A sad and brutal end to Widow Alsop’s house

From John Hennessy:

As so often happens, one post on here begets another–and thanks to our readers, we continue to learn. (You can read more about the photos of Confederate dead at the Alsop place here and here.)

Susan Alsop’s house, which burned in 1901.

Yesterday I received a call from a former Spotsylvania resident, Jose Brown, who grew up near the site of widow Sue Alsop’s house. He pointed me in the direction of a brief article in the Fredericksburg Free Lance that chronicled the horrible fire there that left a young boy dead and destroyed Sue Alsop’s farm.  The boy’s name was Eddy Scott, the son of Edmund Scott, who Jose always understood to have been one of Susan Alsop’s slaves.  The slave census for Spotsylvania does indeed show that Susan Alsop owned a young boy slave, age 3 at the time of the census in 1860.  The Spotsylvania census for 1900 shows that Edmund V. Scott was born in 1858, and his son Eddy in 1891–still living within a stone’s throw of Susan Alsop’s house (indeed the article says that young Eddy lived WITH Sue Alsop).  He was one of four children in the household.

This is from the Free Lance of May 1, 1901.

A young colored boy, son of Edmund Scott, who lived with Mrs. Sue M. Alsop at her home “Clover Dale,” about eight miles from this city in Spotsylvania, was in a chaff pen looking for hens’ nests, Tuesday evening. He lighted a match to find the nests. A spark ignited a the chaff and he was burned to death. The flames quickly spread to the barns and other out-buildings, which were soon destroyed. Then the fire reached the residence and it, too, was burned to the ground. Some of the furniture was saved but in a badly broken condition.  Mrs. Alsop was not at home and there was no lady on the place except Miss, Ella Parker, a companion of Mrs. Alsop. 

The residence is insured with the companies represented by A.B. Botts & Co., for $2,300. The kitchen $200, and furniture $500, and the barns and outbuildings were insured with C.C. Rowlett & Co. for $600.  The loss is over $8,000.

My thanks to Jose Brown for sharing what he knows.


Frredericksburg April 12, 1861

Over at Fredericksburg Remembered, we have done a little piece on what was happening in Fredericksburg this momentous morning 150 years ago. Click here to take a look.

“Skeleton Hunt”–Spotsylvania 1865

By Donald Pfanz (this is a follow-up on Don’s writings on the burial of the dead at the Wilderness, which you can find here, and at Spotsylvania in 1864, which is here. Check out too our previous posts on the dead at the Alsop farm and Theodore Lyman’s postwar visit to the Bloody Angle.):

Union graves near the Bloody Angle, 1866.

In June 1865, Federal authorities sent the First Veteran Volunteers to the Fredericksburg region to bury the dead on the four battlefields.  They worked first at Wilderness, and then moved on to Spotsylvania Court House.  Colonel Charles P. Bird and his First Regiment Veteran Volunteers followed the Brock Road—the same route used by much of Grant’s army in 1864. On the way it passed Todd’s Tavern, a ramshackle frame building that had been the site of some minor fighting in the campaign. The remains of eight soldiers lay within sight of the road. Colonel Bird and his men hastily committed the skeletons to the soil and continued on their way.

Laurel Hill, the home of Katherine Couse.

A little farther on, the First Regiment came to the home of Katharine Couse. During the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House the building had served as a Union field hospital, and for Landon its sight brought back vivid and unpleasant memories. “I well remembered the rows of wounded soldiers I had seen stretched out here as we bivouacked on the same spot but little over one year ago, and listening all the night long to the deep groans of the wounded and dying heroes and shrieks and curses of those undergoing the torture of the probe or keen blade of the amputating knife. Many a poor fellow’s bones rest here under the shade of the oak and pine,” he wrote a friend, “and few with boards to mark the spot.”

The Brown house at Spotsylvania Court House Battlefield

Across the road from the Couse house stood “Liberty Hill,” the farm of Captain John C. Brown, a War of 1812 veteran. Here the Second Corps had gathered its strength before assaulting the Muleshoe Salient on May 12, 1864–an attack that led to the most savage day of fighting in American history. Continue reading

A view into the heart of town

From John Hennessy:

Poking around some images last night, I looked again at this one. In many ways it’s similar to other panoramas of town taken from near the same spot at about the same time. But a closer look reveals a few interesting details, including the capture of a couple of buildings not otherwise photographed during the war.

Most obvious are men perched in the tree, peering across the river, probably during the fighting beyond town on May 3, 1863.  At first glance there appear to be two, but on closer inspection, there are in fact three.

Looking deeper into town, we can see two buildings that do not appear in any other photographs that I know about.  Continue reading

A Concluding Look at Abraham Lincoln’s Review, April 8, 1863, and the Widow Alsop

from: Harrison

Over at Spotsylvania Civil War, our friend and fellow blogger, John F. Cummings III, steps into neighboring Stafford County for some impressive detective work on President Abraham Lincoln’s April 8 review.

John’s post concludes a four-part series by several authors:

introduction to the review, keyed to the modern streetscape

introduction to the 1863 map and sketch of the review

evaluation of the map specifically

evaluation of the sketch specifically, keyed to the modern streetscape

Check ‘em out. In the process of bringing the pagentry of April 8, 1863 into focus, this collaborative resarch effort shows it to be both more complex than previously understood—the President reviewing each of the component units of four army corps twice in the same day—and more geographically expansive as well—covering a vast wedge of ground extending from the Phillips House property on the southwest to the Boscobel estate on the northeast.

Whew. That’s a lot of reviewing.

Sketch by Alfred R. Waud. Date and place unknown. Library of Congress.

John has also uncovered a new photograph, believed to be of the Widow Susan Alsop, whom we have written about here

Noel G. Harrison

Burying the dead at Spotsylvania–1864

By Donald Pfanz [Don has done trememdous work on the creation of the National Cemetery. This piece, and the post to follow, are derived from that work. The whole will eventually be published in book form.]:

Unioni burial temas in 1864. An engraving made from a period photograph.

When the Confederates abandoned the Muleshoe Salient on the morning of May 13, 1864, Union forces occupied the contested ground, now thickly carpeted with blue and gray corpses. To make the position tolerable, the Northern soldiers threw the bodies of the dead in the trenches formerly occupied by their foes and kicked dirt from the adjacent parapet down on them. Thus, remarked one soldier, “the unfortunate victims [had] unwittingly dug their own graves.”

Burial of a Confederate soldier at Widow Alsop's farm.

Not all graves were so large and impersonal. Continue reading

The lower crossing: we have a date

From John Hennessy:


Men of the Union Sixth Corps on the heights above the Lower Crossing,1863.

For those of you interested, we have managed to set a date and arranged access for an exploration of the lower crossing site–where three times parts of the Union army crossed the river.  Saturday May 21–specific time yet to be determined. Spotsylvania County has been integral in arranging this, as has one of the businesses adjacent to the site of the crossing. So far as we know, this is the first time since veterans visited that any group has been over the ground for historical purposes. It will be high spring, so we can expect all the unpleasantries of hacking through Virginia woodlands at that time of year–ticks, poison ivy–so please know that in advance. Know too that though the walk will not be long, the ground we’re covering is anything but improved; the ground is rough, some slopes are fairly steep.



One of the most famous images of the Civil War, taken near the lower crossing.

The Lower Crossing is, photographically, likely the most heavily documented site on the four battlefields around Fredericksburg. Our visit there on May 21 will explore the landscape as it relates to images. Eric and I have been there only once, so no doubt we will be all discovering some things together.


We have written a fair amount about the Lower Crossing site; check out our posts here, here, and here. Rest assured we’ll be writing a bit more in advance of the tour on May 21.  We’ll also provide some more specifics about the tour.

So that we can have a sense of how many people are likely to show up, we’d be grateful if you’d let me know if you plan to attend.  You can email me at john_hennessy@nps.gov.

We look forward to seeing and meeting some of you on May 21.