Looming Yankees: The Union Army Hovers Opposite Fredericksburg–Some Images and Incidents.

From John Hennessy:

After their rebuke at the Battle of Arby’s, the Union army recoiled long enough along the Warrenton Road for the Confederates in Falmouth to both prepare to leave and to burn the bridges in their wake. Soon after dawn, as the Union columns swept down the hill into Falmouth, the Confederates put their plan into action. The Falmouth Bridge went up in flames, as did the Chatham Bridge and the R,F&P bridge farther down. Fredericksburg had never seen such a day.  Some white residents scattered, fearful of the looming Yankees. Some slaves rejoiced at the Yankees’ coming. And a few people ventured out to watch, including diarist Betty Herndon Maury, who left a vivid description of the destruction that day.

I went down to the river, and shall never forget the scene there.  Above were our three bridges, all in a bright blaze from one end to the other, and every few minutes the beams and timbers would splash into the water with a great noise.  Below were two large steamboats, the Virginia and the St. Nicholas, and ten or twelve vessels, all wrapt in flames.  There were two or three rafts dodging in between the burning vessels, containing families coming over to this side with their negroes and horses.

Here are a couple of images that show some of the damage described by Mrs. Maury. The first shows the destroyed ships opposite city dock–drawn in May 1862.

The burned hulks of ships burned by the Confederates on April 1862. The distinctive barn in the background appears in sketches of Washington’s Ferry Farm, which in turn locates this scene as just a few yards downstream from Fredericksburg’s city dock.

This is the only known image that shows the destroyed Falmouth Bridge, burned by the Confederates on April 18. Lumber from the bridge was taken by Union engineer Washington Roebling, who in June built a wire suspension bridge on the abutments of the Chatham Bridge (we wrote about Roebling’s bridge here). Continue reading

The Battle of Arby’s–A Bloody Barricade Saves the Bridge at Falmouth

From John Hennessy:

We try not to tend toward the minute in this space. Rather, we try to focus on revelation with meaning, especially things that have never quite been understood well.  But today we’ll combine minute and revelation a bit and look at an event most of you have likely never heard of, but which in April 1862 reverberated loudly across the American landscape.

One hundred and fifty years ago this week, as we have noted previously (here and here), the Union army arrived on the shores of the Rappahannock in Stafford County, opposite Fredericksburg.  Their arrival was tumultuous, heralded by a chaotic, deadly skirmish in the middle of the night that I have taken to calling the Battle of Arby’s, in honor of the culinary presence very near the site of the clash.  As we wrote in a post the other day, the Union army clashed with the Confederate rearguard near Berea Church on the afternoon of April 17. That was not enough for Christopher Augur, commander of the Union troops in the area.  He wanted to get to the crossings of the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg before the Confederates still lingering on the Stafford side of the river could destroy the bridges. To do that, he decided to do something a more experienced commander might not have dared–a nighttime raid into Falmouth.

As the soon as the Union army reached Stafford County, citizens inclined toward the Union stepped forth to help. On this evening of April 17, a Connecticut-born local named Horace B. Hewitt–a farmer who owned 152 acres near Hartwood Church–came into the Union camp near Berea Church.

Berea Church today.

Hewitt had just come from Fredericksburg and had seen that the Confederates had placed a barricade across the Warrenton Road about a mile northwest of Falmouth.  Hewitt promised Augur that he could lead the Union cavalry around the barricade, clearing the way for a dash to capture the Falmouth Bridge before the Confederates could burn it.  Augur accepted Hewitt’s word and his services, and just before midnight ordered parts of the 2d New York Cavalry (Lt. Col. Judson Kilpatrick at the reins) and 1st Pennsylvania Cavalry (Col. George Bayard) to horse. The happily bedizened 14th Brooklyn infantry–with their red pants and kepis–joined in as support, and illuminated by a half moon, the column of 1,500 men and horses started out from Berea.

The Union route from Berea to the Confederate barricade near Arby's.

Mr. Hewitt led them not directly down the Warrenton Road, but rather to the north–along what is today Berea Church Road to Truslow Road. Eastward along Truslow the Yankees rode. Just beyond where today Truslow crosses Interstate 95, Hewitt led the column onto a farm road to the right–a now-vanished path that led back to the Warrenton Road (Route 17). Continue reading

The mysterious Mary Scott of “Clearview”–and a trivial feud bubbles forth

From John Hennessy (for a possible image of Mary Scott, found since this post was done, click here)

Today the place, which still stands, is largely forgotten and invisible, enshrined only by the name of the subdivision that surrounds it:  Clearview Heights. “Miss Mary Scott’s” Clearview was in 1862 one of the most visible and prominent homes in the region, though hardly palatial. It appears in dozens of Union accounts of the war.

A postwar view of the Scott House, "Clearview"

The label that appears on many maps, “Miss Mary Scotts” or “Miss Scott’s” conjures an image of an independent, together, self-contained woman.  In fact, Miss Mary Scott was none of those things. When the Union army arrived in the spring of 1862, she was 39 years old, unmarried, and apparently unstable. She lived at Clearview with an invalid aunt and a sister, Fannie, separated in age by 20 years. Mary owned twelve slaves.  For practical purposes, Fannie, just 19,  ran the place, largely keeping out of view and turmoil, living “in great retirement.” A neighbor said of the sisters, “Fanny was the younger of the two but she generally took the lead in everything, and what she did or said Miss Mary generally acquiesced in and she does yet. ….Miss Fanny generally did all the talking. Miss Mary could not get a chance to say anything…”

One of the most interesting and obscure images of slaves or former slaves, taken at Clearview. Mary Scott owned 12 slaves in 1860. We know little of the origins of this photograph.

Other neighbors testified to exactly why this was: Continue reading