At our first Trail to Freedom symposium, I met my future wife, Malanna Carey, who stayed in touch with me after the event. She wanted me to speak about the USCT at her church, St. George’s Episcopal Church. I had been an Episcopalian for more than 45 years in Washington, D.C., so I was happy to do it.
At one event, Denise Benedetto, Chairwoman of the Trail to Freedom Committee, said she felt so much electricity between Malanna and me that she told some of the members of Women of the Civil War group that there was a great attraction between the two of us. When Malanna and I started dating, Denise told us at a meeting of the Trail to Freedom committee that her instincts were correct: she knew that Malanna and I would get together. Malanna joined Women of the Civil War, too. Their group and the 23rd soon participated at an event honoring the 150th anniversary of the contraband and military camp at Yorktown.
During that event Denise, Lillian Garland, John Davis (Lillian’s husband), John Cummings, and James Anderson convinced Malanna to have a Civil War wedding. For many years, my Aunt Hattie had tried to set me up with a woman in Fredericksburg; this relationship happened two years after her death.
In August of 2014, the Park allowed Malanna and me to have our wedding in Historic Old Salem Church. Our wedding party was made up of several women in Civil War dress and many men in Union uniforms. Standing in the church before the wedding, I thought of the many refugees from Fredericksburg that stayed at the church in December 1862 as their city was being destroyed. I also thought about the battle of Salem Church, part of the Chancellorsville campaign, and looked at the remaining bullet holes in the church. Malanna and I were getting married in this place of worship with so much history.
So, in more ways than one, Fredericksburg is still my favorite city in Virginia, and next to my hometown of Washington, D.C., it is my favorite city in the world. This city and the area surrounding it has always made me happy to visit and live here! My family first brought me here from the time I was a little child until 2005, and the battlefield made me come back time and again until I began to work here. Maybe it was fate that I loved it as a little boy and still love it as an old man!
This city has seen so much history, first as Native American homeland, then as part of Colonial Virginia, the Revolutionary War, through antebellum slavery, Civil War, Jim Crow, Civil Rights, and now a modern city. It has grown from a small town of approximately 5000 residents in 1860 to a city of more than 28,000 residents now—and a suburb of Washington, D.C.
This area has been good to me and for me. In my retirement, it has given me a great outlet for my Civil War work and a very happy life with my new wife! Thank you, Fredericksburg, for my life here, revolving around family and the Civil War!