Unlike the Alsop house, Belvoir is no longer standing. According to my sources at the NPS, there are a few sites that are no longer visible. Several huts and a hunter's lodge has been covered up beneath several cul-de-sacs in Lee's Hill (South). There are some standing ruins of Belvoir sitting in the woods across from Lee Hill Elementary.

Of all these properties it is a real shame that this house is gone as it hosted some very special guests. General Robert E. Lee was taken to Belvoir in March of 1863 when he first showed signs of heart problems and "Stonewall" Jackson and his lovely wife Anna spent a week there, with their newborn daughter Julia, just before he departed for the Battle of Chancellorsville.

According to an article by John Hennessy titled Belvoir: The Thomas Yerby Place, Spotsylvania County: Built before 1820 (and perhaps as early as 1790) by planter William Herndon, Belvoir was a plantation of some 800 acres along the banks of Massaponax Creek. "The land is all flat and well adapted to the culture of corn, tobacco, and wheat," read an 1827 advertisement for the property, "and a portion of it is woodland, well timbered, and as rich as any in the county. There are good orchards, containing a choice collection of fruits." The house, the advertisers asserted, was "a large and spacious brick dwelling...conveniently arranged, with all necessary out houses, good water, and an ice house, inferior to none in the county. It is a healthy situation in a very genteel neighborhood, and has always been considered as a highly desirable residence.

Today, the ruins of this house are still visible to those who are looking for it. Sections of the stone foundation are still standing. Seventy yards southeast of the house site is the well-preserved Yerby family cemetery, which contains seven marked graves and at least eleven unmarked ones. During the time of the Civil War, Belvoir was a thriving plantation with more than a dozen buildings scattered across 800 acres that were worked by as many as 41 slaves. What I find fascinating is the fact that there were only 45 people living on the entire property.

Because this land was located close to 'Hamilton's Crossing,' which is adjacent to the battlefield, it was an unwilling participant in the action. On Dec. 13, heavy fighting erupted there near Prospect Hill and the Confederate wounded was taken to Belvoir. It is recorded that a Tennessee surgeon used one of the outbuildings as an operating room. Several wartime accounts, describe the horrors that were witnessed in the main house's parlor that day. One stated, "So many wounded were brought into this room that the floor was stained so that thereafter it had to be covered with carpet."

William Colston of "Stonewall" Jackson's famous brigade recalled that he was carried into one of the property's barns with the most grievously injured. He wrote that "My friend, Doctor Straith, came every little while to see me and I could tell from the expression of his face that he had little or no hope for me. He gave me a drink of whiskey and afterwards a cup of strong coffee, both of which stuck. I have never made up my mind whether it was the whiskey or the coffee which saved my life, but have always given the former the benefit of the doubt and therefore have never been a prohibitionist." Remember that all you Irish coffee drinkers out there.

Perhaps the most important event witnessed by Belvoir following the battle was the death of Gen. Maxcy Gregg. Gregg, pictured in the upper corner here was a stubborn South Carolinian, who had been shot in the back when the Union army broke through Confederate lines. He was taken by ambulance to the hospital that had been established at Belvoir. Shortly after his arrival, Gregg looked intently into the surgeon's face and said, "Dr. when I received my wound I thought it was mortal. I was so completely paralyzed, but now I feel a degree of reaction." After a moment's silence, he continued "with great calmness": "Dr. if you think my wound mortal, I wish you to give me an opiate to prevent excessive pain." The surgeon did so.

His division commander, A.P. Hill, visited him, quietly walking into the darkened room, standing silently over Gregg for several minutes, then leaning down and kissing him on the head before leaving without a word. Gen. Jackson came too. He and Gregg had had a disagreement in past days, but Jackson reassured him, "The doctor tells me that you have not long to live. Let me ask you to dismiss this matter from your mind and turn your thoughts to God and the world to which you go." You may remember that scene played out in the Ron Maxwell film Gods and Generals. Despite the best efforts of his attendants Maxcy Gregg died on December 15th.

He was not the only ill Confederate General to stay at the house. On March 30, 1863, Robert E Lee came down with a severe repertory infection. He was given the upstairs of Belvoir and stayed there for several days while he recalled, "the surgeons "tapping me all over like an old steam boiler before condemning it." This was the event that I mentioned on Lee's HQ roadside marker. He of course stayed here until strong enough to continue with his duties.

By far though, the most endearing story to come out of Belvoir Plantation is that of the Jackson family's stay in May of 1863. The subject of Thomas Jonathan Jackson is what one would probably call a 'specialty' of mine. You could say that I have a great affinity and attachment to him. My first book ever published was a Christian-biography on the General. I am a co-founder of The Jackson Society. My license plate says "STOWNWL" and I just named my 4th child (born in Dec) Jackson. I am very impressed with the guy and I must say that as I researched his time here at Belvoir, I found the story to be both very touching and very sad.

Without getting too far off track it is important to know that Thomas Jackson's first wife and child had died from complications at childbirth. And that his daughter with his second wife Anna had passed away a few weeks after she was born. In addition young Thomas had lost his father, sister, and mother, tragically as a child. Therefore you can imagine Jackson's elation when his daughter Julia Laura Jackson was born in December of 1862. Still, as his duties on the battlefield took priority, he had no opportunity to see her until the following spring. On April 20, Jackson rode to Guinea Station to greet his young wife and infant daughter.

Anna recalled, "His face was all sunshine and gladness." When young Julia caught the glowing look of her father, "she beamed her brightest and sweetest smiles upon him in return, so it seemed to be a mutual fascination." On April 23 the Jacksons had Julia baptized at Belvoir. Fredericksburg Presbyterian's own Rev. Beverley Tucker Lacy, Jackson's chaplain, presided over the ceremony in the parlor. Julia's mother wrote, "The child behaved beautifully and was the object of great interest to her father's friends and soldiers." Needless to say, the Jackson family shared a wonderful week at the estate.

And there is one very famous - physical memento of Jackson's stay at Belvoir. It is his final photographic image. This picture has been used everywhere (including my book cover) and was commissioned my Mrs. Jackson herself. She said, "He [Thomas] had never presented a finer appearance in health and dress." Anna was referring to him wearing the handsome uniform that was given to him by the very flamboyant and fashionable J.E.B. Stuart. Mrs. Jackson arranged her husband's hair, and he took a seat in the main hall of Belvoir and the resulting image would become popular with Jackson's soldiers, but Mrs. Jackson found it imperfect. As the photographer worked, a wind blew through the hallway into Jackson's face, "causing him to frown, and giving a sternness to his countenance that was not natural."

This portrait, pictured here in the bottom corner, is the result of that sitting. On April 29, a messenger climbed the front steps of Belvoir. He saluted and announced that, "General Early's adjutant wishes to see General Jackson." Jackson announced a battle was imminent, and directed his wife to pack up and leave Belvoir for the safety of Richmond. A week later, following the Battle of Chancellorsville, Jackson would be reunited with his family while on his deathbed.

So whatever happened to Belvoir? Why are so many other manors still standing and it lies in ruins? By April of 1865, Spotsylvania Country (and the rest of the South) was battered and scarred from years of war. Thomas Yerby, the patriarch of Belvoir, lost much of his property and died in 1868. The estate remained in the Yerby family until 1904, but in 1910 it burned to the ground after a fire caused by a crack in the chimney ignited the wall behind a fireplace.