The Cape Henry Lighthouse at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia was the first structure ever built with federal tax dollars. Completed in 1792, it is the oldest lighthouse built by the United States.
I’m not a huge Civil War buff, but with the sesquicentennial (I just loving saying that word!) upon us the battles, sites and famous figures are taking up residence in the news and pop culture in way they haven’t for many years. Therefore, you’ll probably be seeing a number of posts here at Bricks + Mortar about places significant to The War Between the States.
Smashed Confederate artillery battery after the battle of Fredericksburg. Image via CWA
This week 150 years ago, the Battle of Fredericksburg took place in and around Fredericksburg, Virginia. The troops of Major General Ambrose Burnside and General Robert E. Lee fought for four long days.
The Union army’s futile attacks on entrenched Confederate soldiers on December 13 (150 years ago today) is remembered as one of the most one-sided battles in the history of the Civil War. Union casualties were more than twice as heavy as those suffered by the Confederacy.
Recently, the Battle of Fredericksburg was in the news when hundreds of artifacts from the battle were unearthed in the basement of a Fredericksburg home during the construction of a new court house. The New York Times reported:
When Burnside’s forces charged on Dec. 13, Lee’s forces were perched on the heights above the city. They easily repelled the Union soldiers, inflicting terrible casualties. Afterward, Union soldiers likely sheltered anywhere they could, including in the basement Mr. Kiser’s crew discovered.
There, the soldiers would have opened tins of food and warmed themselves around the fireplace. They broke out whiskey bottles, and smoked tobacco pipes. As they entered the basement, they were probably told to empty their rifles to prevent accidental discharges, which resulted in a pile of ammunition on the floor.
The next day, the Union generals ordered their troops to fall back across the Rappahannock River, and Joseph Hooker, a major general, told officers to check houses for Union troops who had taken shelter. At some point, fire engulfed the building, which collapsed into the cellar, sealing in its contents.
“The archaeological crew found the remains of hundreds of items soldiers likely used in a basement. From top, parts of food tins, parts of tobacco pipes and bullets.” Image via The New York Times
Those working on the project hailed it as a once in a lifetime find. I imagine that researchers will be able to piece together a lot of information about the aftermath of the December 13th battle and the state of the soldiers by examining the artifacts discovered almost 15o years after they were buried.
This story is a great reminder that history is everywhere. It’s in our communities, lining our streets and under our feet every day.
I think this is an important point as we all look for meaningful ways to actually use old structures. They can’t all be museum houses, but they can be saved and be useful, if enough care and thought is put into them.
-Merry Powell, Interior Designer