April 26, 2012

Aquia Landing under Confederate Control

Before the Union Army occupied Aquia Creek, there was considerable Confederate activity in the area. Some of this is detailed in Kevin Ruffner's book, "From Aquia to Appomattox: The History of the 30th Virginia Infantry Regiment, 1861-1865". 

The 30th Virginia was a regiment raised from people in the Fredericksburg area.  The unit was stationed in various camps in the Aquia area. Their mission was to blockade the Potomac to prevent Union shipping from getting to Washington, DC. To support this mission the rebels installed two Columbiad guns in the earthworks on the bluff over looking the Aquia Landing on June1, 1861 (Note these dates conflict with the wikipedia entry on the Battle of Aquia Creek.) Later these guns participated in several battles between Union gunboats and Confederate shore batteries in this area, including one on June 25 where Commander Ward was killed, the first Union officer to die in the war. 

The 30th Virginia marched to Manassass, but did not arrive in time for the first battle. Then they marched back to the Aquia-Fredericksburg area and stayed until 26 March 1862, when they left for Richmond via train. During this period,  Brooks Station as an important camp for the confederate units in this area. The Hegeman farm near Aquia Landing was also a confederate camp. 

The following newspaper clip from the NY Times describes some of the logisitcs problems the Confederates experienced in this period with some examples from Aquia Creek. The NY Times article, which itself was an extract from the Charleston Mercury,  attributes these problems mostly to the disorganization of the Confederate Commissary Corps.

"There is universal complaint made of the want of efficiency in the Commissariat Department. It was felt severely and immediately after the battle of Manassas. Our brave troops, particularly the sick and wounded, suffered greatly. Some of the troops were without provisions from Sunday breakfast until Tuesday after the battle. Since then it has occurred more than once that many have been without food for twenty-four hours. Great indignation is felt throughout the Army and in Richmond on account of this outrageous and unendurable inefficiency. The efficiency of the Army is impaired, and even its movements retarded through the want of supplies. I learn it has been, and is, a matter of bitter complaint and earnest remonstrance by the commanding Generals. And not only is there a want of sufficient quantity, but the provisions are not good, are, in fact, positively unwholesome. It is not only so at the camps in Fairfax county, where the army is large, but also in other camps. A great deal of sickness is the natural consequence. One regiment near Aquia Creek, has lost sixty men, and another thirty. The weather has been intensely hot, and the great mortality is attributed by the troops to bad provisions, unsuitable at any time, especially during such a season.

The country people, camp-traders, and sutlers too, in the neighborhood of Fredericksburgh and Aquia Creek, charge the poor fellows most extortionate prices for everything they buy. I have heard it is the same in other places, but that it is there, I am assured by the best authority."
The fact that army units operated in this area for at least a year before I am modeling reinforce the notion that the land should look picked clean, with fallow fields and acres of stumps where woods once stood.. Furthermore, when the Union forces arrived, most of the region became depopulated as the most of the 6,000 white citizens fled south, while about 2,500 freed slaves headed north. According to the Stafford County Historical Society, it took near 100 years for the county to regain its population.

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