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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Dec. 11-15: Fredericksburg 150th Calendar

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Commemoration of the Battle of Fredericksburg’s 150th anniversary continues

National Park Service “real-time” tours (150 years, to the hour, during and after the Battle of Fredericksburg and in places where major events occurred) are scheduled Dec. 11–13 and Dec. 15.


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 the Fredericksburg Hospitality House in Central Park. Admission fee. Proceeds benefit preservation of local Civil War battlefields. 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 Spotsylvania 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.