As America marks the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, the tragic events of that era still hover over the Fredericksburg Region. For good reason have historians dubbed the area the “crossroads of the Civil War.” Situated evenly between the capitals of the Union and the Confederacy, the community endured more of the terrors of war than any other in North America. Four major battles – Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Wilderness and Spotsylvania Courthouse – razed much of the landscape, killing and wounding 100,000 men in the process. Today, visitors and residents gain insight into each of those bloody milestones by visiting 6,000 acres of battlefields and accompanying historic sites and museums.
The tapestry of the region’s history carries visitors back more than 400 years to the days when the Powhatan Indians greeted Captain John Smith as he explored the Rappahannock and Potomac rivers.
The community played a pivotal role in the rise of America from English colony to independent nation. George Washington grew up on Ferry Farm in Stafford County – just a stone’s throw across the Rappahannock River from the city of Fredericksburg. James Madison, the father of the U.S. Constitution, was born here. James Monroe, diplomat, statesman and the last of the Revolutionary generation to win the presidency, began his law career in the city. While visiting Fredericksburg in 1777, Thomas Jefferson penned Virginia’s Statute of Religious Freedom – the inspiration for the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution.
Stafford County (named for Staffordshire, England) was formed in 1664, followed by Spotsylvania, Caroline and King George in the 1720s. Fredericksburg was established in 1728 as a frontier river port near the falls of the Rappahannock. The 50-acre town took its name from Crown Prince Frederick.
Fredericksburg became a regional commercial center, receiving manufactured goods from England and exporting agricultural products and gold. Early business ventures in the region included Governor Alexander Spotswood’s Tubal Furnace, James Hunter’s Ironworks and a variety of commercial mills.
Once a primarily rural area, this is now one of the fastest-growing regions in the U.S., generating unprecedented prosperity in the last few decades. In 1970, about 77,000 people lived in the region. Today, that number has grown to nearly 300,000. The growth continues, yet it’s a comfortable place to raise a family and get involved with the community.