Fredericksburg is poetry in a mouthful of syllables. Resting on the banks of the Rappahannock River, the town still thrives after nearly 300 years of habitude.
Any Civil War buff can relate the significance of the battle fought here but few realize Fredericksburg sprouted pre-revolution. John Paul Jones followed his sibling and once resided on the historic main drag at 501 Caroline Street. Big brother William now rests beside the city’s founding fathers in St. George’s courtyard under a headstone that reads JOHN PAUL JONES (brother of). Wonder how William would have felt about losing the sibling identity scrabble for all eternity? We will never know but for clarity’s sake, I am talking about the famous naval fighter in the American Revolutionary War and not the Led Zeppelin bassist.
Of course, some other pretty famous folk also trod these streets. George Washington most certainly slept here since Mom did. Ferry Farm, George’s boyhood home, is a stone’s throw past the Route 3 bridge exit east. George moved his widowed mother to town in 1772 to be closer to sister Betty, while youngish George galloped the country. He had some important stuff to do. Ever the dutiful son though, George journeyed here from New York to tell Mom he’d been elected the very first POTUS in 1789. (That’s President of the United States for those outside the beltway who don’t live to use acronyms as Washingtonians do.)
Mary Washington’s house at 1200 Charles Street is now a museum and open for tour. Across the street from St. Georges, the bank steps where Abraham Lincoln and Robert E. Lee addressed crowds still offers an excellent photo op. And Kenmore – back to George’s kin again, is open year-round and hosts Shakespeare on the lawn every June.
On the edge of town, Mayre’s Heights is a significant stop. Now owned by the U.S. Park Service, visitors can walk where Southern men cried as they shot wave after wave of Union troops like fish in a barrel. The Battle of Mayre’s Heights was a slaughter. Trying to cross 400 yards of open slope to reach the base of the hill, Union soldiers had no protection against the well-entrenched forces of General Lee’s army.
Last but not least, the real star of the town is the Rappahannock. Canoeing on the Rappahannock on a still Saturday morning is a piece of heaven.