ECW Weekender: Historic Kenmore and Ferry Farm

The City of Fredericksburg, Virginia, has a significant history in America relating back through Colonial times, the Revolutionary War, and the Civil War. Many Colonial patriots  visited or lived in the area, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, William Fitzhugh, and Fielding Lewis.

Replica Cannonball at Kenmore (Courtesy of the George Washington Foundation)

The Fredericksburg area is the bloodiest land in the United States, the result of four major Civil War battles, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Wilderness, and Spotsylvania Court House. As we approach our Emerging Civil War Symposium, I wanted to point out two historic sites that reflect those histories – Kenmore and Ferry Farm – both owned by the George Washington Foundation.

Washington House at Ferry Farm (Courtesy of the George Washington Foundation)

Ferry Farm was the boyhood home of George Washington from the age of six until manhood. The stories of him chopping down a cherry tree and throwing a quarter across the Rappahannock River would have occurred on this farm in Stafford County, Virginia. In the Civil War, during the Battle of Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862, General Daniel Butterfield’s Fifth Corps was stationed here before going into Fredericksburg.

Historic Kenmore was the plantation home of Fielding Lewis and his wife, Betty Washington Lewis – the sister of George Washington. Fielding served as chairman of the commission to build a gun factory in Fredericksburg, to furnish weapons for the Virginia militia in the Revolutionary War. After the Civil War Battle of Fredericksburg, Kenmore was incorporated into a fortification line to cover the Union retreat from Fredericksburg.  During and after the battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House, Kenmore was a Union hospital and a burial ground for 103 Union soldiers.

Kenmore River View and support buildings (Courtesy of the George Washington Foundation)

Ferry Farm Visitor Center (Courtesy of the George Washington Foundation)

While in Fredericksburg, please take the time to visit Historic Kenmore and Ferry Farm.  At the Kenmore visitor center, your tour will start in the gallery at the center, where a guide will start your tour, then take you inside the beautiful Georgian manor. The Ferry Farm visitor center, has displays of colonial and Civil War artifacts. A guide will then take you to the Washington House, where you can view this recently rebuilt replica of the George Washington home, on the site of his original home. Visit the George Washington Foundation website at for the hours of operation and more information.


Civil War Trails: Abingdon, Virginia

Tucked far into Southwest Virginia is the town of Abingdon. If you’ve ever traveled down Interstate 81 there is no doubt you’ve seen the signs, maybe even the Civil War Trails directional sign, enticing you take the exit ramp. If you’ve not already visited Abingdon you are missing out.

For starters, there are two Civil War Trails sites in town. Most visitors usually start their visit by following our signs to the Fields-Penn House. If you are lucky enough to catch the farmers market located in the rear of the building you are in for a real treat. If you are planning a trip be sure to write ahead of the Fields-Penn House as they are open normally by appointment. In the corner of their yard our sign helps introduce you to just some of the events you’ll run across as you walk town. Yes, I said – walk.

Park your car at the Fields-Penn House and if you’re hungry make a left up W. Main Street and pop into Bonfire Smokehouse. This former hardware store is not only dishing out some tasty smoked meats but in the spirit of Southwest Virginia will often have some live music to accompany your meal. Further down W. Main Street, on Colonial Road is the site of the historic “Abingdon Muster Grounds.” It was near this point that Virginia Militiamen and likely levies left Abingdon on their way south on a Campaign which would culminate with the Battle of King’s Mountain, South Carolina in October of 1780. Today, the Keller Interpretive Center is located on the site and helps interpret this period of the town’s history.

Photo of Drew Gruber in the ‘Love Booth,’ Courtesy Dr. Sarah McCartney, c. March 2018

As you head north on Main Street, passing by the Fields-Penn House you are following roughly in the footsteps of Stoneman’s troopers when they arrived in Abingdon on December 15th, 1864. Having left from Knoxville almost two weeks before, their objective was simple. Destroy iron, lead and salt- all essential to the Confederate was effort. Besides destroying the printing press of the Abingdon-Virginian newspaper Stoneman’s troops blew through town quickly.

Again, we recommend proceeding on foot and as you head north you’ll notice the architecture change and the street narrows as you head past the Martha Washington Inn & Spa. On the left is the historic Barter Theater. The Barter is the one of if not the coolest venue in the entire Commonwealth. It opened in 1933 and retains much of its original character. If you are lucky enough to catch a show while you are in town you won’t be disappointed.

Passing the site of Black’s Fort near Main and Pecan Streets, you’ll slowly head uphill, no doubt enjoying the tree-lined sidewalks and in another block the Washington County Courthouse will appear on your left. One of Stoneman’s rogue troopers did major damage here during his visit, and the current structure was erected in 1868. The monument in the lawn was erected in 1907 to commemorate the men who served from the surrounding area and unique attributes and details not found on similar statuary.

Make a right and head down Court Street. By now, it is very likely you are thirsty. Never fear. Make a left on Park Street and within another two blocks you’ll stumble into Wolf Hills Brewing Co. This old ice house is now home to one of our favorite breweries in Virginia. The atmosphere is relaxed, live music is a common attribute and their beers are worth writing home about (or posting on Untapped). The tracks alongside the brewery are laid in the same bed which carried Longstreet’s men out of their East Tennessee winter camps in the spring of 1864.

Photo of Landon Boyd’s grave stone, Courtesy Brian Palmer, c. July 2015

Across the railroad tracks from ‘Wolf Hills’ is a suburban neighborhood, which follows the rise in the landscape. Just over the rise was a plantation called “Mary’s Meadows” or “The Meadows.” The building and the plantation in the antebellum period was a stately structure owned by Virginia Governor Wyndham Robertson, Robertson’s plantation employed many slaves including young Landon Boyd. Some evidence suggests that Boyd made his way to Union lines and served with the United States Colored Troops and returned to the Richmond area where he served on the jury which was established to try former Confederate President Jefferson Davis for treason. By 1870, Boyd was serving as the Vice President of the Colored National Labor Union and after a failed bid to win a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates he would serve as an Assistant Assessor for the U.S. Internal Revenue.

Buried in a nearby cemetery, Boyd’s legacy is still alive and it is not hard to imagine as you walk the streets of Abingdon. He is buried a few blocks away in ‘Sinking Spring Cemetery.’ Having left Wolf Hills Brewing, and looking up towards the heights where Boyd’s wife, Kate, taught school you will make your way south again, this time along Park Street. At the intersection of Park and Pecan, turn left and head over to the Virginia Creeper Trail Welcome Center.

This is the Abingdon terminus of the Trail which is a 34.3 mile rail-to-trail which passes through two counties. From Abingdon, you can head over to nearby Damascus by bike. If you and yours are avid cyclists the opportunity to peddle this trail is not to be missed. However, today you will be on foot, so be sure to snap a photo in the phone booth and then head back up Pecan Street.

By now you are likely hungry again so we highly recommend 128 Pecan. Further down Park Street are two of the most quaint historic structures you’d ever want to check out and lo! You can not only check them out but you can spend a night here in either the Black Dog Inn or the Tailors Lodging. If you are planning a road-trip with your partner and you are feeling a bit romantic look no further. Both are within easy walking distance to all these sites and amenities I’ve mentioned herein and then some.

If this little walking tour-guide of downtown Abingdon has excited you (as it should have) and you want to plan a weekend getaway, please don’t hesitate to send an email through the Civil War Trails website and we can help plan your trip. Additionally, check out our friends at the Abingdon Convention and Visitors Bureau  for a full list of all the incredible things to do this in picture-perfect town.

Civil War Trails: Visiting Kinston, North Carolina

Nestled in the heart of eastern North Carolina, lies the small town of Kinston. This small town tucked away far from the interstate, is well worth the drive and will charm you with more than just its storied past. There are three Trails sites as well as a myriad of other points not to be missed in and around town.

Photo of CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretive Center, Courtesy Civil War Trails, Circa 4/6/18

We recommend beginning your visit at our site at Harriet’s Chapel, located at 1400 U.S. 258 in Kinston. Both the Trails sign here as well as the expansive site itself will give you a great sense of the military action that took place here in the winter of 1862, once you have gotten the chance to walk around and explore the grounds at Harriet’s Chapel, hop back in your car and take Queen Street north into town.

Upon arriving in downtown Kinston, find a place to park your car for the afternoon, and enjoy exploring the town on foot. One of the first must-see’s is the CSS Neuse II , a recreation of the famed ironclad built nearby during the war. If you are coming to Kinston on a Saturday, make sure to take full advantage of the ability to explore the recreated ship (if coming another day, be sure to call ahead). Once you have taken a close look at the Neuse II head north a block and take a break at Sugar Hill Pizzeria, which is sure to give you the energy to continue exploring this vibrant old downtown.

Photo of CSS Neuse II, Courtesy CSS Neuse Foundation

Once you’ve gotten your fill, take a short walk south on Queen Street to one of the coolest things we found in Kinston, the CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretive Center home to the recovered hull of the Confederate Ironclad. Take time to explore this incredible museum, built around the immense hull of the 158 foot ship, recovered from the bend of the river in town. This museum has a fantastic collection of artifacts recovered from the Neuse as well as a unique approach to interpreting the parts of the ship that have disappeared over the years. Once this truly fascinating place has gotten your imagination and curiosity going, it is time to take another walk up Queen Street to find a place to discuss what you have seen. For this, we recommend, Mother Earth Brewing a uniquely Kinston establishment and well worth any time you can spend there. If you still have time left after all of this, we recommend that you strike out into the countryside around Kinston, to the many historic sites and locations that discuss the events and stories that unfolded all around Kinston.

Photo of Mother Earth Brewery, Courtesy Civil War Trails, Circa 4/6/18

Hopefully this taste of Kinston will be enough to encourage you to turn off of the interstate and take the time to explore all that this beautiful, unique, and historic place has to offer. If you do decide to visit feel free to reach out through the Civil War Trails website for any further advice, or contact our friends in the Kinston-Lenoir Chamber of Commerce  for a full rundown of what there is to do in town.

ECW Weekender: Visit the Site of the Broderick-Terry Duel

Broderick-Terry Obelisk

Are you in the San Francisco area and looking for something to do? Pack a picnic lunch and head over to Daly City to explore the site of the Broderick-Terry duel. The famous duel that ended dueling in California was fought in this small ravine near the shore of Lake Merced, in the early morning of September 13, 1859. The participants were U.S. Senator David C. Broderick and Chief Justice David S. Terry of the California Supreme Court. Senator Broderick was mortally wounded. The site is marked with a monument and granite shafts where the two men stood. The site is California Registered Landmark No. 19.

This little gem can be found at 1100 Lake Merced Blvd. in Daly City, a suburb of San Francisco. The streets are narrow and it is in a tiny greenspace surrounded by houses. There are nicely maintained walkways, picnic tables, and fire pits. The entrance is clearly marked, however it looks like you are entering someone’s backyard. Just trust me–the signs are correct.

Once you are in the park area, the sight is to the right and can be easily accessed by a short dirt trail. The trees are beautiful, there were flowers when I went, and the markers indicate where the duelists stood. Once you see them, you will wonder how you missed them the first time.

The site is open all day, but morning-early afternoon hours are best for avoiding freeway traffic. There is no cost, and the park has nice picnicking facilities. I think a wheelchair could make it with a little help–nothing is very strenuous about the paths or the grass areas.

The famous duel has been re-enacted at least once. This should encourage you and a friend to stand at the markers and face each other, thereby realizing just how close David C. Broderick and David S. Terry really were when shots were fired.


For more historical information about Broderick, Terry, and the Duel check-out my recent blog post.

A map can be found HERE and Siri can help you wind through the narrow Daly City streets.

Telling Stonewall Jackson’s Story Atop Henry House Hill

Chris Rob Manassas 157th

This is just a picture of the Facebook video, not the video itself.

I always think of July 21 as Stonewall Jackson’s birthday. Thomas Jonathan Jackson was born on January 21, 1824, so that’s his actual birthday, but he got his famous nickname at the battle of First Manassas, which took place in this date in 1861. That’s when he became “Stonewall.” That’s where the legend was born.

I had the privilege to tromp around on the Manassas battlefield for part of the day with my ECW colleague Rob Orrison, who invited me to participate in a series of Facebook videos shot throughout the day in “real time” to commemorate the 157th anniversary of the battle. We were joined by historians Bill Backus and Paige Gibbon-Backus, both of whom have made some great contributions to ECW over the past couple of years. Rob, Bill, and Paige all work for Prince William County’s department of historic preservation, and they were all over the battlefield all day long shooting these videos. They brought in a cool line-up of special guests, and I was lucky to be among them. 

My job was to get Stonewall Jackson onto the field at Manassas, first by marching the 2600 men of the Stonewall Brigade passed what is now the Ben Lomond Historical Site (which Paige manages). Then, we picked up the story in a field behind Jackson’s line at Henry House Hill and carried it onto the hilltop itself, finally ending next to the statue of Ares, God of War, atop his Warhorse of the Apocalypse—er, I mean, the Stonewall Jackson statue.

If you’d like to check out the videos, you can watch them on the Prince William Historical Foundation’s Facebook page (even if you’re not on Facebook, you can still watch them). Rob, Bill, and Paige filmed a series of ten segments–great stuff!

I grabbed a couple photos during the course of the day as we roamed around the battlefield around Henry House Hill. It was a gloomy day, and it started raining on us the moment I firs got out of the car, but it was still an excellent day to be on the field, on the anniversary, telling one of my favorite stories of the war.

And if you think you know the story of how Jackson got his name, I really encourage you to watch the video. The story as it happened, versus the story as people think it happened, are a bit different, although it’s every bit as dramatic.

Happy birthday, Stonewall.

UDC @ Manassas 2018

The United Daughters of the Confederacy have an annual wreath-laying ceremony for the Jackson statue at Manassas, but they got rained on today.

Bill Backus @ 4th Alabama Field

Bill Backus prepares to video Rob and me in the field where Stonewall Jackson got his name. Note: No Stonewall statue in this field. Surprised? Perhaps you only *think* you know the story….

Ricketts Battery

Ricketts’ Battery took a point-blank volley from the 33rd Virginia–part of the Stonewall Brigade–because the Virginians were wearing blue uniforms, which made them look like Federals.

Stonewall @ Manassas in Distance

There stands Jackson, off in the distance, like a stone wall.

Preservation News: The Stone Bridge Project at Manassas National Battlefield

Today is the anniversary of the First Battle of Bull Run, and it’s a great time to highlight some preservation work completed earlier this year on an important landmark on Manassas National Battlefield. The Stone Bridge spans the Bull Run stream, and in 2017-2018, it received needed restoration.

Why is the bridge location important? Is this the actually bridge from 1861? What did the recent restoration project accomplish? Read on and start planning your visit…

On July 21, 1861, Union artillery located near Stone Bridge fired, beginning the first large-scale battle of the war. The bridge helps researchers and battlefielders find the “first shot” positions on this battle ground.

The original Stone Bridge – constructed around 1825 – remained intact through the first battle, but in 1862, Confederates wrecked it. That same year Union engineers built a wood bridge over the ruins, intending their new construction for temporary use. In the 1880’s, a bridge of stone was built on the original location and actively used by vehicles until the early 20th Century. This 1880’s Stone Bridge stands today and was the structure needing restoration.

1940 view of the historic Stone Bridge NPS Photo

As the decades past, Stone Bridge’s center pier suffered from erosion and the cement coating underneath the bridge was damaged. Damaged and missing stones also needed replacement. According to the National Park Service, the recent preservation work on Stone Bridge included stabilizing the foundation, repairing historic stone masonry, and repaving the surface. Contemporary methods and materials were used, but the historic bridge’s look has stayed the same.

Earlier this year, the restoration work was completed, and now Stone Bridge stands guard over the waters of Bull Run, silently and grandly marking an important location of “firsts” on this first large battlefield.

If you’d like to visit Stone Bridge, it is located off Highway 29 and is Stop 12 on the battlefield tour maps provided by the Park Service.

Historic Stone Bridge over a body of water during summer. (NPS website – credited Shenandoah Sanchez)