For more than two hundred years, this Spotsylvania farm has stood as a witness to Virginia history. Originally carved from land given to colonial Governor Alexander Spotswood, Ellwood willingly hosted two armies-that of the Marquis de Lafayette during the Revolutionary War and General Robert E. Lee during the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863. However, in 1864, during the Battle of the Wilderness, Ellwood became the headquarters for Generals Gouverneur K. Warren and Ambrose E. Burnside. General Grant took his position a few hundred yards away from the house, at a spot still called Grant's Knoll.
On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress adopted a resolution to prepare a flag for our new republic. According to a well-known story, George Washington asked a Philadelphia seamstress named Betsy Ross to make a flag for our new country. Although there is no proof that this is the way our first flag came to be, Betsy Ross was a real person, and she was an official flag maker for the U.S. Navy.
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.
Follow Marlborough Point Road down to the eastern tip of Stafford County, and you will pass by lots of new housing mushrooming into the forests and fields that were once favored by both the Native Americans and colonial settlers. This section of the county is home to not just centuries of local history but millennia.
Virginia’s Civil War history sometimes overshadows her Revolutionary past. In For Virginia and Independence, Dr. Ward shares fascinating, adventurous stories of soldiers, some local, whose deeds should be remembered. There’s Peter Francisco, the strongman immigrant soldier; Jack Jouett, Virginia’s Paul Revere; Anna Maria Lane, who dressed as a man and followed her husband into battle; and 25 more.
The year 2002 celebrated the 250th anniversary of the foundation of "George Washington's Mother Lodge." According to the authors of The History of Freemasonry in Virginia, "Fredericksburg Lodge No. 4 stands out as one of the brightest Lodges in the early history of Freemasonry in Virginia." Since 1752 it has maintained a continuous Masonic presence in Fredericksburg. Many of the town's prominent citizens have been members, and many of its prominent buildings have Masonic cornerstones.
"Fredericksburg; may it increase and its commerce flourish." --Toast by George Washington, 1784
Fredericksburg-area residents and visitors have the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of Washington and Lincoln. Both presidents were entertained lavishly across the river at Chatham estate, but under very different circumstances.
To Washington, this small town of Fredericksburg was his childhood home, populated by many friends and relatives. His sojourns here are noted in his diary with a pleasant familiarity. Lincoln's view of Fredericksburg could hardly be of greater contrast, for Fredericksburg was a Union-occupied town, and although the president was certainly welcomed by his own men, he was not welcomed by Confederate townspeople. In the chill of that December, Fredericksburg would become the site of one of the Union's worst defeats.
What was it like to live long ago when Virginia belonged to England? When there were no cars, no computers, few hospitals and no free public schools?
Without cars, trains or airplanes, people traveled by boat, horseback or on foot by "shank's mare". The reason so many colonial towns were located next to rivers is that often the roads were terrible seas of mud. It was so much easier to travel on the rivers!
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.
The Central Rappahannock region produced many of the men who led the fight for independence and fashioned the new American nation. Some are remembered, and afforded their due. Some, like John Francis Mercer, are not remembered -- but should be….