Located on George St. at Princess Anne, the present structure was erected in 1833 and is the second oldest church in town. Due to Federal occupation, the church was severely damaged. After the war, the bell was replaced, the interior was restored, and the congregation was reunited. Today the sanctuary still bears scars where two cannon balls were embedded in one of its pilasters.

Now I have a special affection for this church, not only because I am from that denomination, but because two of my favorite subjects from the Civil War are reported to have been there. The Presbyterian Church in particular was blessed with one of the most celebrated ministers in the history of the city. He was an exceptional gentleman named the Reverend Beverly Tucker Lacy who would become one of the most influential ministers of the entire period.

Lacy would serve as the chaplain in the ANV's Second Corps. under General Jackson. A very religious man, "Stonewall" had appointed Lacy as a personal minister to his staff in early 1863. The good reverend's services, which were often attended by Major General Robert E. Lee and his staff, quickly became a popular event for saved and unsaved soldiers alike. Jackson recalled one particular event that summarized the success of their ministry. He wrote:

It was a noble sight to see there those, who led our armies to victory and upon whom the eyes of the nation are turned with admiration and gratitude, melted in tears at the story of the cross and the exhibition of the love of God to the repenting sinner.


It would be Rev. Lacy who later buried the amputated arm of "Stonewall" Jackson on his family's property at Ellwood where it still rests today. (Or not, depending upon who you ask.) I have personally been told multiple versions of this story by both members of the National Park Service, as well as descendants of the Lacy family. Both groups are sure of themselves.

Following their disastrous charge towards the wall at Marye's Heights, the Union Army commandeered the Presbyterian Church for use as a field hospital. The official reports following the Battle of Fredericksburg state that the Union forces suffered approximately 12,653 casualties. The Confederate losses were much less, but were still considerable.

Many of the wounded on both sides would die, not from their battlefield wounds, but from the disease and infections that would strike them after medical care and amputations were performed. The conditions at these churches that were turned into makeshift medical sites were far too often deplorable.

One woman who was determined to improve the health care of wounded soldiers everywhere was Ms. Clara Barton, founder of the Red Cross and celebrated humanitarian. Following the engagement, Barton crossed the river on the same pontoon bridges the Federals had used. She wrote of the horrors that greeted her on the other side. She wrote: I had crossed over into that city of death, its roofs riddled by shells, its very church a crowded hospital, every street a battle line, every hill a rampart.

She, according to her own accounts, rendered aid to the sick and dying in both the Episcopal and Presbyterian sanctuaries. Barton also wrote of being called from church to church, even stopping to administer aid to a severely wounded infantryman who turned out to be the sexton of her own childhood church up in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Barton then returned across the river to the Lacy house at Chatham Manor, where she estimated there to be no less than 1,200 wounded men crowded into the rooms of the mansion. Like her comrades, Barton would return later in the war to the same town and churches to nurse troops felled in the bloody battles of The Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House.

The traumatic events of these wartime trials remained ingrained in her memory and a biographer stated, "The memories of Fredericksburg remained with her distinct and terrible to the day of her death." As a testament to the goodwill and charity of Clara Barton, a bronze plaque was dedicated in the Presbyterian Church yard on September 25, 1962. It reads:


In Memory of CLARA BARTON. Founder of the Red Cross, a devoted Nurse and tireless organizer who knew no enemy but the unfeeling heart. We walk the ways she took in easing the suffering at the Battle of Fredericksburg, when the churches became military hospitals. Erected by Civil War Centennial Committee of Fredericksburg.

Clara Barton was not the only one to recall terrifying experiences during the Civil War. Like all congregations, the Presbyterians also petitioned the United States government for compensation for damages incurred during the First and Second Battle of Fredericksburg, as well as Chancellorsville, The Wilderness, and Spotsylvania Court House.

One of the primary sources for my book that I will cherish forever is the transcript of the insurance claims and subsequent testimonials that took place. These testimonials present eyewitness accounts of the destruction of the church by the occupying Union Army. In his testimony, congregation and Sunday School member S.H. Beale recalled the damages inflicted on the Presbyterian Church during the battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. He stated:

I know Federal forces occupied the building for a hospital. They tore all of the pews out of the church; the pulpit was so badly damaged it had to be taken out after the war and repaired, the church was completely gutted…The Federal forces used most of the of the pews to mark the graves of the soldiers." A relative, Robert C. Beale, recalled that the walls had been "badly damaged by cannon fire" and that the windows were all "smashed to pieces." All present testified to the deadly and destructive artillery bombardment that preceded the battle.

Not surprisingly, the U.S. Government really took their time in dealing with these claims. Now for those of us who have had to wait a few months for reimbursement, this may put things in a new perspective. The majority of the damaged churches in Fredericksburg filed claims in 1865. They got their checks in 1905.

The Presbyterian Church also took the initiative to deal with the dead Confederate soldiers and called a special meeting to determine how to properly honor the south's casualties who had been haphazardly buried around the outskirts of the town and on the adjacent battlefields. It was determined that two cemeteries would be required and that Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania would have separate grounds. The women of the town held pledge drives and were able to raise the necessary monies to complete their mission.

Today, I highly recommend taking a drive out to the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania cemeteries. My oldest daughter and I have spent hours there exploring the markers and paying homage to those that fell. Also remember to visit the National Cemetery down at the Battlefield Visitors Center. It is one of the most tranquil places in our entire area.

The final church in my presentation tonight is Fredericksburg United Methodist.