Items of Interest: Historical Sites, Restaurants, Antiques, Shops
(Located on Interstate 95 South of Washington DC)
One of the reasons that Fredericksburg has had such a long and interesting history is its strategic location at the falls of the Rappahannock River. To the Indians, the falls were favorite fishing and hunting grounds. Located halfway between the two Civil War capitals Washington, D.C., and Richmond, Va., Fredericksburg was battered bloody for three years.
To quote from the town's web site - "The Fredericksburg Area offers an ideal blend of past and present."
Fredericksburg is a city with a split personality - it is the sprawl that defines it along Routes 1 and 3 and it is the small historic town defined by the blocks near Caroline Street on the Rappahannock River.
If you're into "Big Box" America, head to the Rt. 1/Route 3 area, but if you want to return for a day to the charm of small town America, go to the historic district off of Caroline Street.
The Battle of Fredericksburg, fought December 11-15, 1862, was one of the largest and deadliest of the Civil War. It featured the first major opposed river crossing in American military history. Union and Confederate troops fought in the streets of Fredericksburg, the Civil War’s first urban combat. And with nearly 200,000 combatants, no other Civil War battle featured a larger concentration of soldiers.
Burnside’s plan at Fredericksburg was to use the nearly 60,000 men in Maj. Gen. William B. Franklin’s Left Grand Division to crush Lee’s southern flank on Prospect Hill while the rest of his army held Longstreet and the Confederate First Corps in position at Marye’s Heights.
The Union army’s main assault against Stonewall Jackson produced initial success and held the promise of destroying the Confederate right.
Lack of reinforcements and Jackson’s powerful counterattack stymied the effort.
Both sides suffered heavy losses (totaling 9,000 in killed, wounded and missing) with no real change in the strategic situation. (Click Here for Battlefield Visitor's Center)
In the meantime, Burnside’s “diversion” against veteran Confederate soldiers behind a stone wall produced a similar number of casualties but most of these were suffered by the Union troops. Wave after wave of Federal soldiers marched forth to take the heights, but each was met with devastating rifle and artillery fire from the nearly impregnable Confederate positions. Confederate artillerist Edward Porter Alexander’s earlier claim that “a chicken could not live on that field” proved to be entirely prophetic this bloody day.
As darkness fell on a battlefield strewn with dead and wounded, it was abundantly clear that a signal Confederate victory was at hand. The Army of the Potomac had suffered nearly 12,600 casualties, nearly two-thirds of them in front of Mayre’s Heights. By comparison, Lee’s army had suffered some 5,300 losses.
Robert E. Lee, watching the great Confederate victory unfolding from his hilltop command post exclaimed, “It is well that war is so terrible, or we should grow too fond of it.”(MORE DETAILS)
You will also want to visit Chatham Manor. The Civil War, which gave Lee fame, brought only change and destruction to Chatham. Few houses in America have witnessed as many important events and hosted as many famous people as Chatham. And the Battle of Chancellorsville visitor center is nearby.
What to do and see - AND Eat
Beck's Antiques and Books
708 Caroline Street
There are many antique shops here, and they really vary in variety and quality. Most of them are sources of collectibles rather than "true" antiques (if collectibles are what you want - hog heaven!).
The "most authentic" (in our opinion, of course) antique shop is Beck's Antiques on the south end of Caroline Street, near the Visitor's Center. At Beck's (owned and operated by a recent mayor of Fredericksburg), you will find quality, period antiques and a walled showcase of interesting silver, porcelains, and small art works.
On an earlier visit (July, 2004), Beck's had several Sampson porcelain pieces, including a small Chinese Export styled tea caddy (made by Sampson) and a wonderful period Empire classical-style sofa. Book collectors, especially those who collect history texts and Virginiana, will delight in the collection here.
During our November 7, 2004, we succumbed to the lure of another Sampson piece (to add to Tom's fairly extensive collection) - the tea caddy - and made the purchase we didn't make in July. And this was not the first purchase we've made at Beck's. Each time, there was complete satisfaction with the quality of the merchandise and the service. For a look at a portion of Tom's Sampson porcelain collection, please Click Here.
On Saturday, April 9, 2011, we made what turned out to be a lengthy visit to the Civil War "relics" show at the Fredericksburg Expo Center. Never had we seen so many guns, shells, insignia and God only knows whatall. Afterwards, decided to visit the Caroline Street area of Old Town Fredericksburg.
Perhaps it was spring, a warm Saturday, or the upswing of the American economy - but we found the street to be really bustling! We noticed several new shops - the Frenchman's Corner and River Run Antiques Mall (in the former Ben Franklin store - to name two) - and much activity along the often times sedate street!
Stopping into Beck's Antiques Shop (a still - favorite area shop), we found the usual stock of intriguing books and interesting smalls. Two striking items on this visit were an antique Victorian beaded prieu deux and a wonderful American Empire chest of drawers. Oh, for some space for these items! There was also a wonderful 18th century tortoise box with an affixed miniature (under the lid) of a lady.
Always in the market for unusual small items (or books!), we purchased an 1866 Presbyterian book of hymns and psalms published in Richmond, Virginia and a small coin silver ladle by Charles Genett, Jr., who was also the publisher of the hymn book! Originally from New York, Genett worked in Richmond from 1832-1887 (he was in the partnership of Gennet & James 1847-1855 and later C. Gennet & Co. with Alexander Grant, Jr. c. 1881-1887).
Talk about coincidence and multi-tasking! The book came from a Lynchburg (VA) estate and was a Christmas gift to Nannie E. Wiseman in 1880 - it's those personal touches that give old books their aura.
Chatting about the silver ladle led the conversation to Catherine B. Hollan's monumental book (so much for our interest only in small books!) Virginia Silversmiths 1607 - 1860 Their Lives and Marks (published 2010) - an impressive 1100 pages of information and considered the definitive resource for this period of Virginia silversmithing.
Ms. Hollan is a resident of Mclean, Virginia.
And on a side note, this impressive work contains much information on Joseph H. Watson, a silversmith/ jeweler, working in Warrenton, VA 1844 - 1880, for whom we had found very little information after purchasing several years ago a master salt spoon by this maker.
Lunch Outside at Sammy T's
On a Gorgeous November Day
(Photo by Ron Patterson)
For a taste treat, have lunch at Sammy T's Restaurant, where the menu items never fail to please.
While at Sammy T's, try their vegetarian chili and the Bean & Grain Burger (a mixture of chick peas, rice, onions and seasonings, grilled and served on a multi-grain roll with lettuce, tomato), my (Ron) personal favorite.
Their soups, sandwiches and entrees leave you satisfied - also select from a super variety of beers.
Hints - the onion rings are superb and menu servings are generous.
Our Rating (Five Chefs is Highest)
Fredericksburg is said to contain more authentic 18th Century buildings than Colonial Williamsburg. Many are open to the public.
As time allows, visit St. James House (open during Virginia Garden Week and again in September), Kenmore (the Lewis family plantation), Mary Washington House (the mother of George), the Apothecary Shop, Rising Sun Tavern, and Ferry Farm (another G. Washington connection).
There is also a whale of a lot of civil war history here with fine battlefield tours. Check out the "Tourism" link below.