Fredericksburg courthouse dig tells Civil War story
Cross-post (partial) from the News Desk:
Courthouse dig reveals house destroyed in Battle of Fredericksburg
YANKS HID IN HOME’S CELLAR
BY CLINT SCHEMMER
THE FREE LANCE-STAR
Call it “Building X.”
What remains of it lay, buried and long forgotten until now, beside today’s Fredericksburg City Hall where a new courthouse will soon rise.
Now, thanks to intense scrutiny by archaeologists and local researchers in recent weeks, you can add this once-substantial row house to the casualties of the Battle of Fredericksburg.
The Civil War’s most lopsided Confederate victory, won 150 years ago this December, not only killed or wounded nearly 18,000 men, it erased the brick structure from the town’s landscape.
Owned by Fredericksburg businessman Peter Goolrick, the building on Lot 38 was assessed at $1,000 in 1860, local researcher Nancy Moore said. It vanishes from the tax records by 1865.
That, combined with before-and-after photo analysis by National Park Service historian John Hennessy, clearly shows that the war brought down the building, which burned.
“The two images in 1863 of that part of town, taken from two slightly different angles, both don’t have a building where you would expect one to be,” Hennessy, chief historian of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, said in an interview. “In my view, that supports [the archaeologists’] interpretation that it was destroyed sometime in association with the battle.”
The building’s lingering presence was unknown until about four weeks ago, when evidence was uncovered in the archaeological dig the city funded before the $35 million courthouse is built. It had lain under Thom Savage’s law office, entombed beneath a concrete slab, for decades.
Now the building foundation and its contents will be the subject of laboratory analysis—and a forthcoming report to the city—by Cultural Resources Inc., the Glen Allen firm whose archaeologists swiftly excavated the courthouse site.