Thursday, April 14, 2016

Flashback Thursday: Historic Chatham Manor Fredericksburg, Va.

Fredericksburg, Va. is one of the most historic cities in America. It is compact and provides a look at both the Revolutionary War and Civil War.

Built between 1768 and 1771 in the Georgian style by William Fitzhugh, Chatham Manor has been witness to the historic events that surround this area during both the Revolutionary and the Civil War. FitzHugh was a friend of George Washington and entertained him and many others on his thriving plantation. During his time there was a racetrack where he could pit his blooded horse against those of the other wealthy planters in the area. Fitzhugh’s daughter Molly would later marry George Washington’s step grandson George Washington Parke Custis. Their daughter would later marry Robert E Lee.

In 1806 Major Churchill Jones purchased the house and his family retained ownership for the next 66 years. At the time of the Civil War it belonged to James Horace Lacy. As a plantation and slave owner, his sympathies lay with the Confederacy and he joined as a staff officer. His wife and children remained at home until they were forced to leave by the Union army. They established their headquarters here in 1862.  Chatham Manor has the distinction of having been visited both by George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

In November 1862 the assault on Fredericksburg by river was launched from below Chatham. Today you can see an example of what the bridge looked like on the property. The resulting Union defeat turned Chatham Manor into a hospital. At one point both Clara Barton and Walt Whitman were working with the wounded at Chatham. 

Later in the war, the house was used as housing and when fire wood grew scarce, the paneling was pulled from the walls and burned. When the war ended, the house had bare walls covered with graffiti and blood stained floors and the grounds had been used as a burial ground. The gardens no longer existed and the Lacys, who were no longer able to maintain it, left in 1872.

In the 1920's Daniel and Helen DeVore took on the task of restoring Chatham Manor. We owe the present condition of the property to their loving care. The property’s last owner John Lee Pratt opened it to the public and in 1975, willed it to the National Park Service.

Today as with many Park Service homes, there is very little furniture. What you get to see are the bones of what is a beautiful house. Jane was our Ranger and she took us though the house and told us the story of its history. More time is spent on its Civil War period than on the Colonial period but there are many more famous people visiting here during that time. What we do find out is the entrance area door is original.  

 We enter through the rear door of the house, the front is the door that faces the river. We walked through the garden to get to the back door, even in October there was plenty of color still left. Take the time to walk the grounds especially the front toward the river, the views are beautiful.


  1. Nice piece. I was here once, but would love to return here and to Fredericksburg in general.

    1. Thank you it is such a historic location that it does deserve another visit.