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Notes from the Guidebook

A Fredericksburg Family Caught in the Ravages of War

John Henry Myer before the Civil War, as a young entrepreneur.

A Fredericksburg Family Caught in the Ravages of War, John Henry Myer before the Civil War, as a young entrepreneur.

A Fredericksburg Family Caught in the Ravages of War. John Henry Myer came to America to escape the turmoil of mid nineteenth century Germany. He would settle in Fredericksburg, Virginia in 1846. He began his professional life as a saddler. Interestingly, in 1852, he changed vocations, becoming a baker and confectioner, a switch that proved highly successful. He operated his business at 212 William Street which backed onto Market Square. The operation had an expanded kitchen attached to the rear of the building, and the Myer family residence were on the upper two floors. By the time of the Civil War he had three young children. Mary Elizabeth, John Jr., and Annie.

The approaching battle of Fredericksburg forced the Myer family to become refugees out in the Spotsylvania County countryside, west of town. The Union bombardment of Fredericksburg on December 11, 1862 left much of the downtown commercial area severely damaged or destroyed, but the Myer home amazingly survived. The overall devastation however, would no longer be suitable for his young family and by late April 1863, just days before the Battle of Chancellorsville, and yet another battle in the heart of town, Myer had finished negotiating the purchase of a sizeable farm near Spotsylvania Courthouse. It was an idyllic location, on a hill overlooking the Ni River.

As the spring of 1864 approached, two warring armies prepared to leave their winter camps, and John Henry Myer was conscripted into the 40th Virginia Infantry. His first taste of battle would be in the horrors of the Wilderness, and from there the fighting moved on toward Spotsylvania Courthouse, erupting just north of the village, along the Brock Road where it intersects Block House Road. As both sides shifted into position the 40th Virginia settled into a section of entrenchments now referred to as Heth’s Salient, a leg of works that dangled south of the larger, and more infamous, Muleshoe Salient.

By early morning of May 14, 1864, the Union army shifted men from its right flank to extend its left, in a plan to strike at the Confederate’s weakly held right flank just past the Courthouse. The weather however, conspired against this stealth maneuver, and the troops were slowed by mud they churned up as several days of rain had preceded the move.

Confederates occupying the Myer property were able to observe this slow, but steady stream of Union Blue heading up the Courthouse Road. The attack failed to materialize, and General Lee expressed little concern about the Union’s maneuvering. Union Army of the Potomac commander George Gordon Meade however was intent on having the observers driven from the hill top.

After a sweeping assault by a small contingent of Union infantry, the Confederates removed themselves.
Sadly, the Myer family were once again forced to leave their home as refugees. Tragically, the next day Union troops burned the home and outbuildings after the Myer caretaker had recklessly fired on retreating Union soldiers during a second, late day scuffle on the 14th. Undoubtably, Myer, entrenched still with his regiment less than two miles away, could observe the pillar of black smoke emitting from his home site. He was captured a week later near the North Anna River. He served as a POW until that December when he took the Oath of Allegiance to the United States and returned home. His postwar years are noted by renewed commercial success and civic duty as a member of the Fredericksburg Common Council. He passed away on December 5, 1909, a well-respected man in the community.

By John F. Cummings III

John Cummings is a visual historian and the author of three books on the Fredericksburg/Spotsylvania region. He provides battlefield guide services, and research assistance to visitors. He has also written for several national and local magazines and newspapers and provided historical research and commentary for five documentary films. He served on the former Spotsylvania Courthouse Tourism and Special Events Commission, and Friends of the Fredericksburg Area Battlefields, (FoFAB).

Contact information is available on his blog at:

A Year of Yuletide

Pamela Coopwood

A Year of Yuletide. Long after the holiday season is over, the gifts and givers are forgotten, the tree stored for another year; long after the last shred of tinsel is brushed away and the candles are relieved from their window sill vigils and the goodwill bell ringers have counted their stash, there remains on our sidewalks those whose needs remain. They still have their little cups and card board signs in hope that shards of goodwill remain even if accompanied by catty remarks and woeful glances. The homeless and disenfranchised of our community exist on the fringe of our society and every day, we have a choice to either turn our heads with closed hearts or extend a hand of compassion, realizing that life could have dealt us a similar fate if circumstances were different.

However, there are those in our community who dare to make a difference. They take time to extend not just a handout, but a warm welcome; to drop more than a coin but offer a haircut and a cup of hot soup; to give more than a drink, but a daily dose of compassion and care that extends beyond the seasons. They touch lives every day in whatever measures necessary, digging deep into their own resources, soliciting funds on behalf of their chosen charges and showing up on the coldest, wettest, hottest or darkest days. They are our communities’ unsung heroes that bring the spirit of holidays to the homeless and disenfranchised all year long. While there are others, I want to say thank you to a few on behalf of the many.

UnMasked has been a community resource since 2013. Its mission started in the heart of Crystal Vessel, owner of Xclusive Reflections beauty salon on Lafayette Boulevard. She saw an untouched need to reach out and help those exposed to hardships related to violence, displacement, physical or social abuses and other basic life depriving needs. She began by simply offering free salon services to the homeless and women effected by domestic abuse. Her outreach soon extended to the children affected by life’s circumstances and then, engaging her network of friends and family, she began sponsoring vision screening, feeding programs, loading backpacks filled with school supplies and cold weather clothing as well as gifts of personal hygiene products. Today, UnMasked is a 501c3 organization who regularly reaches over 200 members of these communities and on a case by case basis helps individual students and families recommended by schools, churches and other larger organizations. Thank you, Crystal, for seeking to reveal the true beauty of the person on the inside and elevate them to a higher level of self-confidence. Your demonstration of love in action, of being the hands and feet of compassion gives all of us a little hope of a brighter tomorrow.
Transitions4You is a small faith-based community program with operations which focus on communities that reside in hotels within Spotsylvania County. Envisioned in the hearts of Neal and Lisa Harris, their mission is to encourage and support displaced families and to assist them to gain stability in four main areas: Housing, Employment, Financial and Spiritual. Their motto: Empower. Equip. Reclaim. The Harris’ recognize that displaced families are not simply at risk but face a multitude of risk-factors which threaten their core identity and self-worth. They offer programs which empower families to reclaim their lives and move forward to a better tomorrow. Thank you, Lisa and Neal for seeing and being the eyes that really see and the ears that really hear the cry of the hopeless and then doing something so fearless and beautiful!

Both organizations reach deep into their own resources to care for their chosen populations. Each depends on the benevolence of those who say they would help if they knew how. Now that we know, we can! Let’s support their efforts. Let’s give generously so that they can continue as our hands and heart to these communities. Together, let’s make 2019 a year of Yuletide!

Pamela Coopwood, owner of The Planned Event/Speaking of Protocol, is an Ordained Minister who believes life is better we when we chose to see what God is doing and joins Him in that! She is always available to plan your next event, a cruise vacation and of course, to speak about Protocol!

My Little Town Has All I Need…

My Little Town Has All I Need… When I moved to Fredericksburg 15 years ago, I knew Fredericksburg was a beautiful, historical town. but, I never had the pleasure of experiencing Fredericksburg because I was a prisoner of I95 and my daily commute. I found my weekends consumed with errands, laundry, and kids activities making it even more difficult to experience the city. I always assumed I needed to go Washington DC or Richmond for fun activities. What I found is that I was living under a rock and had no idea what I was missing.

This past year, I made time to experience our town. With so many amazing activities such as farmer’s markets, street festivals, and historical re-enactments, there is always something to do. I find walking around the incredible shops, cafes, bakeries, and coffee shops tucked away downtown is relaxing. I am a firm believer of shopping local and Fredericksburg will not disappoint you, from antiques to wedding dresses, to bath balms, the uniqueness of each store will intice you to return. The bakeries, coffee shops, and cafes – what can I say – ah-mazing! I can spend hours just waliking downtown and talking to the shop owners. The stories they have to share are absolutely fascinating. Fredericksburg has so much history and what better way to experience it, than from the locals. Fredericksburg is full of historical sites, landmarks, and re-enactments. You could spend an entire year just visiting the historical sites.

I also found there was so much more than Downtown. Mary Washington University runs amazing activities that are open to the public, such as their book series. The Fairgrounds and Parks and Recreations are always hosting fun family activities. Spring is just around the corner and all the outdoor events will begin such as the Easter Egg Drop, fishing tournaments, the river raft race and the Frisbee Tournament. There are also so many fun non-profit festivals supporting your favorite local charities – such as the Fairy Festival, the Mason-Frazier event (actually starts in Spotsylvania and ends in King George), many events for animals (dogs, cats, and horses), activities for veterans, and the Disabilty Reseource Center. If music is your thing, local establishments have live bands, experience Central Park’s Celebrate Virginia, or the local amphitheater. Plus, the Expo Center has activities almost every weekend.

Additionally, local distilleries, wineries, and tap houses will not disappoint with wine pairings and spirit tastings events for those over twenty one. There are always activities at several local wineries. Why would you not want to check them out?

The river offers many fun activities from picnicking and canoeing to hiking and fishing. Take a boat out and join nature. Enjoy the wildlife or watch the train as it travels through town.

Why does My Little Town Has All I Need… Here are my 5 favorite things to do:

  1. Festivals. I love attending the unique street festivals Fredericksburg has to offer. Shopping, music, and food all in one event.
  2. Horse and Carraige rides. I love the romantic tours. They are absolutely stunning during the holidays.
  3. Cafes: I love several of the cafes and coffee shops in downtown.
  4. Mason-Fraizer Ride. It is in honor of the men and women in our military who have died for our country. I am a big supporter of our veterans and love any event that I can support our vets.
  5. Canoeing down the river. The sites and getting back to nature is so relaxing.

I challenge you to spend one weekend a month experiencing all that Fredericksburg has to offer. I have made so many new friends and experienced so much culture, history, delicious food, and fun in the past year. Sadly, I have not event touched on the amount of amazing activities around town. Don’t take 14 years like I did to experience our little town. So watch out Washington, DC and Richmond, I don’t need to leave my little historical town, everything I want or need, is right here in the Fredericksburg area.

By: Lee Chandler