Fredericksburg . . .

Today was another day to play tourist in the area so about 10am we headed about 30 miles to the historic town of Fredericksburg, VA, location of the Battle of Fredericksburg.

Our first stop was at the Visitors Center to get tickets for the Trolley Tour. But finding we had an hour to kill before our tour, we made a run a few miles away to a Dunkin Donuts for coffee and breakfast sandwiches. Fall is Pumpkin Time at Dunkin with Pumpkin Coffee, Pumpkin Donuts, Pumpkin Munchkins (holes), and even Pumpkin Cream Cheese Spread. And we all know how Jan loves anything Pumpkin.

Then it was back to town to catch our noon trolley ride.

Fredericksburg Trolley


One of our first stops was at the Rising Sun Tavern. Built in 1760 as the home of Charles Washington, George Washington’s younger brother, and became a tavern in 1792.

It was advertised as a ‘proper’ tavern since it guaranteed no more than five people per bed. ‘Non-proper’ taverns could have as many as ten per bed. And this with many people only bathing once a year.


Rising Sun Tavern


We also stopped by Kenmore Plantation, the home of Betty Washington Lewis and her husband. Betty was George Washington’s sister.


Built in the 1770’s, it is notable for the Civil War cannon ball still embedded in the front façade. Although this was a solid non-explosive shell, in the 1980’s two unexploded rounds, left over from the Civil War, had to be removed by the bomb squad.

Kenmore Cannon Shot


Another stop was at Brompton, now the home of the president of University of Mary Washington.


Built in 1838 and known as the Marye House during the Civil War, several battles raged around the house, and many wounded soldiers took shelter in and around the house and the grounds.

An example is this oak tree in the front yard.

Matthew Brady Tree

And here is the same tree in a Matthew Brady photo from the same period.

Matthew Brady - Fredericksburg 2a

I don’t know about you, but looking at these two photos gives me chills.

Our next stop was at Chatham, a Georgian-style house built overlooking the town of Fredericksburg from across the Rappahannock River.

Chatham Skyline

Finished in 1771, it was built by William Fitzhugh, close friend of George Washington, a frequent guest.

Chatham 1

Fitzhugh’s daughter, Mary Lee, married George Washington’s step-grandson, George Washington Parke Custis, and their daughter wed the future Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Talk about keeping it in the family.

By the time of the Civil War, the home is owned by James Lacy and is known as the Lacy House.

Chatham Chair

This wingback dates from the late 1700’s and was owned by the Lacy Family. But that’s not the amazing part.

This is also a chamber chair, or a ‘potty’ chair if you will. And was used by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, the Marquis de Lafayette, James Madison, James Monroe, and Robert E. Lee.

Seems like a new turn on the old “George Washington ‘slept’ here” theme.

Among the many displays in the house was this Magneto Telegraph, which enabled orders to be sent directly to and from the battlefield.

Battlefield Telegraph


The battle, taking place from December 11 to the 15, 1862, was one of the most lop-sided battles of the Civil War, with the Union losing more than twice as many men as the Confederacy.

The battle basically boiled down to General Ambrose Burnside wanting to get past Fredericksburg to advance on Richmond, the capitol of the Confederacy.

He planned to do this by crossing the Rappahannock on a pontoon bridge. But a delay in the arrival of the pontoon sections, along with Burnside’s reluctance to actually close with the enemy, allowed Lee time to fortify Marye’s Heights (the location of Brompton above) into an almost impregnable position.

By the time the pontoon bridges shown below were ready, Lee was too.


At Chatham you can see a pontoon bridge section built to 80% scale.

Chatham Pontoon

Once across the river, Burnside sent his troops on multiple assaults against Lee’s position leading to horrific casualties on the Union side.

It is from Marye’s Heights that General Lee, looking down on the growing Confederate victory, uttered his famous quote.

“It is well that war is so terrible, or we should grow too fond of it.”

Burnside’s disastrous failure here at Fredericksburg led to Lincoln removing him from command a little over a month later.

The last thing we did during our visit to Chatham was watch a couple of very well done films on the history of Chatham, and the lives of the people of Virginia during the war.

Finally leaving Chatham we were all ‘jonesin’ for Mexican so we decide to try the aptly-named and well-recommended Mexico Restaurant. And it was good. Good enough to get 4 votes for going back if we got the chance.

So about 7:45 after another long but fun day, we finally got back to the park and home. Tomorrow it’s supposed to be raining so it’s a stay-at-home day.

Stay-at-home days are nice.


Thought for the Day:

This one bears repeating –

“It is well that war is so terrible, or we should grow too fond of it.” – Robert E. Lee



4 Responses

  1. Once a tree reaches the age of a couple of years, the branches never grow any higher. At this point, tree grows up from the top and will get wider,but the branches never grow any higher. Even allowing for the branch that leans toward the left in the original, I do not see this as the same tree. There are too many inconsistencies in the photo, but it makes a good story.

  2. Which leads me to the question, why is the US still in two wars we will never win??

  3. George,

    I wondered about that too.

    But there is a plaque on the tree that describes the photo, and the documentation with the Matthew Brady photo says it was taken in front of the Lacy House in Fredericksburg, VA.

    I think the difference in the pictures is due to a difference in the distance and the angle of the two photos.

  4. Janna,

    I think we could win them if we fought them like we fought WWII.

    Instead we’re fighting them to be politically correct.

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