Bloody Plain Panorama: Fredericksburg’s Suburb–a first look

From Hennessy (click on images to enlarge; for a later post on this subject, click here):

The visual impact of the Bloody Plain panorama derives from its seeming emptiness and what that implied for the thousands of Union soldiers struggling to reach the heights in the distance. But in fact, the image is the first that captured what might be described as Fredericksburg’s first suburb: the community along the Sunken Road and Hanover Street.

At the time of the Civil War, this area included about fourteen households, ranging in economic status from Marye’s palatial Brompton to the small, functional home that housed Henry and Sophia Ebert on Sunken Road–literally in Brompton’s afternoon shadow.   Of the fourteen or so homes that stood in the “suburb,” four survive today:  Brompton, Innis (its battle-damaged walls preserved by the NPS), Stratton, and Monroe Stephens along Hanover Street (not to be confused with Martha Stephens, whose famous house stood along Sunken Road, inside what is today the park).  The panorama and other images reveal this area in exceptional detail (see too our base map for Virtual Fredericksburg).

The most obvious building in the neighborhood is Allen Stratton’s brick home, which stood prominently just north of the Fairgrounds. Before the battle, it was not quite as lonely looking at appears in the panorama.  Stratton’s wheelright shop stood just to the right of the house, but was gone by the time this photograph was taken.  Here is another image of Stratton’s House, courtesy of our great friend and serious collector Jerry Brent.

Not to be reproduced

Discovered just a few years ago, this image  was taken not long after the war, just a few feet NW of the Ebert House (which appears on the right edge of the image), where the old Telegraph Turn bends into town along what is today a cut-off Kirkland Street.  It shows the back yard of the Stratton house, including the site of the Stratton orchard and fence.  This was the scene of some of the most intense, dramatic struggle of the battle, as Union troops advanced to a point about half-way between the house and the Sunken Road.

Below is an image of the front of Stratton House today–taken from a vantage point on the far side of the building as it appears in the historic image.

Stratton House, 2010

For the next image (below), also courtesy of Jerry, the photographer turned his lens about 70 degrees to the right and took an incredibly vivid view looking directly down the Sunken Road.  The Ebert House is most prominent in this view, but also visible is the Innis House, which still stands today.  The Ebert House is the forgotten building of the Battle of Fredericksburg, even though it survived into the 1950s.  It was the home of German immigrants Henry and Sophia Ebert.  Henry ran a small grocery out of the house, ostensibly serving his neighbors and passersby on the Telegraph Road.  The Eberts were one of many German families that settled in Fredericksburg before the war. Many were confectioners, and one, John Hurkamp, operated Fredericskburg’s only true export industry–a nearby tannery.  The Germans became a vital part of the community.

Not to be reproduced

A few notable things about this image.  Most importantly, it is clear that the Sunken Road did not formally extend all the way to Hanover Street, behind the camera. Rather, it turned down what is today Kirkland Street, forming a triangle intersection with Hanover at Sissons Store.  Only a cart path connected Sunken Road directly to Hanover.  When we restored the Sunken Road several years ago, we went to some pain to minimize the segment leading directly to Hanover.

Note too that stone walls line both sides of the road. Indeed, both of the stone walls visible in this view still survive–the only original segments of wall still extant.  And finally, if you look closely you can see a couple of cows making their way along the road up near the Stephens House, which is only partially visible beyond Innis.

There is much more to explore in this island of historical suburbia, and we will do so some more in future posts–the George Rowe House, Monroe Stephens, Sissons Store, and the legend and lore of Martha Stephens.

3 thoughts on “Bloody Plain Panorama: Fredericksburg’s Suburb–a first look

  1. The two pictures taken near the Ebert house are interesting in and of themselves. There are actually two structures; the westerly most, seen in the second photo is the house. The other one shows just the easterly most portion of a second structure that may have been a barn or other depoendency. It is in this one that the Stratton house is observed. The two Ebert structures can be seen in the exploded views looking accross the plain to the left of the Innis house. The new house located to the right of Stratton and the immediate left of the Ebert barn is post war construction. You can also notice fencing in the photo.

    • Local citizens made claims for damages totaling about $180,000 for lost or damaged personal property (the equivalent of just under $5 million in today’s dollars). That total is surely only a portion of the whole, as many residents had left town before the battle and would not return until long after the relief funds had been disbursed by the mayor and his committee charged with the task. The relief funds came from across the South, and from the army itself, the result of a spontaneous fundraising effort to relieve the “Fredericksburg sufferers,” as they became widely known. I can’t be certain, but it may have been the largest relief effort (money-wise) in American history up to that time…..

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