History Feature Articles
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.
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.
The huge boulder rolled deliberately in the middle of the road was the first sign of trouble. On May 11, 1889, along a dusty trail in Arizona, an unlikely bunch of desperadoes made off with $28,000 in gold from U.S. Army Paymaster Major Joseph Washington Wham. Buffalo Soldiers from the 24th Infantry were part of the 12-man escort that would go down fighting that day.
With a cry of "Look out, you black sons of bitches!" a buckskin-clad bandit opened fire on the wagon train from his advantageous position on the heights. The soldiers grabbed their guns, stored in the second wagon. Some were able to take cover, but others, such as Sergeant Benjamin Brown, were struck quickly by the hail of bullets coming from the other bandits, estimated to be between 12 and 15 in number. This didn't mean the soldiers stopped resisting the onslaught.
"That two battalions of Marines be raised consisting of one colonel, two lieutenant colonels, two majors and officers as usual in other regiments, that they consist of an equal number of privates with other battalions; that particular care be taken that no person be appointed to office or enlisted into said battalions, but such as are good seamen, or so acquainted with maritime affairs as to be able to serve to advantage by sea." (Resolution of the Continental Congress, 10 November 1775.)
November 10 marks the birthday of the United States Marine Corps. On this day in 1775, the Continental Congress passed a resolution calling for the creation of two battalions of Marines to serve the new nation. Each year in Marine posts throughout the world, traditions such as the birthday ball and the cutting of birthday cake continue, bonding generations of warriors together as they celebrate their shared brotherhood.
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.
From a Scottish port to colonial Fredericksburg to the royal courts of France and Russia, the little man who famously refused to give up the fight was perfectly at home in both cottages and elegant salons, but he was always eager to set sail for adventure and glory.
By Fredericksburg Area Tourism Department
The spirit of the past still lives in Fredericksburg, Virginia. George Washington's footsteps seem to echo on the paths and streets of his hometown. The voices of Thomas Jefferson and other colonial leaders seem to resound through the Rising Sun Tavern.
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.