Sunday, February 14, 2016

Then & Now: Damaged Caroline Street house in Fredericksburg

On Dec. 11, 1862, Union artillery pounded Fredericksburg, Va., damaging many buildings in the historic town along the Rappahannock River. Fredericksburg was further ravaged when the Union army crossed the river to fight the Confederates in town and beyond at Marye's Heights, a major disaster for the Yankees.

Seventeen months later, in May 1864, photographer James Gardner documented destruction in Fredericksburg's lower Caroline Street neighborhood, shooting images of two duplexes and this image of the house at 130 Caroline Street. Damage from fighting in 1862 was still readily apparent in 1864  -- see the enlargements below -- perhaps an indication that the house, built in 1855, had been abandoned by its owners.

The excellent Mysteries & Conundrums blog has a terrific post on the destruction wrought by both armies in the Caroline Street neighborhood. Most interesting is a comment below the post from a 21st-century owner of the house at 130 Caroline Street. Posted on Dec. 11, 2012, the 150th anniversary of the Union's shelling of the city, he noted:
A previous owner put an addition on the north side of the house and I understand from one of the guys who worked on it, there was quite a bit of damage beneath the surface. There were also some broken floor joists by the front door that looked like a cannon shot had passed through. It was all repaired or covered over and we have no evidence of damage now. 
Interestingly, during the renovation they removed old wallpaper from the 2 bedrooms upstairs and revealed extensive graffiti from both sides. The graffiti has been preserved under plexiglass and researched by the National Park Service. Unit records from the Civil War are so good we have been able to learn quite a bit about those who wrote their names in the “commodious mansion on Caroline St.” as it was described in one account.
 After the war, the federal government paid the owner $400 as compensation for damage caused by the soldiers. That was a lot of money at the time considering the house was valued at $1,500.
To create the Then & Now image, I used Gardner's image and a cropped May 2012 Google Street View  image, which shows obvious changes since 1864, including the expansion of the house. For more Then & Now images go to my blog here.

In this cropped enlargement, broken steps, siding and windows are among the damage ...
... and another enlargement shows more damaged siding ...
... while this cropped enlargement shows a large tent in the background, undoubtedly for Union troops.

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