A battery below Fredericksburg–and a prompt about our May 21 gathering at the Lower Crossing site


From John Hennessy:

This is one of our favorite pictures. Though it is clearly posed, there is an authenticity to it that other images lack. And, like so many others, we like it too because it can be so precisely located on the field.

The key to the location of this image lies in the background on the right edge of the image, behind the soldiers mugging for the camera (though they could have little idea that their carefully crafted poses would be little more than dark smudges in the final image).

The building visible is one of the wings of Mannsfield. The main house was destroyed barely two months before this image was taken in June 1863 (we can thank John Kelley for nailing down the date of this view and linking it with others taken at the same time–see his article here).  Compare it with this later view of the same building.

The image shows Battery D. Second U.S. Artillery in fully deployed in Battery on June 7, 1863, during a Union crossing of the river at the lower crossing site. While the artillerymen are posed, the battery itself is not. It was in position confronting Confederate troops–who were watching them carefully–a mile or more away.

The site of Battery D’s position no longer survives in meaningful form, consumed by a subdivision. Here’s an aerial view that indicates where the battery stood.

Note the location of the battery and the image and the parking for the tour on May 21.

Part of my reason for including this image is to remind all of you too that Eric and I will be doing the first-ever walking tour of the lower crossing site at 10 a.m. on Saturday May 21.  To reach the site, follow Route 2 south out of Fredericksburg and turn left into the Bowman Center on Joseph Mill Drive. Cross over the Rail Road Tracks and continue straight. When you reach the end of the road turn into the parking lot on the right for the Jim Carpenter Companies. Assemble at the gate off of this parking lot. Or you are welcome to park at the Rail Road Museum (on the left just over the tracks) and take the short walk down to Jim Carpenter.

We and the county hope you will remember that the day’s events are taking place at the behest of the several emerging businesses in the Bowman Center complex. We hope you’ll give them some attention that day–perhaps join either me or the both of us for lunch afterwards.

From Spotsylvania County’s press release for the event:

On Saturday the Bowman Center will have special FREE events planned for re-enactors and the general public. There will be a special tour of Franklin’s Crossing at 10 a.m., the third crossing site during the battle of Fredericksburg. Smith Bowman Distillery and the Blue and Gray Brewing Company will be offering tours. The Rappahannock Chapter of the National Railroad Historic Society will have the train museum open and offer open car rides past Deep Run Creek and to the main rail line, the same line used during the Civil War starting at 9:00 a.m.

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7 thoughts on “A battery below Fredericksburg–and a prompt about our May 21 gathering at the Lower Crossing site

  1. The caption on the photograph posted with Mr. Kelley’s observations indicates the Fifth U.S. Battery D while both yourself and Mr. Kelley mention the Second U.S.

    Regimental histories place Battery D of both units in the area. How did you determine the original caption was erroneous? Is there anything in the photo which helps? [looked but so often others spot things these old eyes miss]

    Thank you for two of the best civil war discussion areas anywhere.

  2. There is a clue in the photo. The battery appears to be manning Napoleons.

    If memory serves, Hazlett’s Fifth U.S Battery D was firing 10 pound “Parrotts” a few weeks later at Gettysburg. Perhaps the publishers thought the reference would be more widely recognized because of its association with Little Round Top.

  3. One of my favorite artillery officers–Edward B. Williston–commanded Battery D, 2nd US Artillery for most of the war–including when this photo was taken. Born in Norwich, Vermont in 1837, was graduated from Norwich University in 1856, he would be a recipient of the Medal of Honor for his bravery commanding Battery D at Trevilian Station in June 1864. After the war, he remained in the Army, fighting in the Spanish American War as a brigadier general, before retiring in 1900. Williston would live another 20 years, and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Section 1. http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/ebwillis.htm

    – Todd Berkoff

  4. Thank you John! I certainly wish you all a successful tour of that area. Obviously I hope efforts can be made to save that land from further development. And of course I wish I could be there on May 21st!

  5. I’d like to make a comment just for clarification. I’ve been studying these posts regarding Franklin’s Crossing the past two days. The Feb. 14, 2011 post shows the same google arial view as this one. But in this post the site is labelled “middle crossing.” This is the ‘lower crossing” where Gen. Franklin’s Grand Div. crossed in Dec. 1862, right ?

  6. Brad:

    Good catch. The label on this image is simply a bit of typographical sloppiness on my part. This indeed is the lower crossing site. Thanks for pointing out the error. John H.

    • John:
      I am very glad to hear that. My host took me to this site, on the Stafford side during my brief visit in Feb. But we both thought it was the middle crossing. Now I know I’ve seen the lower crossing, and I’m very glad of it.

      These are great posts, many thanks for the in depth studies.

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