“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Daffan in Stafford County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)

Potomac Creek Bridge

“Beanpoles and Cornstalks”

Potomac Creek Bridge Marker Photo, Click for full size
By Kevin White, August 28, 2007
1. Potomac Creek Bridge Marker
Inscription. The mounds of earth beside you and the stone blocks protruding from it are all that remain of the south abutment of a bridge that once carried the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad across Potomac Creek. During the first year of the Civil War, the railroad was the principal lifeline for Confederate encampments and batteries located along the nearby shore of the Potomac River. In the spring of 1862, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston ordered Confederate forces to abandon the area. Advancing Union troops encountered only the ruins of the bridge here at Potomac Creek.

Over the next three years, the Union army built as many as four railroad bridges atop this same abutment. In May 1862, engineer Herman Haupt supervised unskilled Union infantrymen in harvesting two million feet of local lumber to construct the first of these structures, accomplishing this task in just nine days. During a visit to the Fredericksburg area, President Abraham Lincoln led Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton and Rear Admiral John A. Dahlgren on a walk across the 80-foot-high, 400-foot-long span. Stanton became dizzy while crossing the bridge and only finished
Potomac Creek Bridge Marker Photo, Click for full size
By Kevin White, August 28, 2007
2. Potomac Creek Bridge Marker
The remaining stone blocks of the south bridge abutment can be seen to the right of the marker.
the walk by holding onto Dahlgrenís hand.

Around 1899, the south abutment and its approaching right-of-way (now occupied by the county road that you followed to get here) were abandoned. The railroad and bridge were shifted to their present locations at that time.

“I have seen the most remarkable structure that human eyes ever rested upon. That man Haupt has built a bridge across Potomac Creek, about 400 feet long and nearly 100 feet high, over which loaded trains are running every hour, and, upon my word, gentlemen, there is nothing in it but beanpoles and cornstalks.” —Abraham Lincoln

(caption under main picture) The Potomac Creek Bridge (under Union control), ca. February 1863, looking across the creek from a viewpoint located just down the slope in front of you.

(caption to the right of the portrait of Herman Haupt) A genius of innovation, Herman Haupt rebuilt the bridge over Potomac Creek in just nine days utilizing mostly local materials.

(caption to the right of the small bridge picture) The Potomac Creek Bridge in May or June 1863, looking across the creek from a viewpoint atop
View down to Potomac Creek Photo, Click for full size
By Kevin White, August 28, 2007
3. View down to Potomac Creek
A view down to the creek, with other structural remains of the Civil War era bridge seen in the lower left.
the abutment beside you. Note the wartime blockhouse in the center background and the prewar buildings in the right background.
Erected by Civil War Trails.
Marker series. This marker is included in the Virginia Civil War Trails marker series.
Location. 38° 21.401′ N, 77° 24.533′ W. Marker is in Daffan, Virginia, in Stafford County. Marker is on Leland Road, on the left when traveling north. Click for map. Marker is in this post office area: Fredericksburg VA 22405, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 3 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Cavalry Review (approx. 1.6 miles away); Lincoln Review (approx. 1.9 miles away); Camp Pitcher (approx. 1.9 miles away); History at Leeland Station (approx. 2.3 miles away); Mt. Hope Baptist Church (approx. 2.3 miles away); Union Battery (approx. 2.4 miles away); German-Americans and the Eleventh Corps (approx. 2.4 miles away); 11th Corps Road (approx. 2.4 miles away).
More about this marker. This marker is subject to periodic
Modern Bridge across Potomac Creek Photo, Click for full size
By Kevin White, March 4, 2007
4. Modern Bridge across Potomac Creek
removal and replacement. It has been reported missing at least twice in the last six years. The marker was last replaced in early 2008.
Categories. Bridges & ViaductsMan-Made FeaturesMilitaryRailroads & StreetcarsWar, US Civil
Leland Road now occupies the abandoned right-of-way. Photo, Click for full size
By Kevin White, August 28, 2007
5. Leland Road now occupies the abandoned right-of-way.
Military railroad bridge across Potomac Creek, on the Fredericksburg Railroad Photo, Click for full size
By Andrew J. Russell, circa 1862
6. Military railroad bridge across Potomac Creek, on the Fredericksburg Railroad
Library of Congress [LC-DIG-ppmsca-10325, LOT 9209, no.13]
United States Military Railroad Department. Construction and Transportation. Photo, Click for full size
By Andrew J. Russell, circa 1862
7. United States Military Railroad Department. Construction and Transportation.
No. 11, 12, 13. Miltary Railroad Bridge Across Potomac Creek, on the Fredericksburg Railroad — Length, 400 feet; height, 80 feet, in four stories. Major-General McDowell, in his defence before the Court of Inquiry, made the following statement in regard to the Potomac Creek Bridge, on the line of the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad: “The large railroad bridge over the Rappahannock, some 600 feet long by 65 feet high, and the larger part of the one over Potomac creek, some 400 feet long by 80 feet high, were built from the trees cut down by the troops in the vicinity, and this without those troops losing their discipline or their instruction as soldiers. The work they did excited, to a high degree, the wonder and admiration of several distinguished foreign officers, who had never imagined such constructions possible by such means, and in such a way, in the time in which they were done.” “The Potomac Run Bridge is a most remarkable structure. When it is considered that in the campaigns of Napoleon, trestle bridges of more than one story, even of moderate height, were regarded as impracticable, and that, too for common military roads, it is not difficult to understand why distinguished Europeans should express surprise at so bold a specimen of American military engineering. It is a structure which ignores all the rules and precedents of military science as laid down in books. It is constructed chiefly of round sticks cut from the woods, and not even divested of bark; the legs of the trestles are braced with round poles. It is in four stories, three of trestles and one of crib work. The total height from the deepest part of the stream to the rail, is nearly 80 feet. It carries daily from 10 to 20 heavy railway trains in both directions, and has withstood several severe freshets and storms without injury. “This bridge was built in May, 1862, in nine working days during which time the greater part of the material was cut and hauled. It contains more than two million feet of lumber. The original structure, which it replaced, required as many months as this did days. It was constructed by the common soldiers of the Army of the Rappahannock, (command of Major General McDowell,) under the supervision of his aide-de-camp Colonel, now Brigadier General Herman Haupt, Chief Railroad Construction and Transportation.” Library of Congress [LC-DIG-ppmsca-10326, LOT 9209, no.13]
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Kevin W. of Stafford, Virginia. This page has been viewed 4,071 times since then. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on , by Kevin W. of Stafford, Virginia.   6, 7. submitted on , by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia. • J. J. Prats was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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