Fredericksburg Features

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History calendar


“Fit to Print:  Newspapers in the 21st Century,”    7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 13. Josiah Rowe, publisher emeritus of The Free Lance–Star, will conclude the Fredericksburg Area Museum’s three-lecture “Evening With an Expert” series with a look at how the newspaper industry has changed over the decades. In 1900, the The Free Lance merged with  The Daily Star; the two papers were published independently until 1926 when, under the leadership of Josiah P. Rowe Jr., they were combined into a single, six-day-a-week newspaper, The Free Lance–Star. Rowe eventually became its owner and publisher. The  lecture, in the Catherine W. Jones McKann Center at 1001 Princess Anne St., is free and open to the public. A members-only FAMCC reception will follow; nonmembers may join that evening for admittance.  Call 540/371-3037,  ext. 140, or email

“Christmas Traditions and Experiences of the Civil War and Mid-Century Victorian Era.”  7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 15,   Meeting Room 1 at Snow Library.  During this monthly meeting of Civil War Civilians of Spotsylvania, the group will hear a talk on Christmas customs and discuss its participation in    2012 events. The public is welcome. Email

“Civil War Northern Virginia 1861.” 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 16. National Civil War Life Museum, 829 Caroline St. Author William S.  Connery, a Baltimore native who lives in Fairfax County, will discuss his new History Press book on the events that flowed from the Union’s invasion  of Northern Virginia in 1861, making it “a no-man’s land between Yankee and Rebel armies.” Mr. Connery,  an accomplished public speaker who is a member of the Company of Military Historians,  has a son who is a graduate of the University of Mary Washington. Questions? Email the museum’s Terry Thomann at or call 540/834-1859.


  “A 19th-century Christmas at Ellwood Manor.” 9 a.m.–2 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 17. Santa will visit. Children’s crafts  from 9 to 11 a.m.  Interpreters will talk about 19th-century Christmas traditions and read yuletide  letters of Civil War soldiers. John Tole of Evergreen Shade will provide seasonal music. Fawn Lake Garden Club will decorate the circa-1790 plantation house, which figured significantly in the Revolutionary War and two Civil War battles. Free; donations welcome.  Hosted by all-volunteer Friends of Wilderness Battlefield. Entrance off State Route 20, just west of State Route 3 in eastern Orange County.


“Holiday Without Joy: Christmas in the Civil War,” Chatham Manor, Stafford County, 1–4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 18. The 18th-century mansion will echo with period holiday music, and crafts and a scavenger hunt for children. Living historian Kevin Rawlings will portray  a Civil War-era Santa, complete with a patriotic outfit.  Light refreshments. 120 Chatham Lane.; 540/654-5121.

A Civil War Christmas at Kenmore,  through Dec. 30 (Closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day). December tours of Historic Kenmore focus on the Civil War era. Guests will learn how modern concepts of the Christmas season were shaped during the mid-19th century. Christmas decorations fill the house, toys are under a feather tree, and a holiday meal is set. In each room, guides will talk about how residents and visitors, from children to slaves, experienced the season during this dark period. Take a glimpse into a Civil War-era Kenmore; you may be surprised at how many traditions remain. Regular admission rates and times apply. Kenmore, built by George Washington’s sister Betty Washington Lewis and her husband, Fielding Lewis, is at 1201 Washington Ave., in  Fredericksburg.; 540/373-3381.

25th annual Gingerbread House Contest and Exhibit at George Washington’s Ferry Farm, through Dec. 30,  from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day).  Regular admission rates apply. This year’s theme is “The World of Make Believe.”  Ferry Farm is east of Fredericksburg on State Route 3 in Stafford, at 268 Kings Highway.; 540/371-3363.

“A Monroe Christmas,”   through Jan. 2. This exhibit  transforms the  James Monroe Museum into a festive display of Christmas as Monroe and his fellow Virginians might have enjoyed it. Features greenery popular during the era, including holly, ivy, mistletoe, and mountain laurel, with details on   customs such as the “kissing ball,”  made out of mistletoe. A buffet  showcases  holiday dishes such as candied fruits, sweetmeats, oysters and plum pudding. Learn about Virginia’s  Christmas customs, such as the shooting of guns and firecrackers, the kinds of presents exchanged between parents and  children, and how slaves might have experienced the  festivities. Admission fee.  10 a.m.–4 p.m. Monday–Saturday, 1–4 p.m. Sunday. 908 Charles St.  540/654-1043;

Jingle-bell carriage rides in Old Town Fredericksburg.  4–9 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays    through Dec. 30. Holiday music, cookies, hot chocolate, warm blankets. Reservations required. $75 per carriage for a half-hour.  Carriage holds four to six. City Visitor Center carriage stand, 706 Caroline St., Fredericksburg. 540/371-0094.

A Washington Christmas,  Tuesday, Dec. 27, George Washington Birthplace National Monument. The park’s Memorial House will be decorated for the holidays and filled with Colonial music. Four National Park Service historians will give brief, informal talks on important Christmases in George Washington’s life. The plantation will be busy with demonstrations and activities performed by costumed interpreters.  Come dusk, the park will be illuminated   with candles. Free. 1732 Popes Creek Road, off State Route 3, about 35 miles east of Fredericksburg.; 804/224-1732.


Above the Fold,        Fredericksburg Area Museum and Cultural Center.   See more than 150 years of  news coverage in this new exhibit  on   journalism in the Fredericksburg area, with artifacts and rare examples of bygone  newspapers.   Documents Gallery of the   Catherine W. Jones McKann Center, 1001 Princess Anne St. Regular admission. Visit or call 540/371-3037.

Caroline Museum and Cultural Center,   new facility. Exhibits on county history  include Civil War stories and quilts with secret messages for escaping slaves.   Free.  Courthouse complex, 121 North Main St., downtown Bowling Green. 804/633-3490;




All I Want for Christmas,  10:30 a.m., Tuesday, Dec. 13. What present did Nathaniel Johnston receive from Col. Robert E. Lee in 1859? His and many other gifts will be uncovered as The Virginia Historical Society explores how the holiday has changed during 400 years.  In this behind-the-scenes tour led by a curator, explore items in the collection that are not on display, through the Richmond nonprofit’s new “A View from the Inside” program. Tours on second Tuesday of every month limited to 20 people. Buy online, $10/VHS members; $17, nonmembers.; 804/342-9676.


An American Turning Point: The Civil War in Virginia, through Dec. 30 at the Virginia Historical Society,  428 N. Boulevard, Richmond.  Signature program of the Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission—with 17 audiovisual programs,  more than 200 original objects and 3,000 square foot of  gallery space—tells personal experiences of wartime Virginia’s free and enslaved men, women, children. Free;  804/358-4901,


 “An Un-Civil Christmas: Holiday Music of the Civil War,”  7:30 and 9 p.m., on Dec. 16, 21, 24, 28, 30 and Jan. 1 at Colonial Williamsburg’s Courthouse. Soldiers and their families looked to familiar traditions, especially to music, to remind them not only of better times with loved ones but also of the ideals for which they were fighting. Folk musicians share anecdotes and Christmas songs that gave both sides strength and comfort during the Civil War. Tickets, $15; $7.50 for children under 6.


Williamsburg Civil War Tour, Dec. 15 and Dec. 26, at 7, 7:20, 7:40, 8:20, 8:40 and 9 p.m., at the Colonial Williamsburg Courthouse. Williamsburg  experienced a tragic battle on its doorstep. During this one-hour walking tour, guests learn about some of the people who were here and Williamsburg’s role in this heart-rending period of America’s history. Tickets, $15; $7.50 for children under 6.

Please email listings to tandc@freelance (subject: History Calendar), fax to 540/373-8455 or visit Deadline: Noon Thursday preceding   section’s Tuesday publication.