Fort Magruder and the Battle of Williamsburg

A small monument and a few wayside markers are all that remind passersby that two Civil War armies once fought here.

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The Battle of Williamsburg was fought on May 5, 1862 between Union forces commanded by Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan and Confederate forces commanded by Maj. Gen. James Longstreet outside Williamsburg, Virginia during the American Civil War. The battle was tactically a draw, with the Confederate army withdrawing toward Richmond during the night.

In the spring of 1862, Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan took his massive 120,000-man Army of the Potomac by boat and landed at Fort Monroe near Hampton Roads. He planned to march up the Virginia Peninsula and capture the Confederate capitol of Richmond, bringing a swift end to the war. Standing in his way was Confederate Brig. Gen. John B. Magruder, a series of small forts and defensive works, and 11,000 men. Magruder’s elaborate showmanship and deceptive tactics delayed the Union army for nearly 30 days.

The delay bought time for Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston to arrive with reinforcements. Their combined force of 57,000 was still no match for McClellan, so Johnston decided to withdraw to the defenses around Richmond. A force of 32,000 commanded by Maj. Gen. James Longstreet was left to defend Fort Magruder, southeast of Williamsburg, and cover the withdrawal.

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Angel Unfurled

A majestic bronze angel dedicated to William and Dorothea Rueger in Hollywood Cemetery, 412 S. Cherry Street in Richmond, Virginia. William Rueger (1857-1936) was born in Richmond and his wife, Dorothea W. Vocke (1859-1909) was a German immigrant from Vlotho in North Rhine-Westphalia. The couple had one son.

William Rueger owned a hotel and saloon, carrying on the family business from his father and grandfather. He opened the luxurious Hotel Rueger at 901 Bank Street in 1913, which later changed hands and became the Commonwealth Park Suites Hotel. The angel’s scroll reads “They that lie here rest in peace.”

William Rueger (1857-1936)

Exploring Redoubt Park in Williamsburg, Virginia

This 1862 Confederate earthwork was designed to defend Williamsburg during the American Civil War. Today, you can enjoy a nature trail and learn its history at this quiet and unassuming preserve.

When Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan landed an army of 120,000 men at Fort Monroe at the tip of the Virginia Peninsula in late March 1862, Confederate Maj. Gen. John B. Magruder was tasked to delay him with 13,600 men until reinforcements arrived. With his mustache, large mutton chops, and plumed hat, Maj. Gen. “Prince John” Magruder cut a dashing figure. He was a veteran of the Mexican War and amateur actor with unconventional views on warfare for the time period.

He ordered his men to paint logs to look like cannon and march in circles, beating drums and making a racket to deceive the enemy into thinking he had a much larger force. He also employed Brig. Gen. Gabriel Rains’ expertise in “land torpedoes,” an early form of IED–buried or hidden artillery shells designed to explode when encountered.

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Washington’s Tenement House

This house at 123 S Pitt Street in Alexandria, Virginia was built in 1763 by future President George Washington as a tenement, and was willed to his wife, Martha, upon his death in 1799. In 2017, owner Rick Garcia excavated an old well and cistern he discovered while renovating and found numerous historical artifacts.

Washington's Tenement House

History Has Deep Roots at First Landing State Park

Traverse a historic Cypress swamp once home to Native Americans, European colonists, and even pirates!

On April 26, 1607, Captain Christopher Newport and his three ships of English colonists made landfall at Cape Henry before moving on to establish the Jamestown Settlement. Their landing site is located in nearby Fort Story, which borders the park. It was for that reason in 1997 the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation changed its name from Seashore State Park to First Landing State Park.

A swamp seems like an unusual addition to the National Register of Historic Places, but for hundreds of years, European explorers, Native Americans, and pirates navigated this ancient Cypress swamp. Bald Cypress trees are known to live for centuries, meaning visitors might see the exact same trees as early colonists. Its Seashore Natural Area was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1965 and the park was added to the Register in 2005.

According to legend, in 1718 the pirate Edward Teach, better known as “Blackbeard”, buried a treasure in the sand dunes along shore before fleeing inland through the Cypress swamp’s labyrinthine waterways. They sailed south to North Carolina, intending to eventually return to retrieve their treasure. Blackbeard was killed on November 22, 1718, however, and this fabled treasure was never found.

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A Trip to Battlefield Heritage Park in Bristow, Virginia

Two battles, thirteen months apart, were fought at or near Bristoe Station during the American Civil War: Kettle Run on August 27, 1862 during the Northern Virginia Campaign and Bristoe Station on October 14, 1863 during the Bristoe Campaign. Bristoe Station was a stop on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, an important rail line running north-south from Alexandria, Virginia to Gordonsville. It formed the northern half of the only rail link between the Union and Confederate capitals at Washington, D.C. and Richmond. Bristoe Battlefield was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991.

Bristoe Station Battlefield Heritage Park is the result of a compromise between development and historical preservation. As part of Centex Homes’ application to rezone agricultural land and develop New Bristow Village near the historic site, it promised to dedicate 127 acres as a Heritage Park to the Civil War Preservation Trust and identify and preserve mass graves of Confederate and Union soldiers. The Prince William County Board of Supervisors approved their application in 2002.

Today, you can walk 2.7 miles of trails through woods, wetlands, and wind-swept hills where armies marched, camped, and fought over 150 years ago.

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The Historic Wayside Inn

The Historic Wayside Inn
Sign for the Wayside Inn, 7783 Main Street (U.S. Route 11) in Middletown, Virginia. This establishment first opened in 1797 and was known as Wilkenson’s Tavern. Jacob Larrick bought the inn and renamed it Larrick’s Hotel, after himself. In the early 1900s, a new owner expanded and modernized the hotel and called it the Wayside Inn. Today it’s owned and operated by Becky and George Reeves.