So we know that Lee's headquarters was off Mine Road, Jackson's was over at Moss Neck, Gen. J.E.B. Stuart and his cavalry were stationed just down the street (right in front of where the Volkswagen dealership sits) and Gen. Longstreet was camped over by where Spotswood Baptist Church stands.

Many of you probably recognize this marker for Stuart's camp. There is also one next to it acknowledging the start of Sheridan's Raid. Longstreet's camp marker stands next to the old DMV parking lot. It should also be added that Lee, Jackson, and most of the other higher-ranking officers in the Confederate Army did treat these grounds and structures where they stayed with respect. This is more than I can say for the Union troops who more often than not abused the homes and firesides that they occupied and left a swath of destruction in their wake.

In fact, one of the most prized primary sources that I have is copies of all of the Insurance Claims and resulting Congressional investigations on all of the downtown churches. It is amazing how much of a paper trail exists and how complicated the U.S. Government made things even back then. The claims were finally referred to the court in 1905, by resolution of the United States Senate under act of Congress approved March of 1887, known as the 'Tucker Act.' None of these congregations saw any financial restitution until after 1905.

That is the story behind the headquarters markers. I think we can say that General Lee was a man of strong character and convictions who maintained a close-relationship with his staff and a blue-collar reputation with his men while camping here. It really seems to validate the name 'Lee's Hill' in my opinion.


Let's step away for a moment from examining the life of the soldier to take a peek at the life of the civilian. This will take us from the rough living conditions of an army camp, to the plush home of the Alsop Family. Now this is the place that I mentioned before that I have driven past everyday for over a decade without knowing that it was even there.

I live down in the Lancaster Gate subdivision, which is located on the other side of I-95 in the Massaponax/Thornburg area. Around halfway between there and here is a 'Manor Mart' Flea Market that sits on the side of Route 1, just south of the new shopping area at Cosner's Corner. It's made up of a bunch of outbuildings and they seem to have a lot of stuff for sale when I go past there on the weekends. Just up and over the hill from here, behind some trees and at the rear of this flea market on the left area sits a beautiful-but-obscured manor called 'Hilton.'

Hilton was an Alsop place. The Alsops were a powerful land owning family with roots going all the way back to the Revolutionary period. Samuel Alsop Jr, Oakley's builder, was born in Spotsylvania County in March of 1776. He was the son of Samuel Alsop, Sr., and married Dorothea "Dolly" Campbell, in 1802. Alsop began to accumulate land beginning with an inheritance of acreage from his grandfather and continued to acquire large land holdings in Spotsylvania and Caroline Counties. It is estimated that he owned over $65,000 of real estate and $75,000 in personal property, which included slaves. He was the "Donald Trump' of the day here in Fredericksburg.

Another Alsop construction that you are probably familiar with is the Spottswood Inn that stands out near Spotsylvania Court House. He also supervised the construction of the Old Berea Church. And at his death in 1858, Samuel and his wife lived at what today is known as 'Breezeland' (during the war better known as 'Fairview'), which still stands behind the Breezewood shopping center on Route 208.

Thankfully we have the accounts of Elizabeth Alsop who wrote extensively about spending the Christmas of 1862 there. Lizzie was a teenage girl during the Civil War and she kept a detailed diary that showed her contempt for the Union soldiers. She also struggled with her own faith later after realizing that the South's Cause was lost. Like most high-society gals in 1862, Lizzie was a big supporter of the war effort. And we can tell by here writings that she was very confident about the Confederacy winning the war. For example, on Sunday night June 29th 1862 she wrote:

Hurrah for the Southern Confederacy!!!!! Joy! Joy! Joy!!!! Glorious news! Mr. Marye has just been over to tell us the joyful news-viz! To night Mr. Green Howe Daniel came down from Mr. James Scott's, about 30 miles distant, and brought a true copy of telegraphic dispatches received by Col. Fontaine from his son in Richmond. First ran as follows McClellan's Army in retreat, our Army pursuing already they have gotten so far that the guns cannot be heard in Richmond.

According to NPS historian John Hennessy "Lizzie was just 16 when she started her diary, and it's remarkable in many respects. She was a first-rate flirt and chronicles her flirtations thoroughly (in fact, I think hers is one of the best testimonials in existence on 19th Century courting practices). But she was also politically and culturally aware and offers some great commentary on the Union occupation, family, and destruction."

Imagine if you will, the young, impressionable Elizabeth Alsop, sitting by candlelight in this magnificent manor, riding high on the South's victory in the Battle of Fredericksburg, the nation's icons camped in the area, it's the holiday season, a celebratory time that in many ways stopped the war for a while. On Dec 29th 1862 Lizzie wrote what brought them from their main estate, which I believe was called Sunnyside, to Hilton manor on the hill:

Five weeks ago Father Mother Nannie, Mr. & Mrs. Allen fled from Fredericksburg, thought to be in imminent danger; and took refuge in this house [Hilton], and here they have been ever since & are likely to remain for some time. During the shelling of Fredericksburg, November 11th 1862, very few citizens remained in town, not more a hundred & fifty if so many. Uncle William & Mrs. Foulke were at our house, but after the Yankees crossed over they left. The house was very much injured, every room rendered not inhabitable except two. The garden & yard turned into the common, the furniture nearly all cut up or very much injured...

Now to put this in perspective, here are some photographs of what our town looked like during the war. Here you see the ruins. People tend to forget that although the Confederate troops were able to defeat the Union at the stone wall and all along their lines, the city itself was still shelled and the occupying Yankees tore the place to pieces.

As you can see in this bottom right photograph of a burial detail, there were dead bodies everywhere. It's far too easy for us to look back today, especially in Fredericksburg and forget the carnage that took place here. People come from all over the word to tour our hallowed grounds. And when they get here, everything is perfect. The grass is neatly trimmed and the markers are polished. The freshly painted cannons are all lined up neatly. Yet they are standing in the "shadow" of death. Can you imagine the piles of rotting horses and the millions of flies that littered the air?

Try to picture the nightmarish scenes that were witnessed by the townsfolk following the battle. It's not at all romantic. So the next time that you find yourself touring one of these picturesque places, try to remember that although our National Battlefields are beautiful, [ANIMATION: the stonewall now - to then morph] the war that took place on them was ugly. I've been a full-time Civil War buff ever since my parents took me on a trip to Gettysburg at the age of 7 and it took me 28 years to realize that.

For the Alsop family the harsh realities of war had turned their world upside down. Thankfully they had a place like Hilton to escape to. And it was a pretty fancy 'safe house' if you ask me. So while their other properties continued to be either threatened or in need of repair, Lizzie's family stayed there on into the next summer and on Friday July 31st in 1863 she recorded the following passage: Our last night at Hilton. Happy for the most part, has been our sojourn here, and with a sad heart I contemplate the woods, fields, and the little white house for the last time. Yet I most assuredly expect to see them again, but not in the same position as now.

Lizzie's diary is still considered to be one of the best first-person accounts to come out of Fredericksburg. Her aunt Elizabeth French also kept a journal. The Alsop's however were not the only one's to build these lovely houses near Lee's Hill, there was also some elegant properties known as Belvoir, Lansdowne, and Hamilton.