Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Chatham Manor, Stafford County Virginia

Garden gate on the north wall.
Spent Sunday at Chatham, in Falmouth, with my wife and children.

Chatham Manor's garden

        Chatham was built between 1768 and 1771 in Stafford County, Virginia by William Fitzhugh, grandson of "King" Carter, and overlooks the Rappahannock.  The plantation was named after William Pitt, Earl of Chatham in honor of his support for the colonies over the issue of taxation.  Fitzhugh served as a Burgess from 1772 until its dissolution in 1775.  Supporting the rebel cause, Fitzhugh was a member of the local Committee of Safety, acted as  commissioner for two arms manufactories in the area, served as a delegate to the Virginia Convention 1776-7, and finally as a state Senator from 1780-87.

Carriage House, Overseer's Office from the front lawn.
         The plantation was the site of a slave revolt in 1805 and was subsequently sold to Continental Army veteran Maj Churchill Jones in 1806.   Several outbuildings (kitchen, carriage house, ice house, summer house) still flank the gardens.

Kitchen and Summerhouse from across the rose garden.
       Chatham is only about a mile upriver from Ferry Farm, Washington's boyhood home.  Fitzhugh and Washington were political allies, the former having visited Chatham before and after the war.  The majority of the surrounding lands have been developed, but the Manor grounds are today the National Park Service's Headquarters for the Fredericksburg/Spotsylvania National Military Park.  There is still access to the river, as well, and a wonderful, if somewhat overgrown view of the city of Fredericksburg.  The plantation served as a headquarters, battery, hospital and bridgehead during the American Civil War.

       I think this would be a great place to hold a living history demonstration or some experiential archaeology.  The grounds are expansive, even leading down to the riverbank, with several islands and sandbanks up river.  A good spot for some bushcraftery or period fishing.


      "I went by the field of the slothful, and the vineyard of a man lacking understanding, and behold it was overgrown with thorns, the ground was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down."
                                                                    -Proverbs 24:30-31

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