George Washington and his family had strong ties to the Fredericksburg region. Washington was born in Westmoreland County. He spent some of his formative years at Ferry Farm in Stafford County, and his mother, Mary Washington, lived in Fredericksburg the last 17 years of her life, while his sister, Betty, lived at the home now known as Kenmore with her husband, Fielding Lewis.
Fredericksburg rises from the fall line of the Rappahannock River. Its natural hills are generally considered to be just part of the scenic landscape. Wealthy townspeople, such as the Willis and Marye families, built their mansions on the heights. Before the Civil War, the scenery was pleasant but otherwise unremarkable.
In November and December of 1862, Confederate troops, under the command of General Robert E. Lee, fortified the hills above Fredericksburg. The townspeople were mostly evacuated, which was well as what was to follow certainly resembled a hell on earth.
What kinds of people settled the new lands of America? They had their own ideas about laws, religion, and what makes a good government. They were, in a word, independent.
In 1776, England was far away, and people on this side of the Atlantic were heartily sick and tired of paying taxes on top of taxes to finance England's empty treasury. They were tired, too, of losing money by having the Crown interfere with their trade overseas. The men in the assemblies shouted that King George was a tyrant, so the King's men stopped the assemblies. When they still protested, the King brought in the army, making the colonists put them up in their houses. Any crimes the soldiers committed against the colonists were handled in the King's court by the King's judges.
By Janet Payne
Janet Payne is the retired fine arts coordinator of the Stafford (VA) County Public Schools. This article originally appeared in the International Review of African American Art, volume 16, number 1, and is reproduced here with the permission of this publication.
In 1996 on one of my many visits to the Hampton University Museum, I had the opportunity to see the recently acquired Countee Cullen collection. As I viewed the familiar names of African American artists, I noticed an artist unknown to me—Palmer C. Hayden of Wide Water, Virginia. Could that be the same Widewater in Stafford County where I am the fine arts coordinator? How could this be? My research on the Stafford-born artist Palmer C. Hayden began in this moment.
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.
Two armies faced each other in winter camps across the Rappahannock River. The fighting in December had gone very badly for the Union as they tried to take the Confederate position at Marye’s Heights. Friends and sometimes family had been killed, and the Southern town of Fredericksburg was largely left in ruins.
For months, these two enemy armies went about their business on opposite sides of the river. During those long days and nights, they weren’t firing cannons anymore, but they were sending out volleys of music to lift their soldiers’ spirits. Each side had its patriotic songs. Often they had the same tune but different words, and each side would sing and cheer their own bands.
On those winter nights, they might close with a special tune. One that everyone sang the same words to: “Home, Sweet Home.”
Everybody knows that the Pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving, right? Well, probably not, but it was the Pilgrims' Thanksgiving that gave us our Thanksgiving holiday as we know it today.
The Pilgrims came to the New World looking for a way to worship God as they wished. They were not Puritans. Puritans wanted to change the Church of England to do away with its bishops but keep its ties to the government. The Puritans went on to settle the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Pilgrims at the Plymouth Colony were Separatists.
By Jane Kosa and Virginia Johnson
Pocahontas, the Powhatan princess who befriended the Jamestown colonists, married the Englishman John Rolfe in 1614, and is believed by many to have saved John Smith's life—that is what the world knows about the Powhatan Confederacy. Her father, Powhatan, almost alone, united the small, scattered Algonquian tribes of present-day Virginia and Delaware into a 30-tribe group in the late 1500s. We know this group as the Powhatan Confederacy. The Confederacy included 128 Algonquian villages and 20,000+ people at its peak in the early 1600s.
Powhatan and his people welcomed the English settlers in 1607 and helped them survive the first winter here by teaching them how to grow corn and tobacco, providing them medicine, and helping them hunt. But that relationship wasn't to last. Even so, for hundreds of years, people have told the story of a young Powhatan girl who was believed to have saved an English captain's life and established peace for a time between their peoples.
Travelers who take a turn off of busy Route 1 near Aquia Harbor find themselves viewing a living monument to colonial Virginia's past. Protected from the surrounding sprawl by its location, nestled on a hilltop surrounded by trees, this beautiful church dates to the decades before the Revolutionary War. Its long and sometimes difficult history—preserved in bricks, stone, and written memories, includes tales of preachers, firebrands, soldiers, and star-crossed lovers.
Between April and September 1862, an estimated 10,000 slaves fled the South through our region. As part of the local Civil War Sesquicentennial commemorations, the Trail to Freedom project was designed to give the public a better understanding of the experiences of those whom the war impacted greatly but are often only a footnote in history books.