May 7, 2011

Spotsylvania County Battlefields Visit

After presenting my ACW RR talk to the RF&P Historical Society on May 7, I did a brief tour of the Chancellorsville and Wilderness battlefields. The talk went very well and I signed up to join the society, since I am modeling it, albeit under different management. I think the talk went well and I got invited to present it to a group of Richmond area modelers.

The Spotsylvania area of Virginia was the scene of four  major battles over the  course of 1862 to 1864.  My model railroad is set in the time period between the Battle of Fredericksburg, 1862  and Chancellorsville, 1863. So I thought it might be worthwhile to check out the battlefields.

Southern and eastern side of Salem Church
The library where the RF&PHS meets is about 500 yards from the Salem Church site. The church still stands and is in good condition. The Battle of Salem Church was the last phase of the battle of Chancellorsville, where Sedgewick's Corps was forced back across the Rappahannock River. The area is nearly completely overrun with generic US suburban development, but a small plot surrounding the church is undeveloped. I got a few good color pictures of the church unobstructed by trees or modern development. These type of photos are handy for pasting in to backdrop artwork.

A full set of plans for Salem Church are available at the Library of Congress HAER/HABS web site. One thing to note about many of the rural churches in Virginia at the time of the ACW is the lack of a steeple. I base this observation on my review of many of the church plans available on the HAER/HABs collection. This church might be a good candidate for the church in my version of Brooke. At 42 by 38 feet it would be less than a foot square.

A diorama depicting the mortal wounding of Jackson. It happened at
night, so the diorama is quite dark.

I stopped at both the Chancellorsville National Park Visitor Center and the Wilderness Battlefield Exhibit Shelter.  At both locations park rangers were available to answer questions. They were quite helpful. The Chancellorsville visitor center had some nice displays including two dioramas, one depicting Stonewall Jackson being shot by his own men (by accident) and the fight at the famous Bloody Angle from the Battle of Spotsylvania in 1864.

Diorama of the fighting at the Bloody Angle

At the Wilderness battlefield is the Ellwood House. This house is another antebellum era house that still stands and resembles its ACW appearance. It is open for visitors and is really a neat spot to visit. With the perfect spring weather and its peaceful, quiet location, it is hard to imagine a vicious bloody battle raging around the farm. The house was the HQ for two Union Corps Commanders during the battle. This is another good building for background photos.

Finally, on the way home I went to visit Norm Wolfe's HO layout across the river near White Oak. On the way I stopped on Cool Spring Road to try to find the site of the old Falmouth train station. A local fellow who runs an auto body shop was helpful in pointing me in the right direction.  I was unable to find any trace of the station, but did get lots of scratches from briers and thorn bushes. I did get a good look at Clairborne Creek. It is very rugged terrain with steep banks. I think my O Scale version captures it pretty well. The RF&P relocated this portion of the line in the 1920s to the other side of the creek and straightened out the curves. In this photo, the CSX tracks are to the upper right.  The ACW tracks were on the left of the creek in this picture.
Clairborne Creek near the former site of the Falmouth Station

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