Murder in Fredericksburg: The Legacy of a Tragedy (Part 4)

From Beth Parnicza:

This post is the fourth and final in a series exploring the details of the death of German shopkeeper Charles Miller’s brother George after an exchange in Charles’ shop with four Union soldiers on their way home from war in May 1865. The previous posts can be found here: Part One, A Darkness on Commerce St.; Part 2, Suspects and Scapegoats; and Part 3, Doctor Galland Takes the Stand.

Four soldiers of the Sixth Corps, Army of the Potomac, stood trial in late May and early June on charges of murdering a citizen of Fredericksburg. Beginning on June 1, 1865, a court martial convened to hear the case of Private William Irvin, Co. D, 67th Pennsylvania Volunteers and Private Amos Fielding, Co. E, 61st Pennsylvania Volunteers brought up on the charge that they did, “maliciously and unlawfully take the life of George Miller a Citizen of the City of Fredericksburg, Va.” Both pled not guilty.

The next trial convened just two days later, charging Private James Lynch, Co. A, 61st Pennsylvania Volunteers that he did, “unlawfully and maliciously aid and abet in taking the life of George Miller.” A fourth soldier, Private John Wilson, 67th Pennsylvania Volunteers, was brought to both trials, but charges were not specified against him.

A standout among the other witnesses, Doctor Galland, an African American camp servant and cook, offered pivotal testimony. His words refuted James Lynch’s testimony against John Wilson and identified Lynch as a suspicious individual along with the other men. The resulting verdict demonstrated that the courts gave validity to Galland’s testimony over Lynch’s—a remarkable decision in itself, to trust a black man’s word over a white man’s.

Modern view of tan historic building with two doors at a corner, one opening to Liberty Street and the other to William Street.

Modern view of Charles Miller’s shop at 600 Commerce Street (William Street). The brothers exited the door to the left, walked past where today stands the “Do Not Enter” sign, and continued down Commerce Street toward the river in search of a provost guard. Brick-wielding Union soldiers attacked them halfway through the next block. George Miller was found injured just 25 steps from the front door of his brother’s shop.

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US Marines Attack Fredericksburg – 1918

From Eric Mink:

The following is based upon material that I stumbled upon while researching the 1921 United States Marine Corps maneuvers on the Wilderness Battlefield. In my discussions of this event with colleagues and local historians, I was surprised that no one had heard of this event. A very obscure and unknown bit of Fredericksburg military history is worthy of a post. 

“Marines Take Fredericksburg” is how The Richmond-Times Dispatch of June 4, 1918 described the descent of nearly 1,000 United States Marines upon the small town of Fredericksburg, Va. For two days, men of the 10th Marine Regiment of Field Artillery camped at the fairgrounds and on June 5 staged an elaborate sham battle that raged from the riverfront, through the streets of Fredericksurg and all the way to crest of Marye’s Heights. It was an extremely unusual event and spectacle that impressed and fascinated the residents of the city, but has since passed from local memory.

On June 3, 1918, the 10th Marine Regiment, led by Lieutenant Colonel Charles S. “Jumbo” Hill, left its home at the Marine Corps Barracks at

As a lieutenant colonel, Charles S. “Jumbo” Hill oversaw the 1918 Marine Corps exercises in Fredericksburg. He eventually rose to the rank of colonel and command of the 4th Marine Regiment. While stationed in China in 1927, Colonel Hill committed suicide.

As a lieutenant colonel, Charles S. “Jumbo” Hill oversaw the 1918 Marine Corps exercises in Fredericksburg. He eventually rose to the rank of colonel and command of the 4th Marine Regiment. While stationed in China in 1927, Colonel Hill committed suicide.

Quantico, Va. The barracks had opened the previous year with the expansion and rapid mobilization that followed the United States entry into World War I. Many Marines on their way to France passed through Quantico. The 10th Marine Regiment hoped for deployment to Europe and stepped up its preparedness, and the trip to Fredericksburg was undoubtedly part of its increased activity and training.

The Free Lance described the column that left Quantico as consisting of “800 men, 42 officers, 18 trucks, 10 rolling kitchens, 2 ambulances, and 16 horses.” Missing from this list were the large guns, the artillery that the men also brought with them. The first day consisted of a twenty-mile march, bringing the column to Garrisonville, where it camped for the night. The following day the Marines made for Fredericksburg, stopping for their noon meal on the farm of Judge Richard H.L. Chichester, near Falmouth. The column entered Fredericksburg with the men crossing the river by the Falmouth Bridge, while the vehicles crossed on the Free Bridge (today Chatham Bridge). Tents were erected at the fairgrounds, and after the men consumed their supper they were given their liberty. Many visited the city before returning to camp by 10 p.m.

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A balm to a wounded South: honoring Jackson and the dead at Guinea Station, 1866

From John Hennessy:

"Fairfield," the Chandler Plantation at Guinea Station, before the removal of the big house (left), early 1900s. The farm office where Jackson died is at right, and survives.

The great risks that attended secession did not become obvious to many Southerners until the experiment failed, until the South was vanquished. In diaries and letters written during the months following Appomattox, the people in and around Fredericksburg struggled to reconcile defeat with the immense losses the community, state, and South had suffered. In May 1865, Lizzie Alsop of Princess Anne Street wailed,”Each day increases the weight upon our hearts; & we feel more accutely the loss we have sustained; our country, our cause, our all.”  A other great example can be found in this letter from Hannah Rawlings of Spotsylvania County.

As witness to more Southern sacrifice than any other place in the nation, the Fredericksburg region symbolized the cost of war acutely. A few residents seem to have been much aware of the immense investment the Confederacy had made here, and sought to justify that sacrifice with honor.  Here is a letter from Guinea Station, written in 1866 (it appeared in the Fredericksburg Ledger  on June 29). The letters speaks to the nexus between wartime and postwar suffering and the need to honor the sacrifices embodied at the failed attempt to create the Confederate States of America.

The farm office at Jackson Shrine today.

Guiney’s Depot,  Caroline County, Va.

Editor of the Ledger:

            DEAR SIR:–I suppose you can, in some degree, appreciate the condition of the people at present;  we are without money and nothing to see to get it; there is a complete failure in the wheat crops in my neighborhood.

            I have intended for some time to give you some account of the way in which the anniversary of the death of our much lamented Jackson was spent in the neighborhood of Guiney’s depot, by the patriotic young ladies and gentlemen in that vicinity.  They turned out on that day and made up and decorated with flowers, over one hundred greaves of the Confederate soldiers, mostly from the Southern States.  I think such things should be published to let the friends of those who fell in our country’s cause know that they are not forgotten by the people of Virginia; that their husbands and sons, though filling soldier’s graves, are alive in the hearts of those who were engaged in a common cause.  Much credit is due, especially to the ladies, for this manifestation of their respect to the soldiers; much has been done, and I hope much more will be done in honor of the soldiers who lost their lives in behalf of our beloved, though unfortunate country.

            With my best wishes for your prosperity, I subscribe myself yours with respect.

                                                                            J. M. B. 

Souvenir Battlefield Photos – 1887

Eric J. Mink

As described in a prior post (found here), a large group of Massachusetts veterans traveled to the Fredericksburg area in May 1887. Their visit to the local battlefields wrapped up a weeklong trip to Virginia that started in Norfolk, took them to Petersburg and Richmond, before arriving in Fredericksburg.

Among the party were two photographers. William H. Tipton, the famed photographer of the battlefield at Gettysburg is highlighted in the prior post.  The second photographer chronicling the veterans’ excursion was Frederick H. Foss of Dover, New Hampshire. A veteran of the war, Foss joined the 56th Massachusetts Infantry in March 1864, accepting a $325 bounty. He suffered a gunshot wound, which resulted in the loss of an index finger, at Bethesda Church on May 31, 1864. After the war, Foss lived in Dover, New Hampshire and made his living as a photographer.  The list of attendees for the May 1887 visit to the Fredericksburg area does list Foss as being present.

Both Tipton and Foss marketed for sale the images they made on this trip. The two men used their lenses to record similar, but different, things, however. Tipton appears to have been more interested in landscape images of the battlefields that might appeal to a broad audience. Foss, on the other hand, took numerous photos of excursion members, thus chronicling the visit and marketing his photos as souvenirs of the trip.

Foss’s “List of Views” from that trip shows that he offered copies of 25 photos from the visit, including scenes from Petersburg, Richmond area battlefields, and the Fredericksburg area battlefields.


Foss Catalog

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Gettysburg battlefield photographer visits Spotsylvania County – 1887

From Eric Mink:

Students, historians, and collectors of Civil War battlefield photography are quite familiar with the name William H. Tipton. He was one of the most prolific postwar photographers in Gettysburg, Penn. and his landscape images are quite sought after, as they are wonderful documents in helping understand the sites of that battlefield. Little known, however, is the fact that he lugged his camera to historic sites outside of South Central Penn., including an 1887 visit to the battlefields around Fredericksburg.

On May 5, 1887, a train from Richmond arrived at the Fredericksburg station. Among its passengers were approximately one hundred Union veterans on an excursion to visit Virginia’s battlefields. Most of these men were veterans of the 57th and 59th Massachusetts regiments and they had, prior to their arrival in Fredericksburg, visited the battlefields around Petersburg and Richmond. Their trip brought them to the Fredericksburg area for the same purpose. They spent two days touring the local battlefields and revisiting sites that many of them had not seen since the war. The Fredericksburg Free Lance covered their visit, describing the places they went and even listing the members of the party. Included in that list was “W.H. Tipton, photographer from Gettysburg.” Fortunately for us 125 years later, Tipton wasn’t merely sightseeing, but was capturing on glass those sites that he saw.

Upon arrival in Fredericksburg, the group immediately headed to Spotsylvania Court House. The first site they chose to visit was the “Bloody Angle” at the Spotsylvania Court House battlefield. (This photo complements one that John Hennessy posted a couple weeks ago and can be found here.)

Bloody Angle Tipton Blog Post

“Bloody Angle Spottsylvania May 5th 1887. Near the stump of tree shot down by bullets; the but of the tree, 15 inches in diameter is in the National Museum in Washington.” Typed label pasted on photo mount.

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The Bloody Angle 1866

From John Hennessy:

Union graves near the Bloody Angle.

That the Civil War was central to the generation of men who trod the battlefields is evidenced by the fact that so many of them sought to return to the battlefields in the years and decades following the war. One of the earliest visits was by former Colonel Theodore Lyman, who served on George Gordon Meade’s staff during the Overland Campaign. Lyman visited Spotsylvania on April 15, 1866–less than two years after the fighting at Spotsylvania. He wrote vividly of his walk along the Confederate works from the East Angle to the Bloody Angle.

From Lyman: We followed the salient northward, towards its apex [the East Angle] and traced the way in which our men had turned the works; – there was open country all about this part of the works; and the scattered graves marked where men had fallen as they advanced from the edge of the wood to the assault. At the very apex (which is obtuse) we had a good view over the country and I saw the Landrum house, only 600 yards off, where Hancock had his headquarters; and to the left and a little to the rear, the hollow, where Wright was, and where the missiles of all kinds were so plenty. The point termed “Death Angle” is still more to the left where the west face of the salient begins to slope and where the captured portion is connected with the prolongation of our line. The Quartermaster’s party has done its work on this field partially. Not only are the remains not collected in a common cemetery, but many marked graves have been overlooked. But, after all, the graves give little idea of the carnage here. Piles of men were thrown into the deep holes behind the entrenchments (built for cover by the enemy) and simply buried by digging down the parapet upon them. Only the scattered dead are marked and of those probably only a portion. It is here that the background of large oaks is completely dead; the trees girdled by bullets; and the red oak, 23 inches in diameter was cut down by bullets only. Nailed to a tree is a board with this verse: –

“On Fame’s eternal camping ground

Their silent tents are spread,

And Glory guards, with solemn round,

The bivouac of the dead”

It is a scene of waste on a barren slope; an oak wood, dead; the long, half ruinous intrenchments; and the graves and the scattered debris of battle! We turned from here, crossed a field strewn with the sabots of a rebel 12-pounder battery and passed through a wood of small pines all scarred by rifle balls.

Battlefields as fundraising tools–1868 (and the fate of walls on the Sunken Road)

From John Hennessy (based on an article in the Washington National Republican, August 6, 1868):

The Sunken Road at about the time of the Episcopal visit in 1868; note the camp for the burial parties at left.

The year was 1868. The collection of the bodies of Union soldiers from the battlefields around Fredericksburg, and the burials of those soldiers in the Fredericksburg National Cemetery, was ongoing. Likewise, the Ladies Memorial Association of Fredericksburg was tilting along full speed ensuring Confederate dead were gathered from the fields and reinterred in the Confederate Cemetery at the end of Amelia Street. The fresh dirt of newly disinterred graves pocked the landscape around Fredericksburg.

Yet, in August 1868, the aspiring congregation of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in what is today Anacostia (for a time called Uniontown) conceived what was then surely a novel fundraising scheme: mount a field trip to the battlefields around Fredericksburg. The destination was apparently inspired by some former Fredericksburg residents in the congregation.

“Every effort was put forth to make the excursion a success and to get up just such a party as would be a credit to the prime movers in the effort and a pleasure to those who would compose the body of visitors.  Quite a large number of persons who had been born and reared in the town of historic renown (Fredericksburg) embraced this opportunity of paying their old and honored home a visit, many of them returning there for the first time since the outbreak of the rebellion, and they did so with evident delight and gratification.”

The jolly group left the Seventh Street wharf in Washington at 11 a.m., stopped briefly in Alexandria, and arrived at Aquia Landing at 3 and the rail station in Fredericksburg b y 4.  Along the way, the travellers enjoyed themselves:  “the excursionists were tripping the light fantastic toe to Weber’s fine music, and if there were any that did not enjoy themselves it was all their own fault,” wrote the reporter. Continue reading