home of George Washington's sister, Betty Washington Lewis & her husband
Mary Washington House
George Washington's Ferry Farm
Fredericksburg Area Museum
Hugh Mercer Apothecary Shop ~ Hugh Mercer, Scottish physician and American Revolutionary War Hero
Rising Sun Tavern ~ 1760 Home of Charles Washington, George's brother later used as a Tavern
Belmont ~ Country house and working studio of American impressionist painter Gari Melchers (1860- 1932)
James Monroe Museum
Fredericksburg Area Battlefields audio visual shows
You can purchase your pass at the Fredericksburg Visitor's Center (open 9am to 7pm Memorial Day through Labor Day and 9 - 5 daily the remainder of the year) or at some of the sights it covers. To order in advance, call 1-800-654-4118 ( phone line manned by the Spotsylvania County Visitor's Center).
(2010 Prices)- $29 for adults, $8 for students ages 6 -18. Free for children 5 and under. According to their online advertisement, The Pass to Historic Fredericksburg offers a 50 percent savings over individual admission. Individual discounts of 20 percent are offered to AAA members at most historic attractions.)
The Pass is good for 1 year.
The state of Virginia has been at the center of American history since the very early 1600's. The county of Spotsylvania, and the town of Fredericksburg (founded in 1728) in particular, both played pivotal roles in the American Civil War and as such have much to offer for those interested this era of history.
Located half way between Richmond, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., Fredericksburg was a Confederate stronghold and the site of a major battle---the Fredericksburg Campaign of November-December 1862 -- when the Union launched an offensive against the city. However, the city suffered greviously through 4 battles between the Union Army of the Potomac and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia during the war all told.
Despite feeling the scourge of war for so many years, the town has preserved buildings, battlefields, and cemeteries which compete with newer attractions for tourists' attention. Available at the Fredericksburg Visitors Center are brochures outlining self-guided walks you can do to visit scenes of the 1862 Campaign. Part I of the walking tour is named "Fire in the Streets" and Part II is "The Assault on Marye's Heights." The Union's Army of the Potomac withdrew at night under heavy rain the night of December 15-16, 1862, ending the Battle of Fredericksburg. A fitting end to your walking tour maybe a visit to the Confederate Cemetery which is a solemn reminder of the cost of this civil war. Although not considered one of the deadliest battles of the war, 3 battles in the Spotsylvania area are considered some of the bloodiest with approximately 84,000 lives lost there alone.
Even if you are not a student of the American Civil War, there are other historic sites of interest which Visitor Center guides will be happy to inform you of, along with providing brochures, maps, and information which you can visit as separate entities such as several museums, the home of Mary Washington, the Hugh Mercer Apothocary Shop, the Rising Sun Tavern, St. George's Church, Chatham and more. Look for those buildings with bronze plaques from the historic society attached to them stating the year in which they were built and their original owners or purpose.
There is an excellent brochure highlighting sights, particularly pertaining to African American history, which are inextricably linked to the history of Fredericksburg itself. The history is extremely interesting and the sights are well worth your time to visit.
The first place we visited in Old Downtown Fredericksburg was its excellent " Visitors Center ". The Center not only offers a vast array of maps, brochures, books, and information about Historic Fredericksburg and the surrounding area, but any questions you may have will be answered by the courteous & helpful attendants of the Center.
Most importantly, the Visitor's Center is THE place to purchase your tickets for the Trolley Tours, Ghost Walk Tours, Carriage rides, etc., and you can also purchase the "Pass to Historic Fredericksburg." The Visitor's Center also has books, souvenirs and the best price on postcards I saw in Fredericksburg - 6 for $1. The Trolley and Ghost Walk Tours leave from in front of the Visitor Center.
In addition, the Center hosts a separate, comfortable theater room where a short film/slides about Fredericksburg is offered free of charge to all visitors. While we found it very interesting, my only complaint was that it wasn't long enough!!! Being a lover of history and a fledgling student of Civil War history, I would loved to have seen more. The film/slides run constantly, so if interested, you should never have much of a wait.
The Visitor Center is open 9am - 7pm daily Memorial Day through Labor Day and 9 - 5 daily the rest of the year. A short-term parking lot is located just next to the building itself and also street parking. No parking meters!
NOTE: The Visitor Center itself is located in an historic building. According to a bronze plaque attached to the side of the building at 706 Caroline St., it was built for Anthony Kale in 1824, and was used as a confectionery store. Mr. Kale's residence was upstairs in the 3-story, brick building which I found notable for its attractive half-moon door transom and double chimneys. The bronze plaque is from the Historic Fredericksburg Foundation and also features the likenesses of George Washington and James Monroe which leads me to believe that both men visited this building. "During the Civil War Union soldiers used it as a holding area for prisoners."
The drive from Fredericksburg to Luray Caverns is, itself, a rewarding opportunity to see some of the beautiful scenery of the area.
The caverns themselves are just one set of caverns in the area of the Shenandoah Valley. Luray Caverns were discovered in 1878 and are adorned with stalactites, columns, mud flows, flowstone, stalagmites and mirrored pools.
The caverns include a stalacpipe organ, a lithophone made from strikers that tap stalactites of various sizes to produce tones similar to those of xylophones, tuning forks, or bells which are played at regular intervals and are well worth staying to listen to.
Lake Anna Winery is family-owned and produces some award-winning wines. Members of the family will take you on a tour of the winery and tell you of its history and its approach to wine making.
Afterwards, you can enjoy a testing session of the great selection of wines available - and, of course, purchase those which you truly enjoy.
The Kenmore Plantation was built by the sister of George Washington, Betty Washington Lewis, and her husband Fielding Lewis in the 1770s. Today, it is a beautiful Georgian-style mansion which was originally set in a 1,300 acre plantation.
Fielding Lewis was a merchant who lost his fortune as a result of his patriotic support of the Civil War but the house remains.
The grounds are planted our with informal and formal gardens, whilst interiors show the colourful paint and decorative plaster ceilings from the time.
Admission Prices (October 2010) :
Under 6 free
Dedicated in May 1870, the cemetery holds the final remains of 3,553 Confederates killed on four battlefields in the Fredericksburg are and re-interred here. The fallen came from 14 Southern states with those unknown soldiers buried under the large Monument to the Confederate Dead whilst known soldiers are buried in individual graves marked with Georgia marble headstones.
The cemetery is open daily during daylight hours.
This is a great place to go and get all the information you might need to complete your research or to assist you with your planning on a trip to Fredericksburg and its surrounding battlefield areas.
The centre has a selection of brochures, maps and information on accommodation and dining. Here you can see a free, short film about the area.
Local souvenirs are also sold here.
Now, you really have to visit this place. The directions are on the website, the information is extremely good, BUT the Park Ranger was amazing. I thought it would be one of those guided tours that quoted statistics, numbers, dates and all that crap. Nope. This man made the whole thing come alive for me, he was brilliant. He recounted stories and facts about the Confederates up on Marye's Heights with their fearsome artillery and the Unionists in the town of Fredericksburg advancing and retreating across the river several times. The fog, which played a major factor in hiding the guns and concealing the advancing Unionists, lifting and exposing both and the following carnage. The fighting which happened in the streets of Fredericksburg and the still remaining musket ball holes in the woodwork of the houses.
The Confederates wrecked the town, burning and torching houses, taking all the belongings and furniture into the streets and trashing it, breaking things and making it impossible for the residents to return to their comfortable homes.
I was carried away by the stories and the being there. Standing behind the wall of the Sunken Road, I could imagine being a Confederate Soldier. Waiting for the battle, seeing the Unionists piling up across the river, hearing the guns on Marye's Hill firing, imagining the noise and confusion.
You really HAVE to go, whether you are a foreigner or a US citizen.
Who knew there were about 180 wineries in Virginia? I certainly did not, but had the chance to taste quite a few and found them very good. Zana, our host for the VirtualTourist meet in Fredericksburg arranged, for those of us who wanted, to tour the Lake Anna Winery. It was started as a sideline but now the two sons of the founder run it as a full time business. One of them gave us a very interesting and informative tour of the facility and explained the whole process. Then for $3 ($5 if you wanted to keep the souvenir glass) we were given a taste of about 10 or 12 of the wines. We were shown a pretty impressive list of awards they have won as we tasted and I found most of them quite to my liking. Of course, we could also buy wines and several did so. The winery is set in the midst of the vineyards in the lovely Virginia countryside about 30 mile from Fredericksburg. A very pleasant and educational experience.