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 Telegraph/Lee’s Hill. My interest this time is the location where Hazel Run is crossed by the road known variously as Courthouse or Telegraph Road and today is labeled Lafayette Boulevard.
While conducting research in the local library on a previous blog topic, I ran across an interesting photograph. The note accompanying the photo indicates that it was taken by a camera that captured the image on a glass plate. Given that the two wagons are in motion, albeit moving slowly, photographic technology had progressed sufficiently beyond that used in the Civil War so as not to be blurred by movement. The two wagons are transporting logs obtained from somewhere south of Fredericksburg along the road from Spotsylvania Court House. These wagons are typical of the type of road traffic one would see along this route. Even today, lumber trucks are a common sight along some stretches of the road.
The location of this crossing is noted on this 1867 Michler-Weyss survey note page which I’ve used in several previous blogs. The crossing of Hazel Run is located in between the heights and the railroad embankment. Confederate General TRR Cobb placed the 16th Georgia regiment, his reserve, in this general vicinity, likely sheltered by the high ground of Willis Hill. The survey notes mistakenly label the unfinished railroad embankment as a ‘Dam’ (Written upside down just to the right of the Hazel Run crossing).
The finished product of the survey was the 1867 Michler map. The location of the crossing (yellow circle) across Hazel Run is simplified. The roads, such as they were at the time, are displayed by a black line with a parallel dashed line which indicated a dirt roadway in various states of repair. Note how the alignment of the road, after it crosses, the stream makes a gentle loop following the terrain so as to have the least amount of slope or grade, thereby making the passage of wagons easier.
During the Second Battle of Fredericksburg, Union 6th Corps troops, under command of Major General John Sedgwick, successfully assaulted Marye’s Heights. This battle map taken from Bigelow’s account of the action shows the advance of Brigadier General Albion Howe’s 2nd Division on the morning of 3 May, 1863. Two Union brigades (Neill and Grant) began their movement south of Hazel Run swinging northward to capture the extreme southern end of Willis Hill. Here, they capture two 10 Pound Parrott rifles of Parker’s battery under the command of Lieutenant Brown. During the first battle in December this was the location of Captain Eshleman’s battery (click here).
In this 1937 aerial, the same area displays considerable infrastructure improvements. Lafayette Blvd has been paved and raised on a bridge above the streambed. Previously without a bridge, Hazel Run would have been impassable or dangerously impacted vehicular traffic during periods of storms or high run-off. The railroad was in its final year of operation and would declare bankruptcy as a result of the Depression in the following year. The trees in the National Cemetery are quite mature, some of which were almost 70 years old when this aerial was taken. You can faintly make out the previous roadbed to the left of the yellow arrow head and above the new road alignment.
In the next aerial, taken in 2016 for the city’s GIS mapping, additional improvements are in evidence. The Blue and Gray Parkway – Route 3 has been built. It substantially removed traffic congestion from the heart of the old town. Within the yellow circle, you can observe that the railyard seen in the previous aerial on the south side of Lafayette Blvd was replaced by commercial buildings. To the north of Lafayette you can see the addition of a commercial building complex that was built on fill. This obliterated the old roadbed. The city has constructed a pedestrian/bike trail along the old railroad alignment. For public safety, it loops under and then over the bridge alongside Lafayette Blvd.
This view of Hazel Run today approximates the original photograph with the two wagons. You can see the streambed as it emerges from under the Lafayette bridge overpass as well as the pedestrian/bike trail. On the skyline directly above the roadway you can make out the same tree line seen in the original photograph.
The last two photographs of Hazel Run are taken upstream on the other side of Lafayette Blvd Bridge. Hazel Run flows from right to left to pass under Lafayette Blvd. The right side photo shows a streambed making its gentle arch as it flowed downstream. In the left hand photograph, the pedestrian/bike path loops up to the right to join Lafayette behind the location of the photo. The commercial development that obliterated the 1867 road alignment is seen in the background. The streambed elevation is probably very similar to that seen on the original photo that showed the two wagons crossing the stream. You can almost imagine the old 1867 era roadbed at the left on the opposite side as it gained height above the stream.
The sign in the left foreground describes both Battles of Fredericksburg. During the second battle, General Howe’s Division of Union troops they crossed the stream in May 1863 at this location to attack Parker’s Battery on the southern end of Willis Hill. These troops moved from left to right across the location show in the photograph.
In a future post, I will return to this area again to explore Howison’s Mill that can be seen in the surveyor’s field notes adjacent to Hazel Run. I will also take a deeper look into Union and Confederate artillery during the Second Battle of Fredericksburg.
The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington DC, 1880-1901) Series 1, Volume 25, Serial 039,
Report No. 206 of Maj. Gen John Sedgwick, p 557-562. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.49015002000447;view=1up;seq=573
Report No. 226 of Brig. Gen. Albion Howe, p 599-602. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.49015002000447;view=1up;seq=615
Report No. 227 of Col. Lewis A. Grant, p 602-3. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.49015002000447;view=1up;seq=618
Report No. 230 of Brig. Gen. Thomas H. Neill, p 609-610. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.49015002000447;view=1up;seq=625
Bigelow, John G. Jr., The Campaign of Chancellorsville”, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1910, pp 382-397. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=loc.ark:/13960/t0zp4531s;view=1up;seq=406
Nelson, Eric F., “East of Chancellorsville, Second Fredericksburg and Salem Church”, Blue & Gray Magazine, Volume XXX, #1, 2013.
Owen, William M., In Camp and Battle with the Washington Artillery of New Orleans, original published by Ticknor and Company (Boston, 1885) Reprinted by Louisiana State University Press, (Baton Rouge, 1999) page 210-230.
Bigelow, John G. Jr., The Campaign of Chancellorsville”, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1910, map 34.
Michler-Weiss Survey Books, cupboard1, shelf 5, box 9, book 6, Record Group 77, National Archives, Washington DC. 1867.
Michler 1867 map of Fredericksburg https://www.loc.gov/item/99439215/
Fitzgerald, Barry, Wagons loaded with wood crossing Hazel Run, The Free-Star, Town and Country Magazine, Saturday April 26, 1980, P 3.
1937 Aerial of Fredericksburg, Central Rappahannock Heritage Center.
2016 Aerial, City of Fredericksburg GIS. http://gis.fredericksburgva.gov/ParcelViewer/