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Chatham Heights in Stafford County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
 

A “Picture of Desolation”

 
 
A “Picture of Desolation” Marker image. Click for full size.
By Kevin W., January 5, 2008
1. A “Picture of Desolation” Marker
Inscription.
“ Tis a perfect picture of desolation, and a sad illustration of the ravages of war.”
         —Newspaper correspondent, 1863

Union soldiers loll around Chatham in this February 1863 photograph. The scene here was not always so peaceful. Two months earlier, during the Battle of Fredericksburg, soldiers and wagons crowded the grounds; generals issued orders from the porch; surgeons converted the building’s interior into a field hospital. More than one hundred and thirty soldiers who died from their wounds received a hasty burial on the grounds.

The Union occupation devastated Chatham and surrounding Stafford County. It would take decades to recover.

Every wall and floor is saturated with blood, and the whole house…seems to have been suddenly transformed into a butcher’s shamble. The clock has stopped; the child’s rocking horse is rotting away in a disused balcony; the costly exotics in the garden are destroyed….All that was elegant is wretched; all that was noble is shabby; all that once told of civilized elegance now speaks of ruthless barbarism.”
       
A “Picture of Desolation” Marker image. Click for full size.
By Kevin W., January 5, 2008
2. A “Picture of Desolation” Marker
  - The Continental Monthly, 1863
 
Erected by Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park, National Park Service.
 
Location. 38° 18.522′ N, 77° 27.377′ W. Marker is in Chatham Heights, Virginia, in Stafford County. Marker can be reached from Chatham Lane. Touch for map. Marker is located at Chatham Manor, part of the Fredericksburg National Military Park. Marker is at or near this postal address: 120 Chatham Ln, Fredericksburg VA 22405, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Bombardment (within shouting distance of this marker); Pontoon Bridges (within shouting distance of this marker); A Bloody Crossing (within shouting distance of this marker); Between Battles (within shouting distance of this marker); Beleaguered Town (within shouting distance of this marker); A Changed Landscape (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Sow…Tend…Harvest (about 400 feet away); Beyond the Big House (about 500 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Chatham Heights.
 
More about this marker.
Period picture of Chatham on the A “Picture of Desolation” Marker image. Click for full size.
By Kevin W., January 5, 2008
3. Period picture of Chatham on the A “Picture of Desolation” Marker
The marker is strategically placed to give visitors nearly the same view of Chatham as the marker picture. One can easily see how much, and how little, Chatham has changed since the Civil War.
In the lower left of the marker is a line that identifies a motivation behind placing the marker. It reads, "Donated in memory of Timothy J. Franz."
 
Also see . . .
1. Chatham Manor. Chatham History, including the Civil War years. (Submitted on January 10, 2008, by Kevin W. of Stafford, Virginia.) 

2. Walt Whitman at Chatham. National Park Service website, referencing the Catalpa Trees. (Submitted on January 10, 2008, by Kevin W. of Stafford, Virginia.) 
 
Additional comments.
1. Catalpa Trees
In the marker picture, one can easily see the two catalpa trees, then young but now gnarled with age, standing on Chatham's front lawn. They bore witness to the death and desolation of the times. As well, their location immediately outside of the bedroom-turned operating room caused their trunks and branches to collect amputated limbs hurriedly tossed out the window for later removal.

Walt Whitman spoke of these trees in his book The Wound Dresser. A passage reads, "Spent a good part of the day in a large brick mansion [Chatham]
Two Catalpa Trees, silent witnesses to desolation and the ravages of war, still stand. image. Click for full size.
By Kevin W., January 5, 2008
4. Two Catalpa Trees, silent witnesses to desolation and the ravages of war, still stand.
on the banks of the Rappahannock, immediately opposite Fredericksburg. It is used as a hospital since the battle, and seems to have received only the worst cases. Outdoors, at the foot of a tree, within ten yards of the front of the house
[probably the still standing Catalpa trees], I noticed a heap of amputated feet, legs, arms, hands, etc. -- about a load for a one-horse cart. Several dead bodies lie near, each covered with its brown woolen blanket. In the dooryard, toward the river, are fresh graves, mostly of officers, their names on pieces of barrel staves or broken board, stuck in the dirt."
    — Submitted January 10, 2008, by Kevin W. of Stafford, Virginia.

 
Categories. MilitaryNotable BuildingsWar, US Civil
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on January 10, 2008, by Kevin W. of Stafford, Virginia. This page has been viewed 1,189 times since then and 64 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on January 10, 2008, by Kevin W. of Stafford, Virginia.
 
Editor’s want-list for this marker. Information about Timothy J. Franz mentioned on this marker. • Can you help?
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