Today's Photo Adventure takes place in the English Garden of Chatham Manor during a soft spring rain
July 21, 2012
Chatham Manor is the Georgian-style home completed in 1771 by William Fitzhugh, after about 3 years of construction, on the Rappahannock River in Stafford County, Virginia, opposite Fredericksburg. Fizhugh named the mansion sitting on 1,280 acres after the British parliamentarian William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham, who championed many of the opinions held by American colonists prior to the Revolutionary War.
George Washington was a frequent visitor to Chatham Manor and records indicate Presidents Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and Abraham Lincoln were also guests. Many important Americans stopped by Chatham Manor for a visit as a convenient stop over between cities and for the Fitzhugh’s renowned hostility.
The Civil War brought change and destruction to Chatham Manor. The owner at the time, James Hoarse Lacy, sympathized with the South and he left Chatham Manor to server in the Confederacy as a staff officer. In the spring of 1862, Union troops arrived and forced Lacy’s wife and children to abandon Chatham Manor. Northern officers initially used the mansion as their headquarters. Seven months after President Lincoln visited Chatham Manor, fighting erupted in Fredericksburg. The battle of Fredericksburg was a disastrous Union defeat and Chatham Manor ended up the location where army surgeons spent days operating on hundreds of soldiers inside the house. Volunteers assisting the surgeons included poet Walt Whitman and founder of the American Chapter of the International Red Cross, Clara Barton. Activist Dorothea Dix operated a soup kitchen from the house. Also present during those days was Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, the only woman from the Civil War to be awarded the Medal of Honor. Unfortunately, she did not physically receive her Medal of Honor because the medal was restricted to combat veterans. President Jimmy Carter signed the Congressional bill into law in 1977 to restore Dr. Walker’s medal.
When the Civil War ended in 1865, Chatham Manor was desolated and severely damaged. Blood stains covered the floors, graffiti covered the walls, and sections of the interior wood paneling had been removed for fire wood. In the 1920’s owners Daniel and Helen Devore began restoring the mansion and grounds. They added an English-style garden and upon completion Chatham Manor regained its place among Virginia’s historic estates. Today the house and 85 acres are open to the public and is managed by the National Park Service.