The Stratton house is one of the iconic witnesses to the Battle of Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862. It shows up in a number of written accounts by the participants, in drawings of the battle, and in photographs following the battle. The house, much expanded, still exists today.
Built by Allen Stratton, a wheelwright, in 1857? on a rectangular piece of land, one half square, or about one acre. He also constructed his wheelwright business on the same property at the opposite end, where the land abutted Telegraph Road (today’s Kirkland Avenue). This is somewhat akin to current day vehicle repair businesses that spring up adjacent to major highways, providing needed services to traveling motorists. In his day, Telegraph Road was the major route out of town going south to Richmond. The property fronted Fair Street (today’s Littlepage Street) between Telegraph on the north and Mercer Street on the south. This placed him conveniently close to the new county fairgrounds known as Mercer Square. I will explore the Wheelwright Shop in a future blog.
Stratton located his business conveniently outside the official boundaries of the city of Fredericksburg, on the level ground just before travelers hit rough roads or more hilly country. An oasis for repair just before or just after the traveler might struggle with wheel related problems. Allen Stratton had neighbors in what might be classed as a developing suburb of the City of Fredericksburg; several of these neighbors houses can be seen in this 1864 photograph. I provided the larger original of this photograph in my first blog which you can get to by clicking here.
The house was two stories high and built of brick, with windows front and back and a small columned porch in front. At the back of the house was a smaller one storied structure, with its own chimney, that served as a kitchen or additional living space. The back yard had fruit trees, cedars, lilacs and rose arbors and an enclosure for pigs. The property was fenced, based upon Union accounts.
The 1860 census records thirteen people as living in the house. These included John Stratton, his wife and six children between the ages of one and 17, and as well as five others between the ages of 50 and 15. If so, this was truly a crowded house, given that the original two story house was 24 feet wide and 32 feet deep, plus an attached structure to the rear.
Allen Stratton married a sister of Absalom McGhee, Mary McGhee. Of note, one of those listed as living in the house during the 1860 census was Eliza McGhee, aged 50. This was possibly an older sister, cousin or other relation. Absalom McGhee was listed as the owner of the land in 1855, just before Allen Stratton acquires ownership of a portion of the land in 1855. Property was described in size as ½ square, approximately 45,640 square feet or about 1+ acres.
I added a map to assist you in locating where the various numbered photographs (#1-modern, #2a and b –Jerry Brent, and #3 unidentified photo) were taken from. The yellow outline is the original Stratton House superimposed on the modern aerial view taken from Google maps.
The following photographs assist in seeing the Stratton house from different angles and at different times. In the first, we look at the house as seen from the Ebert property adjacent to the Sunken Road where the stone wall ends. The house is about 530 feet or 175 yards from this spot. Company C of the Phillips Legion would have had this view during the battle. You can just make out the end of the Stone Wall adjoining the road in the foreground. This is on the curve where the extension of Hanover Street (the current Kirkland Street) meets Telegraph Road (todays Sunken Road). It was taken by F. Thedore Miller, a local Fredericksburg photographer probably circa 1870’s-1880’s. It is currently owned by Jerry Brent.
The large wooden house or barn to the right of the Stratton house is located on the other side of Mercer Street to the rear and in line with the Innis House, presumably on the adjoining property. The owner is still a mystery that I am working on.
This is an enlargement of the original photo (#2a). Looking very closely, on the left side of the photo, you can see a fence running parallel to the house and just faintly, a white frame house in the left back ground. This and other properties shown in both photos give evidence that even in the immediate post-civil war environment, there was expansion in this sub-community of Fredericksburg. In both shots, you can easily see the one story attached structure at the rear of the Stratton House which was there at the time of the battle. This structure in the rear of the Stratton House is visible in the 1864 photo taken from what today is the National Cemetery, although somewhat hidden by foliage that partially blocks that area. Federal soldiers discuss the two story main house in their accounts, by not the attached structure, another oddity in the accounts of the battle.
This next shot is from a more modern time, possibly in the 1920’s or 1930’s, but before the substantial changes and additions to the house seen today.
I located this shot in files at the Fredericksburg National Park Service, but found no information related to photographer or date or name of the publication. I would like to find out if anyone knows more information. The photo is taken from across the street on the corner of Littlepage Street and Mercer Street looking up Mercer Street with Brompton in the background on Marye’s Hill. It apparently predates all improvements to the property except the addition of the front porch. Note the white picket fence that apparently surrounded the house on at least two sides. Due to its prominence in the battle, I will explore more about the Stratton House in a future post.
Sources: Harrison, Fredericksburg Civil War Sites, Volume Two pages 178-180, and Rappahannock Heritage Center, filed under 2009-071-165.
Over the next several weeks, I will be assisting the National Park Service at their 150th anniversary of Wilderness and Spotsylvania battles. I will post pictures of those events.