Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Behind a Charles Street warehouse, Fredericksburg, Virginia. Wounded soldiers of the Union Sixth Corps, May 20, 1864. Obstructions at the location today severely limit the scope of a then and now comparison, thus the radical degree of cropping from the original exposure, seen below, by James Gardner.
Below, taken diagonally northeast across a former courtyard from the above scene, the Fredericksburg Baptist Church on Princess Anne Street. The courtyard today serves as a parking lot for local merchants. This composite photograph illustrates a car occupying this precise location, seemingly drawing the attention of the 1864 onlookers. What an experience that would be. Where is Marty McFly?
Saturday, May 4, 2013
All photographs copyright 2013 by John F. Cummings III
Friday, May 3, 2013. The village of Spotsylvania Courthouse is preparing to host a rather large-scale, commemorative reenactment of the Battle of Chancellorsville for the 150th Anniversary. The scale of the event is immense. Traffic into the region is anticipated to be very heavy, with tens of thousands of spectators anticipated over the two day event. Meanwhile, on the actual Chancellorsville battlefield, about six miles directly north of this site, the National Park Service has been hosting wonderful tours and interpretive programs.
Your blog host will be on hand with camera at the ready. We shall see what we shall see.
Mounted troops recon the countryside.
Military musicians of all ages gather to entertain the troops.
Huge camps begin to cover the landscape. This one is right to next to a Spotsylvania Battlefield,
National Park Service border, near Burnside Drive and Route 208. The open field is NPS property.
"Union" camping area is separated from the NPS property by this gravel road put in place for the event.
In a wedge of land recently created by the Courthouse Bypass, an artillery page has moved in.
With perhaps four thousand re-enactors now expected to attend, this will be the largest gathering of the blue and gray on this ground since May 1864. It will be an interesting weekend to say the least.
Friday, May 3, 2013
Thursday, May 2, marked the 150th anniversary of Stonewall Jackson's famed Flank March as well as his accidental mortal wounding by the 18th North Carolina Infantry. Stevenson Ridge and the Friends of the Fredericksburg Area Battlefields marked this Sesquicentennial moment by presenting their second annual Civil War symposium. Forty-five registered attendees and others convened in the basement meeting room of the Riddick House, an 1812 Plantation House moved to the site from Como, North Carolina in 2003.
Guest speakers at this year's event included, Daniel T. Davis, Chris Mackowski and Kris White, all up and coming historians and noted bloggers from the collective, Emerging Civil War, which features a stable of writers. Mackowski and White have recently coauthored a long awaited volume on the battle of Second Fredericksburg, entitled Chancellorsville's Forgotten Front, published by Savas Beatie, and released just this month.
Next year's symposium will cover the 150th anniversary of the battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse. Check back in the next few months for dates and times. We have already begun to assemble our lineup of speakers. It promises to be exciting.
Be sure to visit the Stevenson Ridge website as well for information on overnight accommodations and special event facilities.
Daniel T. Davis, Chris Mackowski, and Kristopher White
Kristopher White explained the battle of Second Fredericksburg in captivating detail.
Daniel T. Davis demonstrated the importance of Stoneman's Raid to the Union Cavalry's evolution.
Chris Mackowski transported the audience through the last days of Stonewall Jackson.
Thursday, May 2, 2013
All photos by Julie Raflo. Copyright 2008, 2013.
On May 3rd and 4th, 2008, the 145th anniversary of the Battle of Chancellorsville was commemorated on the actual ground where the opening engagement had occurred on May 1, 1863. The site had recently become one of battlefield preservation's greatest victories. A coalition of local and national organizations had come together to campaign against a Northern Virginia developer that was seeking a rezoning of the property. The proposed "Town of Chancellorsville" was offering 2,000 homes and 2.2 million square feet of retail and office space on 781 acres along Route 3, the historic Orange Turnpike. The debate became a national concern with a press conference by he Civil War Preservation Trust in July 2002. The collective efforts of the "Chancellorsville Coalition" tirelessly campaigned against the threat. Finally, in March 2003, the rezoning request was denied by the Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors.
Five years later, the largess of the Civil War Preservation Trust, in cooperation with the Spotsylvania County Government, and Tricord Homes, permitted the commemorative event seen here, acted out in the very footsteps of the soldiers engaged in 1863. It was a rare opportunity for the reenactment community to hold such an event on the very ground where history happened. Click any of the pictures for larger viewing.
Today, the property is open to visitors as the First Day at Chancellorsville site. An extensive trail system, with detailed interpretive signage, vividly presents the drama of the engagement. Visit the Civil War Trust's animated map of the opening battle by clicking here.
Monday, April 29, 2013
Last week, on April 26, I had my first opportunity to visit the Yorktown, Virginia area. I set off on this adventure as part of a family visit. One of my stepdaughter's husband is stationed near there, and spending time with them was a welcome opportunity to see the sights. Initially, having no preconceived notions of what the battlefield park offered, I had one very specific goal, and that was to visit the Moore House, site of the October 18, 1781 surrender negotiations of British General Cornwallis's army. That event was the opening door to the final cessation of hostilities during the Revolutionary War. However, my primary focus was, predictably some would say, to examine the 1862 Civil War connection to the site, as well as the unfounded rumor that Colonial-era Governor Alexander Spotswood was buried on the property. (therein is my Spotsylvania County connection, and excuse for posting about it here.) Below, is a May 1862 Gardner photograph of the Moore House, showing damage it suffered during the first month of the Peninsula Campaign, April 5 to May 4, 1862. Ironically, the structure had escaped damage during the 1781 conflict, having been located well east of that fighting's concentration. Today it is beautifully restored and managed by the National Park Service, as seen in the modern view. This view is looking roughly 112 degrees southeast.
Arriving at the park's visitor center, I began to formulate where I would need to go to focus on the Civil War story, of which very little is presented. Taking a fast perusal of the souvenir/book store, I was delighted to find a thin, but quite informative book entitled, A Guide To Civil War Yorktown, by Dr. Thomas Adrian Wheat, Col. USA Retired. Within its 46 pages was a well designed walking tour of the siege works and the town itself, all based around Civil War era images. Included are some well detailed maps that provide the location and direction of each image. It does not, however, provide modern comparison images, but they are easily ascertained with the use of the maps provided. Having set out on my adventure with only two predetermined 1862 images on hand, I was extremely pleased to have found this volume. Armed with it, I was now able to assemble some interesting then and now comparisons. I recommend that visitors seek out this guide. Without it I would have been at a loss to understand how the 1862 campaign utilized a good portion of the former British fortifications. Beginning with the photo below, I will present some of the images covered in the book. I have attempted to create as accurate modern views as I could, but I acknowledge that some could benefit from a bit of tweaking. Two in particular have been deliberately shifted, slightly, to adjust for modern obstructions. Be sure to click on any image for larger viewing.
Looking roughly 150 degrees southeast along a portion of the
Confederate, "High Bastion", near the visitor center.
Looking roughly 278 degrees west, within "High Bastion", toward the visitor center.
On Main Street, looking northwest, from in front of the Nelson House, in the town.
On Main Street, looking southeast. The Courthouse is on the left.
A battery of eight-inch Columbiads, on the east side of Church Street,
near Grace Episcopal Church. The view is looking southeast.
near Grace Episcopal Church. The view is looking southeast.
Looking roughly northward at the end of Church Street, across the York River,
with Glocester Point on the opposite shore. The modern view is shifted slightly.
The Sessions House and the Nelson House, looking southwest, from within a deep ravine.
The Nelson House was used as a hospital in 1862, and had been Cornwallis' headquarters in 1781.
Attempting to achieve the same modern view is difficult due to current vegetation.
Moving forward of the vegetation provides a similar, but not identical view. The ravine is evident.
Sunday, April 21, 2013
Nearly three years after a freak storm struck Fredericksburg's Confederate Cemetery, uprooting a large tree and tearing open graves (see story from July 2010), another fast, and violent storm swept through the area on Friday, April 19, 2013. This time the damage was manifest in the uprooting of a massive tree, the roots of which ripped open several graves and damaged numerous headstones. An examination of the site on Saturday did not reveal exposed human remains, but the damage to the ground and untold headstones was seen to be extensive. One marker was totally pulled from the ground and cast aside, unbroken. The massive tree appears to have stood approximately 108 feet, and probably 5 feet in diameter. As it came crushing down branches broke surrounding stones, and the giant trunk likely hammered several, straight down into the ground as it landed. This was the last of four historic trees that had been planted near the four corners of the center monument, dedicated in 1884. Further details of the storm and its wrath can be found by clicking here.
Click on any image for larger viewing.
The massive root base opened numerous graves.
This stone was uprooted and cast aside, unbroken.
Its inscription indicates it was for a "Richard Jett", from Texas.
A search through several record sources did not reveal a positive
correlation to known soldiers from Texas fighting in the area.
The name engraved is perhaps a misspelling.
Uprooted and broken stones abound.
Approximately 108 feet tall, it effected numerous stones.
Trees in the civilian sections also damaged stones.
Your blog host stands next to the root base.
The roots tore through several graves.
The entrance gate to the cemetery, on Washington Avenue.
Additional damage, perhaps previous vandalism and not storm related,
is seen in the extreme shift of this column on the southwest corner of
the center monument. Could a 90 mile an hour wind gust shifted this?