Years of Anguish I: The Coming Storm. November 20, 2010

This event is free.  Pre-registration is strongly suggested. Click here to register.

Here we go. The first of what will surely be dozens of events associated with the Sesquicentennial has been announced. 

The Baptist Church, setting for Years of Anguish I: The Coming Storm

On November 20, 2010, the Fredericksburg Area Museum, The NPS, and the University of Mary Washington will sponsor Years of Anguish: The Coming Storm, a speaker’s forum that will explore the secession and the election of 1860. As with all eight of the planned speaker’s forums, this will look at the question from a national, state, and local perspective.


Bill Freehling

We are very fortunate to have two of the nation’s pre-eminent scholars on secession and the Southern nation:  George Rable and Bill Freehling.  George will look at the secession crisis as it played out across the South. Bill will explore Virginia’s struggle with the secession question (explored fully in his book Showdown in Virginia).  And NPS historian John Hennessy will look at how the issue played out in the Fredericksburg region–engaging, along the way, some debaters to help present the issues.  The program will run from 1-5 p.m. in the  historic sanctuary Fredericksurg Baptist Church, 1019 Princess Anne Street in Fredericksburg.  Admission is free.  But did we say that pre-registration is highly recommended? 


George Rable

Following the programs, the Fredericksburg Area Museum will host a reception and book signing for Drs. Freehling and Rable.  They are author to some of the most influential books of our age as it relates to the Civil War. 

The afternoon’s program will be preceded by a walk-around on the grounds at Brompton, the home of the region’s delegate to the 1861 secession conventions, John L. Marye. Today Brompton is the home of the president of the University of Mary Washington, and is generally not open to the public. But from 10:30 till noon that morning, NPS historians will be spread across the grounds to interpret the site both with respect to Marye and the secession movement, but also Brompton’s role as a home, battle landmark, hospital, and the venue of some of the great photographs taken during the Civil War.

This morning walk on the grounds of Brompton is free. No pre-registration is required.  Pedestrian entrance to the site will be from Hanover Street.

The famous Brompton Oak--scene of some of the famous photographs of the Civil War

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Preliminary Schedule Announced

The Fredericksburg-Stafford-Spotsylvania Sesquicentennial Committee has released a preliminary schedule for the 150th observance in the Fredericksburg region.  The schedule will become more specific as dates draw nearer, and no doubt additional events will be added.  But, this should give you a good sense of what is coming up.  If you want to download the schedule, you can do so here

Overview:  The approaching Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War offers this region an opportunity to explore the roots and nature of this momentous event, and to do it using the sites where some of the war’s most notable events took place.    For the Fredericksburg-Stafford-Spotsylvania region, the Civil War was a transformative event—one that bisects the area’s history, one that left a physical imprint on the community that took decades to heal, and one whose social and political relevance are still debated and discussed.  The war served as a point of departure for the ongoing quest for legal and social equality for all Americans, the still-vigorous debate over the appropriate reach of the federal government, and the never-ending effort to reconcile differing cultural values held under a single national flag. 

 Why here?  The Fredericksburg-Stafford-Spotsylvania region is uniquely qualified to commemorate and interpret the huge range of human experiences that comprised America’s most trying epoch.  More than any other area, Fredericksburg, Stafford, and Spotsylvania reflect the ebb and flow of a nation at war with itself.  Facing the possibility of war, the community carefully considered and debated its course, reflecting the political, economic, and social uncertainty of a nation in evolution.  Once war came, both men and women offered their services to a fledgling nation (and a few quietly worked for the Union).  The arrival of the Union army here in 1862 provoked a social upheaval, as more than 10,000 slaves fled bondage to cross the Rappahannock to freedom—marking the end of a labor and social system that had existed here for more than 140 years.  Armies encamped here for months on end, transforming the landscape, imposing an economic woe that would require decades to erase.  And, in a rolling climax of human suffering, four great battles raged here—battles that reflect the evolving nature of the conflict and materially affected the outcome of the war

 Purpose of the Sesquicentennial Observance:  The Fredericksburg-Stafford-Spotsylvania region’s sesquicentennial observance will engage the entire community to help convey the region’s wartime experience to the nation at large.  Programming, events, and media, while certainly treating the battles as climactic cornerstone events, will go beyond the battlefields to portray the human experience of the community at large.

Sesquicentennial events and programming will track the experience of the community from the onset of secession in 1860 to and into Reconstruction.  It will not portray the war monolithically, and instead will reveal that the same events were sometimes seen very differently depending on one’s gender, economic status, race, or uniform color.  For some, war was pure suffering. For others, war brought freedom.  In those varied experiences are myriad opportunities for engaging new visitors in new ways.

Schedule of Events and Programs

 Note:  The schedule is largely based on several thematically based recurring programs that will be presented in different form at different points in the observance:  History Alive (drama and storytelling, Years of Anguish (lectures), Descendants Remember (programming geared specifically to descendants groups), Songs from the Storm (Field, Home, and Slaves), Film Festival, Churches Remember, and Voices from the Storm.  Noted next to each major event is the group or individual responsible for coordinating that weekend’s activities, though it is understood that each cluster of events will require the efforts of many to be successful. 


 May- December 2010:  “Footfalls of the Famous”—an exhibit at the Fredericksburg Area Museum

 November 20:  The Secession Crisis

–          History Alive:  The Election of 1860 and Secession:  Virginians Debate (Dramatic Presentations) 

–          “Years of Anguish” I:  The Coming Storm:  Causes and Secession.  National and local focus.  Sponsored by the Fredericksburg Area Museum, the NPS, UMW.  Location:  Fredericksburg Baptist Church. Speakers:   William Freehling, Charles Dew


March – June:  “Letters and Diaries of the Civil War”—an exhibit at the Fredericksburg Area Museum.

May 22:  Battle Re-enactment (TBD) (Spotsylvania County)

 June:  At the Abyss:  Virginia Goes to War (Chatham)  Milestone EventNPS

–          Slavery and slave places in antebellum Stafford and Fredericksburg

–          “Songs from the Field” (musical program)

–          Mustering (living history demonstration at Chatham)

  • “People’s Re-enactment”—mustering
  • Children’s muster

–          “History Alive”:  Dramatic presentations relating to area soldiers going to war and area civilians interacting with Confederate soldiers, 1861-1862.   

–           “Songs from Home” (musical program)  

 October:  Film Festival #1  

October  “Years of Anguish” II:  Virginia Goes to War.  Featuring Ed Ayers and Peter Carmichael. 

December:  “Holiday without Joy:  Christmas in the Civil War” (Chatham, with associated programs at library or other sites, including music and Kevin Rawlings as Civil War Santa) 


March 2012-May 2013.  “We can never go back”—an exhibit at the Fredericksburg Area Museum

April:  The Churches Remember:  Fredericksburg 

May 5-6:  The Crossing    A Milestone Event

–          Canoe-based tours of Fredericksburg waterfront (requires partner and admission)

–          Tours, talks, and special programs (dramatic presentation of the crossing?)

–          Children’s programs

–          Descendants Remember:  Slaves descendants

–          Slavery and Slave Places in Spotsylvania (NPS and Spotsylvania)

–          Songs of Freedom:  Fisk Jubilee Singers    or Songs from the Field

–          Voices from the Storm:  To Freedom:  The World and Words of John Washington

–          Years of Anguish III:  Slaves and Freedom. 

 May:  Battle Re-enactment (TBD) (Spotsylvania County)

 May 19:  Footfalls of the Famous:  Tracking famous visitors to Stafford and Fredericksburg

–          Mr. Lincoln’s Fredericksburg (or, if you prefer, Mr. Davis’s Fredericksburg), a Tour NPS

 June-December:  “Lost Photographs of the Civil War”—an exhibit at the Fredericksburg Area Museum. 

 June-August: History at Sunset focused entirely on 1862, military and civilian    NPS

 June 1-3Milestone Event:  “Under the Yoke:  The Union Occupation”    A Major Event–NPS

–          “History Alive” II: Dramatic presentations and storytelling of life under Union occupation  

–          Songs from Home II:  Musical program   

–          Descendants Remember:  Recognizing Descendants of Area Civilians

–          Lizzie Alsop Diary is published

–          Whose Independence? Fourth of July 1862 (Chatham)

–          “People’s Re-enactment” of 1862.   4th of July observance in the Union army

–          Drilling and demonstrations

–          Voices from the Storm:  Civilians vs Yankees

 September: “Yankees in Falmouth!” Living History Event  

 October:  Film Festival #2 

 December 1:  Voices from the Storm:  Battle of Fredericksburg NPS

 December 10-11:   Milestone Event.  Battle of Fredericksburg   

–          Re-enactment (local group)

–          In the Crosshairs:  Fredericksburg and the Growing Destruction of War (talk)

–          History Alive III:  Cast to the Countryside:  Refugees Flee Battle (a participatory event at Salem Church, Maassaponax Church, or both)

–          Illumination of Fredericksburg—City Dock to Sunken Road  

–          Irish Brigade:  Ordeal and Legacy

–          Descendants Remember:  The Soldiers (focused on the descendants of soldiers who fought at Fredericksburg)

–          “Years of Anguish” IV:  The Battle of Fredericksburg  NPS   


March:  “Years of Anguish V”:  Presidents and their Generals.

April:   Milestone Event.  Union Army Encampment and Lincoln Grand Review – Living History Event  

–          Winter encampment “People’s re-enactment”

–          Songs from the Camps (Chatham)     

May:  The Battle of Chancellorsville Re-enactment (Spotsylvania County)

May 3-5:  Milestone Event.  The Battle of Chancellorsville NPS

–          Descendants Remember:  Chancellorsville

–          History Alive IV:  Participatory Event:  Jackson’s Flank March

–          Special tours and programs

–          Voices from the Storm:  Chancellorsville

September:  The Churches Remember #2:  Stafford 

–          Church-based events

–          Voices from the Storm:  Churches Swept by War

June-August: All NPS History at Sunset focused on 1863, soldier and civilian  NPS

September:  “The Churches Remember” #2:  Stafford County

October:  Film Festival #3 

October:  Preserving History at Home 


May:  The Battle of Wilderness/Spotsylvania re-enactment (Spotsylvania County)

May 9-11:  Milestone Event.  Battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania  NPS

–          Descendants Remember:  Wilderness and Spotsylvania

–          “Years of Anguish” VI   Virginia Desolate:  War Consumes the Old Dominion in 1864 NPS 

–          History Alive V:  Heavy Hearts, Vacant Hearths:  Stories of Local Families Transformed by War

–          Voices from the Storm:  City of Hospitals

–          City of Hospitals tours

–          Illumination of Spotsylvania

–          Songs from Home, Songs from Camp

June-August:  NPS History at Sunset focused on 1864  NPS

September:  “The Churches Remember” #3:  Spotsylvania County   Work Group

October:  Film Festival #4  Work Group

November:  “Years of Anguish” VII:  Bullets and Ballots. 


April:  War’s End

Voices from the Storm: “We have lost all…”  NPS

Years of Anguish IX:  Reconstructing a Community NPS 

June:  Milestone Event.  “Legacies.”

–          Descendants Remember:  Slavery to Freedom

–          Years of Anguish” VIII:  Remembering the Civil War  NPS 

–          Remembering:  The Creation of the National Cemetery and Confederate Cemeteries  NPS

–          Tours, talks

–          Preserving History at Home #2 

–           “History Alive” V:  Passages to Freedom

–          Juneteenth

–          Reckoning:  A Community Forum on the Legacy of the Civil War

–          Songs of Freedom:  Church Choirs on the Lawn at Chatham

 July-December:  “After the Glory”—an exhibit at the Fredericksburg Area Museum.

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