Brick-Kilns and Clay Deposits

It may seem strange to look at a study of the geology of Fredericksburg to understand the battle which occurred there in 1862. But here we go!

Fredericksburg is located along the Fall Line of the Rappahannock River. Similar to other cities along the east coast of America, this location provided substantial commercial and economic advantages.  “The edge of the Piedmont/Coastal Plain, where various rivers cross from hard bedrock to soft sediments, is marked by a line of rapids and waterfalls called the Fall Line… That physical pattern of rapids/waterfalls blocked ships from sailing further upstream, limiting water-based transportation of the European colonists. The natural geologic barrier to shipping delayed European settlement of the Piedmont and shaped the location of major Virginia’s cities, including Alexandria, Fredericksburg, Richmond, and Petersburg.” Continue reading

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Civil War Artillery (part 2)

I recently had a chance to visit the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. While there, I was particularly impressed by the artillery display located at the entrance of Chickamauga Battlefield National Park Service visitors’ center. What I found of note in this display, not only did they have all six of the most used western theater cannons, they also incorporated information relevant to each gun.


Model 1841, 12-pounder Howitzer


3-inch Ordnance Rifle


Model 1841, 6-pound Gun


12-pound James Rifle (Type 1)


Model 1857, Light 12-pounder Gun-Howitzer (Napoleon)


10-pound Parrott Rifle

The Western Theater during the civil war seems to have been at the end of the artillery supply chain. It received what no one else wanted. As such, its armies hung onto and made use of the 6-pound smooth bore and the 12-pound James Rifle much longer than the Eastern Theater. Better to use what you had than to go without. In the Eastern Theater following the battle at Antietam, General Lee requested that the 6-pounders be turned into Ordinance to be melted down into the 12-pound Napoleon. This was due to the range and strength of the Napoleon over the 6-pound smooth bore gun.

The James Rifle was born in part out of the desire on the part of the military to quickly enter the rifled gun era. Named after inventor and militia general Charles T. James, who worked with the Ames Manufacturing Company until his untimely death in October 1862. There were several models or types of James rifles. Most of these were cast in bronze and fired the James projectile. The Type 1’s were rebored 6-pounders with rifling. The challenge with rifling bronze is the rapid wear on the rifling soon led to inaccuracy of the piece and loss of power, hence range. The James projectile fell out of favor and was replaced by the Hotchkiss projectile. I suggest reading an excellent piece by Craig Swain, a fellow blogger, which provides information on the James rifle (chick here).

I purposely placed the photos of the 6-pound gun, the James Rifle and the 12-pound gun adjacent to each other to allow you to flip between the images. As you visually compare these three bronze guns remember that the James Type 1 began its life as a Model 1841 6-pound gun. The 6-pound gun was replaced by the Model 1857 12-pound gun/howitzer, commonly called the Napoleon.

Previous blogs on civil war artillery can be found: Civil War Artillery, Confederate Artillery Dominance.

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Hazel Run Crossing

We are going to go a little off script in this blog to explore an area that was tangentially associated with both battles of Fredericksburg. Hazel Run is an east-west flowing stream which was a maneuver constraint during the December battle. At that time it formed the southern boundary for those Union forces attacking Marye’s Heights. In the May battle, it acted as a northern line for Union General Albion Howes’s divisional avenue of approach against Marye’s Heights and Continue reading

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Martha Stephens House

Martha Ann Stephens, also known by the last names of Farrow and Innis or Ennis or Stevens, is a person of legend in Fredericksburg, a person of contradictions. She could not read or write, yet owned land, a rarity for women in the mid-nineteenth century. She did not have the advantage of family or wealth in the community. Martha was a nonconformist doing things ‘her way’ which frequently caused legal issues. She spoke her mind to whomever she talked to. She may not have even been remembered but for Continue reading

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The Innis (Ennis) House (part 2)

The Innis (Ennis) House is the only remaining historic structure located along the Sunken Road on the National Park’s Fredericksburg Battlefield land.  It was owned by Martha who went by any of three last names: Farrow, Innis and Stephens, based upon city land tax records, court cases, U.S. Census records, Deed Book records and newspaper stories. I use the names interchangeably, as did she. Currently we are focused upon the Continue reading

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