On the way home I took a side trip to the Fredericksburg Battlefield, part of the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park.
I was last there in November of 1995, which was quite awhile ago as can be seen from this photo from that visit.
Those two, besides being extremely embarrassed right now [it’s a father’s prerogative to embarrass his offspring], are grown and living on their own now. (Brooks Simpson will approvingly note the NY Yankees jacket Karen is wearing)
The Visitor’s Center hasn’t changed much. There is a nice diorama inside that depicts Fredericksburg after the Union bombardment.
There is also a display of soldier art on the wall.
Throughout my visit I was impressed with the interpretation at Fredericksburg. There is a nice walking tour laid out for the visitor, and waysides and markers along the way allow us to gain understanding of what happened here.
The “star,” of course, is the stone wall. Most of it is not original but a reconstruction. However, there is a section of original wall remaining.
Also present is the famous statue commemorating the “Angel of Marye’s Heights,” Sgt. Richard Kirkland.
Unfortunately, construction of housing developments and growth of trees and other foliage obscure the view of the field across which the Federals charged, so one must use their imagination to try to recreate what it looked like in their mind.
Today, the walking tour takes you up on Marye’s Heights behind the stone wall as well as along the stone wall. There is a wonderful path laid out with waysides to help you interpret what you’re seeing.
The path also takes you to the National Cemetery for some quiet contemplation of the human cost of war.
If you take the driving tour, you’ll be able to see some more terrific areas. There is the famous Lee Hill, from which Lee watched the battle.
From Lee Hill the next stop is Howison Hill, another confederate artillery platform.
Driving along Lee Drive, you pass confederate trenches still visible.
The site of Meade’s breakthrough of Jackson’s line is also interpreted, though the growth in front of you makes it all but impossible to get a good feeling of what it looked like at the time.
Also visible along the drive, though not accessible, is the “Meade Pyramid.”
Prospect Hill, held by Jackson during the battle, is also on the driving tour and is also well interpreted.
The Military Park’s headquarters is at the Chatham Manor, which is also open for visiting and interpretation. The Park Service has really done an outstanding job here. Chatham Manor is also known as the Lacy House, and was a Union outpost and hospital during the battle. The interpretation at the site includes not only the battle but also the history of the house and plantation from its first construction to the present day, and it tells the story not only of the white owners but also the enslaved people who lived and worked there.
On the river side, you can see an interpretation of the artillery bombardment of Fredericksburg and the pontoon bridges.
I have it on good authority that Ranger Greg Mertz has a new, tricked-out ride. 🙂
The Park Service has done a terrific job with this battlefield and with the additional battlefield sites. There is a short film at the Visitor’s Center to put the battle in perspective. The map provided by the NPS and the waysides and markers allow you to take yourself around without the need for a guide. My visit was really enjoyable.