Near Falmouth in Stafford County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
Freedom Began Here
Trail to Freedom
- John Washington, a Fredericksburg slave
”Our camps are now flooded with negroes, with packs on their backs and bound for freedom. No system of abolition could sweep away the system more effectually than does the advance of our army.”
- Rufus Dawes, Sixth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, April 1862
On April 18, 1862, advancing Federal forces reached the banks of the Rappahannock River. African-American slaves realized that this armed presence altered their accustomed social controls and many took the initiative to escape bondage. A Fredericksburg slave named John Washington crossed the river to freedom, directly in front of you.
Many former slaves, including Washington, found work with the Union army, as teamsters, cooks, and servants. Others continued their journey elsewhere. By late summer, when the Union force withdrew to campaign in more distant places, at least 10,000 former slaves had moved through Stafford County toward freedom, and an uncertain future.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African Americans • War, US Civil. A significant historical month for this entry is January 1863.
Location. 38° 19.274′ N, 77° 28.104′ W. Marker is near Falmouth, Virginia, in Stafford County. Marker is on River Road 0.3 miles east of Jefferson Davis Highway (U.S. 1), on the right when traveling east. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Fredericksburg VA 22405, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Moncure Daniel Conway (within shouting distance of this marker); Anthony Burns (within shouting distance of this marker); Conway House (within shouting distance of this marker); Moncure Conway House (within shouting distance of this marker); The Forlorn Hope (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); A Sad Duty to Perform (about 600 feet away); Hobby School (about 700 feet away); Shelton Cottage (about 700 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Falmouth.
More about this marker. The top two photographs on the marker is captioned, "Northern photographers captured these images of African-American slaves, leaving their life in bondage and approaching the Union army as a first step to a different future."
The smaller photo, "...shows how this area looked to Union soldiers on the Stafford shore. The large building across the Rappahannock River is the old Bridgewater (Ficklen’s) Mill (of which only the foundation remains today)."
Related marker. Click here for another marker that is related to this marker. The Bound for Freedom marker, across the Rappahannock River at the site
Also see . . .
1. Trail to Freedom web site. (Submitted on June 29, 2010, by Kevin W. of Stafford, Virginia.)
2. Slaves' river crossing honored. An article by Cling Schemmer, published in The Freelance Star on June 20th 2010. (Submitted on June 29, 2010, by Kevin W. of Stafford, Virginia.)
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. It was originally submitted on June 29, 2010, by Kevin W. of Stafford, Virginia. This page has been viewed 1,027 times since then and 4 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on June 29, 2010, by Kevin W. of Stafford, Virginia. 4. submitted on February 26, 2016, by Kevin W. of Stafford, Virginia. • Craig Swain was the editor who published this page.