Author: Catherine Wright

the collections manager at the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond. She is the editor of Lee's Last Casualty: The Life and Letters of Sgt. Robert W. Parker, Second Virginia Cavalry (2008)

Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad during the Civil War

The Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad (RF&P) was a strategically important rail line linking the Potomac River near the United States capital at Washington, D.C., and the Confederate capital at Richmond during the American Civil War (1861–1865). Incorporated in 1834, the railroad was seized by Confederates after Virginia seceded in April 1861, but struggled to maintain its lines under the increased traffic of men and matèriel. The Union army captured a portion of the railroad at Aquia Creek, and engineers led by Herman Haupt engaged in sometimes astonishing feats of engineering—laying three miles of track in three days, for instance, and constructing a 400-foot-long bridge in nine days. Throughout the war, portions of the railroad were destroyed and rebuilt, and Confederates found it increasingly difficult to keep up with repairs for lack of equipment and labor. By the end of the war, its lines were almost completely unusable, but within two months of Robert E. Lee‘s surrender at Appomattox Court House, service between Richmond and Hamilton’s Crossing in Spotsylvania County was restored.


McDowell, Battle of

The Battle of McDowell, fought May 8, 1862, was a costly but important Confederate victory that came near the beginning of Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson‘s brilliant Shenandoah Valley Campaign during the American Civil War (1861–1865). As Union general George B. McClellan prepared to march his Army of the Potomac up the Virginia Peninsula and on to Richmond, Confederate general Joseph E. Johnston entrusted Jackson with preventing Union troops in the Shenandoah Valley from reinforcing McClellan. After a defeat at the Battle of Kernstown on March 23, Jackson retreated south, where his Army of the Valley joined with Edward “Allegheny” Johnson’s Army of the Northwest and a reinforcing division under Richard S. Ewell. The Confederates, ensconced atop Sitlington’s Hill on the west side of Bull Pasture Mountain, fended off the uphill attacks of Robert H. Milroy’s Union troops in fighting that lasted until darkness fell. At one point General Johnson shouted a dare to Union forces to flank him, and although they failed, they did severely wound him. Confederates lost many more killed during the fray, but still counted the battle as a victory. McDowell set the stage for the rest of Jackson’s hard-marching, hard-fighting campaign that, over the next month, kept Union troops penned up in the Valley.