Approximately 45 miles southeast of Fredericksburg, Virginia, sits the town of Tappahannock. The name originates from the Algonquian word lappihane (or, it has also been noted, toppehannock). When translated, it means roughly “Town on the rise and fall of water.”
The town is better known today for the singer Chris Brown who mentioned it in one of his songs. Yet the town is steeped in American history, including a cameo in the American Civil War.
The famous English explorer John Smith landed where Tappahannock sits on the Rappahannock River in 1608, but local Native Americans forced him to leave abruptly. Approximately 80 years later, a trading post was established, and the area became known as Hobbs Hole.
Living in the historic Northern Neck, the closest shopping center for my wife and me is in Tappahannock, so we’ve traveled there quite often. This past Sunday, I decided to stop for a longer stay beyond the shopping center, and like a fellow writer here at ECW (Kathleen Logothetis in her post History in Our Backyard!), I was attracted to the statue in the old main section of town.
The statue commemorated Tappahannock and Essex County’s native sons who fought and died during the American Civil War. Besides the sprinkling of men serving in various units, the majority of men from the area served in either the 55th Virginia Infantry or the 9th Virginia Cavalry. Both units saw long and distinguished service attached to the Army of Northern Virginia.
Listed under officers from Essex County was Brigadier Generals Richard B. Garnett and Robert S. Garnett. The two Garnetts were cousins. Both lost their lives in the war.
Robert had the distinction of being the first Confederate general killed in the conflict when he was killed on July 13, 1861 during the skirmish at Corrick’s Ford in what is now West Virginia. After a brief internment in Baltimore, Maryland, his body was moved to Brooklyn, New York, where his body was put to rest beside the grave of his wife.
Richard’s death is immortalized as part of the history of Pickett’s Charge during the Battle of Gettysburg. His remains, according to the inscription on the marker at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia, might be included in the dead that were brought from the fields in Pennsylvania to Virginia. Unfortunately, no one knows for certain.
Thus, a statue I had driven by countless times provided an interesting tidbit of local Civil War history–and raised some interesting questions.
The moral of the story? Next time you drive by something interesting make a stop. The history that marker, monument, and/or historic site could tell you might just raise your eyebrows.