Past is Prologue

Clint Schemmer writes about history, heritage preservation and the American Civil War.  On Facebook: Past is Prologue  On Twitter: @prologuepast  ContactEmail Clint or call 540/374-5424.

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CIVIL WAR 150: Sesquicentennial highlights


All-day: Living history at Chatham: medicine, civilians, music and headquarters. Hourly tours of the Sunken Road and Marye’s Heights, until 2 p.m. The battle-damaged Innis House open along the Sunken Road. Children’s Muster, Fredericksburg Battlefield Visitor Center.

Meet the Generals. On Saturday, you have two opportunities to meet the Union and Confederate generals. 9–11 a.m. in the Camps at Ferry Farm and Slaughter Pen and 1–2 p.m. at Riverfront Park.

9–11 a.m. “Breakthrough at Prospect Hill” NPS walking tour. Here, the armies battled for the key terrain on the south end of the field. A major Union attack took Ambrose Burnside to the brink of victory, prevented only by intense fighting. Meet at Prospect Hill (Tour Stop 6) on South Lee Drive.

10–11 p.m. Period Church Services. Join re-enactors for a period church service at Slaughter Pen Farm.

11–3 p.m. Ferry Farm ($1 ages 6 and up) Living history programs such as laundry, quilting, horses and saddles.

Noon–3 p.m. Field hospital at Brompton; see Saturday, Dec. 8.

Culminating Event: A Nation Remembers Fredericksburg

1–4 p.m. Public and re-enactors participate in National Park Service’s Hallowed Ground Processional and Culminating Ceremony. Starts at 1 p.m. Riverfront Park, Sophia Street.

1 p.m. Crossing Hallowed Ground—A Procession. Walk in the footsteps of soldiers through town—enveloped by sound, accompanied by the words of those who were there, and witness to the names of those who fell. The simulated explosion of 100 shells per minute will symbolize the ordeal of the town. Tolling bells will reflect the grief of a nation. Drums will speak to the sacrifice of soldiers. Each participant may carry a flower to the Sunken Road. From Riverfront Park, Sophia Street, to the Sunken Road.

3 p.m. The Culmination: Sunken Road. A program of music, words, reflection, and salutes, including descendant units of both Virginia’s Stonewall Brigade and the Union’s Irish Brigade. Participants will lay flowers upon the stone wall in remembrance of the fallen. At the Sunken Road, behind Fredericksburg Battlefield Visitor Center, 1013 Lafayette Blvd.


NPS “real-time” tours (150 years, to the hour, after battle and in places where events occurred):

Noon–1:30 p.m. “Smoke on the Water: Bridging the River.” Follow in the footsteps of Union engineers as they struggled mightily to bridge the Rappahannock River under intense fire at the “Upper Crossing” site. The tour begins at Chatham (Tour Stop 2) and includes some difficult terrain.

2–3 p.m. “Deadly Crossing.” Explore the Confederate side of the river at the “Middle Crossing” site, where Union troops piled into boats to mount a cross-river landing. Meet at the City Dock, Sophia Street.

3:30–5 p.m. “Fire in the Streets.” Union and Confederate soldiers fought in the streets of Fredericksburg, house by house, block by block—in an unprecedented and frightening new experience of warfare: urban combat. Meet at Central Rappahannock Regional Library, 1201 Caroline St.

7 p.m. “War Comes to Fredericksburg.” A presentation by Frank O’Reilly, as part of Fredericksburg Area Museum’s Evening with an Expert series. Mansard Gallery, Fredericksburg Area Museum, 1001 Princess Anne St.


NPS real-time tours:

10 a.m.–noon “Looting the Town.” Meet at Market Square behind Old Town Hall to explore the damage inflicted in the upper part of town during the Union occupation.

1–3 p.m. “Driven From Our Homes.” This program will explore the ordeal of civilians in the lower part of town. Meet at City Dock, Sophia Street.


NPS real-time tours:

10 a.m.–noon “Attacking Marye’s Heights.” Follow in the footsteps of Union soldiers as they moved through town and attacked Marye’s Heights. Gather at the City Dock. One mile through city streets.

1–3 p.m. “Breakthrough at Prospect Hill.” The Union army briefly broke thorough Stonewall Jackson’s Confederate lines, which led to some of the wildest close-order combat of the Civil War. The North went to the brink of victory only to be decisively beaten by Robert E. Lee. Meet at Prospect Hill (Tour Stop 6), South Lee Drive.

3:30–5 p.m. “The Hopeless Charge: The Last Attacks at Marye’s Heights.” Union troops repeatedly attacked the Confederate heights, and hope dimmed with each failure. Only a few, like Gen. A.A. Humphreys, still believed they could win. Most Northerners continued to attack anyway—not to win, but to keep the Confederates from destroying their broken army. Meet at Hurkamp Park, Prince Edward and George streets.

CVBT reception, banquet, lectures

6 p.m. A special evening of reflection on the Battle of Fredericksburg. The Central Virginia Battlefields Trust will host a dinner, followed by talks, with acclaimed historians Gary Gallagher, Robert Krick and Ed Bearss, at Fredericksburg Hospitality House, Central Park. Admission fee. Reservations required: Book sales by Eastern National.


NPS walking tours:

10 a.m.–noon “Lee and Jackson at Belvoir.” A rare chance to visit the evocative site of Belvoir—a major Confederate field hospital where General Maxcy Gregg died. Later, Jackson hosted his wife and child here. Meet Frank O’Reilly and John Hennessy in the parking lot at Lee Hill Elementary School, 3600 Lee Hill School Drive. Access courtesy Crossroads Associates LLC.

1–2:30 p.m. “Yankees Coming and Going: Franklin’s Crossing.” One of the war’s most photographed sites, the Lower Pontoon Crossing in Spotslylvania County is today obscured, rarely visited. Half the defeated Union army retreated across bridges here. Join Frank O’Reilly and Eric Mink at 1 Joseph Mills Drive.

3:30–5 p.m. “City of Hospitals.” One writer called it a “city of death,”

but amid the carnage were heroic efforts to save lives. Historian John Hennessy will explore a town suddenly turned into a vast assemblage of hospitals. Meet at Market Square, behind the Old Town Hall and Fredericksburg Area Museum.