14 December 2008 by Published in: Battlefield stomping 4 comments

Wow…what a long day….

We just got home from a whirlwind trip to Virginia for a speech to the Louisa County Historical Society on the Battle of Trevilian Station. It’s about 450 miles from my house to Louisa, so it’s not exactly around the corner.

We left on Friday afternoon, 2.5 hours later than I had wanted or planned to leave. It meant that we had to make most of the trip in the dark, and much of it in pretty heavy snow. It started snowing while we were still in Ohio and continued snowing the whole way through West Virginia, only quitting about the time we crossed from West Virginia into Virginia. We didn’t get to Louisa until 11:00 after a tough trip. There were places and times where it was almost whiteout conditions coming through the mountains of West Virginia between Charleston and Beckley.

Louisa is a small town and there’s only one motel. It’s kind of seedy, so we stayed at a bed and breakfast where we’d stayed previously. The place has changed hands since then. The woman who now owns it as nice as can be, and makes a mean breakfast. However, she’s completely re-decorated the place. It went from understated and fairly plain to stuffed to the brim. As just one example, there must have been 100 or so Boyd’s Bears and beanie babies in our room, and they were only a small percentage of the total amount of junk filling the room. It was so incredibly crowded that I was genuinely afraid I would knock something over every time I turned. I had to move a bunch of stuff just to clear a place to put my keys, wallet, watch, etc. There was so much junk in this room that it was actually stressful, so much so that I cannot ever envision myself staying there again.

The talk went well. I had about 40 for the talk, and signed a bunch of books. From there, we drove to Fredericksburg to meet old friend Melissa Delcour and her beau for lunch. I had two choices of routes from Louisa to Fredericksburg. One is shorter but requires the driver to spend about 15 miles on Route 3. The other is longer, but misses Route 3 altogether. I opted for the Route 3 choice, meaning that we passed through a whole series of battlefields along the way: Verdiersville (where Stuart was nearly captured and lost his plumed hat in August 1862), Mine Run/Locust Grove, the Wilderness, Chancellorsville/Salem Church, and finally Fredericksburg. We also passed the spot where WalMart wants to build its new blight–sorry I mean superstore. Route 3 is a traffic nightmare, especially on a Saturday twelve days before Christmas. The construction of the WalMart will only extend the traffic nightmare farther west to Orange County.

After fighting our way through the traffic nightmare, we had a spectacular lunch at a place called Bistro Bethem, and then visited a nearby wine store. We then wandered over to the visitor center on Marye’s Heights and arrived in time to visit with Frank O’Reilly while he and his colleagues were placing luminaria for the evening commemoration of the 146th anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg.

I’m used to the ridiculous crowds that infest Gettysburg on the anniversary of the battle, so I was surprised that the crowds in Fredericksburg were much smaller than what I expected. We saw a few farby Confederate reenactors wandering around downtown, and one fairly large tour group on Marye’s Heights, but, other than many more cars than usual, it didn’t really seem like a special occasion. But for the luminaria, in fact, it probably wouldn’t have seemed any different than any other day.

Last night, the Trevilian Station Battlefield Foundation threw an invitation-only dinner in my honor. The incoming president of the TSBF, Kathy Sheridan-Stiles (a direct descendant of an uncle of Gen. Philip H. Sheridan), owns a lovely old home and private party facility called Early House. Kathy hosted the dinner last night, and a good time was had by all.

Today, we got up extra early, as Susan wanted to do a little shopping in Leesburg on the way home. That meant we had to drive 90 miles to get there, passing right through the Brandy Station battlefield along the way. We arrived in Leesburg, got the things Susan wanted, and then headed for home. We covered about 1000 miles in 48 hours, drove by or past a whole bunch of major battlefields, and finally got home about 6:30, just in time to pick up the dogs at the place where we board them.

It was a whirlwind of activity. It was a lot packed into a very short period of time, but it was worth the trip. But, boy, what a whirlwind of activity, and I got to be in Fredericksburg–even just for a couple of hours–on the anniversary of the battle, which is something I’ve never done before. On top of all of it, I have two very intense days coming up tomorrow and Tuesday….

Thank heavens my Civil War travels are at an end for about 90 days or so. I really need the rest.

Scridb filter


  1. Randy Sauls
    Mon 15th Dec 2008 at 12:30 am

    Sounds like a great trip to me. That area is ground zero both in the abundance of battlefields as well as the ongoing battle over development pressures. We visit as often as we can and I hope that some acceptable resolution can be reached in the WalMart case. By the way, I second your opinion of Bistro Betham. When I take groups up for Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville tours I always make it a point to take our groups their for dinner. Food is awesome and they make a first rate Martini as well! Glad you’re back safe.

  2. Mon 15th Dec 2008 at 10:24 am

    I’d lay odds the most stressful part of the trip was navigating those stop lights around the outlet malls at Leesburg!


  3. Billy Yank
    Sat 20th Dec 2008 at 7:45 pm

    You just passed by our neck of the woods — Ashburn is a hop, skip and a jump across Goose Creek and on into Leesburg. However, my goal is to always talk my wife into skipping the outlets in Leesburg and convince her that she’ll find better deals if we make the drive up Route 15 to Gettysburg. 🙂

  4. Bobby Edwards
    Wed 03rd Jun 2009 at 8:01 am

    A couple of week ends ago, I made it out to Nance’s Shop, St. Mary’s Church, Salem Church, Herring Creek, Haxalls, and J. Rocks – Not far from the Malvern Battlefield.

    I was just trying to get a feel for the lay of the land out there, and had some interesting personal experiences with some of the locals. When you cross the Chickahominy at Long Bridge and Turn Left at Barnett’s Road, You see a Saw Mill and Logging Venture. I remember a Business Relationship with the Logging Company there at Roxbury going all the way back to the late 1970’s. They shared with me then that they were close to a Cavalry Battle from the Civil War. The Chickahominy Estuary drains down towards the Barnett’s Road and makes for some very interesting scenery by Edna’s Mill, still standing from prior Civil War era. Edna’s Mill was freshly painted, and was looking very good. Next was Mt. Pleasant Cemetery on the Old Union Road, where my Wife and I stopped to look at the Gravestones. There were dozens of Nance’s, and shortly after we arrived a nice lady drove up, and we chatted for several minutes. Her Ancestry was from the Nance’s, and she knew stories about the Cavalry actions there and the Blacksmith Shop business in that Community. She was very helpful with instructions, as Nance’s Shop was just down the Old Union Road, with a Historical Marker.

    We found Nance’s in just a couple of minutes driving from the Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, and We Parked in the lane – off to the side of the road. In short order, we saw someone on a Motor Cycle racing to us. I told him what we were doing, and he introduced himself as James Black. James showed us where Nance’s Shop would have been and mentioned that in addition for it’s reputation as a Blacksmith Shop, Nance’s was also an Armory – repairing Weapons and Producing Items needed by the Confederacy in their War Effort. There were several workers there, and the Shop was fairly busy. James had just graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in Engineering and was very helpful in sharing information about Nance’s. When I showed him my old Civil War Map, with some of the places of engagement, I pointed to J. Rocks, and he said – “that’s my cousins place, I am very sure of it”. Then he mentioned that we should wait to talk with his dad, who pulled into the lane just a couple of minutes later.

    James Father, Mark Black and I chatted for quite awhile and when I showed him my Civil War Map – He had comments for several of the places in the Community, and he knew the people that lived there currently. When he looked at J. Rocks, he said – Hey, That’s Uncle John’s Place, no doubt about it. Shortly below his place was a Civil War Era Farm calleld – Stagg’s. Mark said that Stagg’s and All of the Farms in the Area were Well Farmed and Very Flat in the Area, and Mentioned that at Stagg’s they could easily see the Masts of the Ships in the James around Harrison’s and City Point. I thought that very interesting, because today it is very wooded, and from Route Five it’s impossible to see the River. When I mentioned Samaria Church, Mark Bristled – “It’s Not Samaria, It’s St. Mary’s”. The Locals just slurred the name of the Church. It’s St. Mary’s! When I brought up Samaria again a few minutes later – He corrected me again and reminded me of the Southern Slurring of St. Mary’s.

    He Invited me down the lane to have some Lemonade or some cool drinks, but I said that I had to go. His hospitality was very infectious and offered me a tour of the farm at any visit back that I wanted. Linda and I were so impressed with his courtesy and thanked him for taking time out of his busy day. He had help arriving to help cut some hay. With instruction of how to get to St. Mary’s, we were off down the road.

    Down the Lott Cary Road and Samaria Road / Samaria Baptist Church were hundreds of horses from a local riding club. Perhaps it was appropriate to see a large number of horses down a small country road. I have often wondered how Cavalry operated up and down those small country roads in large numbers, and with clashes against other large numbers of other Cavalry – the riding through the Woods, Bushes, and Plowed Fields Must have been Absolutely Awful. The Lott Cary Road Community are primarily descendents of Slaves and Blacks, and Lott Cary, a Preacher and Physician was the first American Missionary to Africa. Very Interesting rural Community.

    From St. Mary’s, my Wife and I went into Richmond for Lunch and Returned to the Frazier’s Farm / Glendale area and took a few minutes to clean up the Overgrown Weeds and Bushes that had Enveloped the Riddell’s Shop Marker. Riddell’s and Glendale the same location as the Battle of 1862 – End of June, right before Malvern Hill. In June of 1864, two years later, Federal Forces meet Confederates Again at Riddell’s. This time to Screen the Confederates from Grant’s Main Army Crossing the James. Wilson’s Cavalry would Skirmish with Barringer’s Cavalry around Riddell’s, Malvern Hill, Crenshaws, J. Rocks, Nances, and Herring Creek – Before they are the last ones to cross the James River on the way to Petersburg.

    In an Earlier Topic, where it was mentioned that The Federal Cavalry Forces were at a Disadvantage in “Leadership” in 1864, the Results of the Moves across the Pamunkey and the James by Grant’s Army was Provided by Good Leadership by General Wilson. Perhaps, the Movements themselves versus the Battles were the Ultimate Reasons for Gaining the Strategic Positions of Pinning Lee back in a “Siege” that Lee knew would defeat his Army.

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