O’Reilly’s take on the Fairgrounds


As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, I add the following image.  We are working on a couple of new pieces of art for new exhibits at Fredericksburg, and Frank O’Reilly of our staff is guiding the artist.  Frank is himself a skilled sketch artist, and he routinely develops sketches as references for new pieces the park has commissioned for new exhibits.  This one, which coincidentally came to my hands today, is focused on the area around the Stratton house and the Fairgrounds.  What it represents is Frank’s best take on what the Fairgrounds looked like on December 13, 1862 (no one on earth knows more about December 13, 1862, than Frank O’Reilly).  It reflects his interpretation not just of maps, but also of myriad written accounts.  I share it here as the most complete extant visual interpretation of the Fairgrounds on that fateful day.  Bear in mind, this sketch was done hastily, and not for publication.  But Frank has graciously okayed its posting on Mysteries and Conundrums.  The image looks roughly east from an elevated position near Brompton.  The Innis House is at the bottom. 

Click to enlarge.

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4 thoughts on “O’Reilly’s take on the Fairgrounds

  1. As many times as I have walked the area by the Stratton House, I have never been able to ‘see’ how things were. This sketch is a gold mine. Thanks Guys!!!

  2. Stephen: Yes, the sketch was a nice, coincidental surprise. By the way, the perspective we shared will be the basis of what we hope will be a terrific piece of art, which we’ll use on a wayside exhibit near the Innis House. We hope to have that done in the near future, and will share with you the art when we can… Thanks for your comment. John H.

    • The swale follows the 70 foot contour line found on the USGS topo maps just to the east of Littlepage street. The land drops away and then bottoms out running almost level from there to the 60 foot contour 150 to 200 feet away to the east. The swale is most pronounced at Wolfe street becoming slightly less so at Charlotte street and markedly less so at Mercer street.

      The length of time that Union soldiers remained in the swale varied. Units that fought early in the day tended to leave when other units arrived to make their attack. Those involved in late afternoon attacks apparently stayed.

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