The Lost Line at Rappahannock Station

I had the chance yesterday to explore the former Rappahannock Station battlefield, courtesy of my ECW colleague Rob Orrison. I drive through the battlefield all the time, but believe it or not, I’ve never even realized it. Rob generously took some time to orient me, but he warned me, “This is the ‘penny tour,’ not even worth a nickel.” There wasn’t going to be much to see.

The town of Remington has sprouted up since the war, and houses, stores, and a neighborhood now occupy most of the attack field (which also has Routes 15/29 running down part of it). But most distressing is that the Confederate position was recently turned into a housing subdivision within the last two years.

Confederate Line at Rappahannock Station 

The photo is taken from the position of the Louisiana Redan. The line of houses marks the position where, just a couple years ago, Confederate works still lined the ridge. The Rappahannock River is just a few yards behind the houses on the reverse slope.

The redan fell to a combined assault by the 5th Wisconsin, 6th Maine, and elements of the 20th Maine. They charged uphill from the right of the photo. Several Medals of Honor were earned on a field now cluttered with small new homes.

The then-Civil War Trust did try to preserve this land—and they do own a small parcel about a quarter of a mile away from here—but without a developer willing to negotiate in good faith and a county government unconcerned with battlefield preservation, the Trust had no luck.

Fortunately, I had Rob with me, and he could point out a few things to see, but mostly, he had to use modern landmarks to orient me to the battlefield because the historic landscape is almost all gone. Eventually, Farquier County does plan to create a small battlefield park behind the subdivision—basically, they got the flood plain because the developer wasn’t allowed to build there anyway. Someday, visitors will be able to stand in the park and look up at the backs of homes that now mark the Confederate line.

7 Responses to The Lost Line at Rappahannock Station

  1. It’s a tough loss when we lose the historic lands. It hurts me to see this. Thanks Chris for this report which reminds us we do not have much time left to save hallowed ground.

  2. The 20th Maine spent the winter of 1863-64 on the Rappahannock Station battlefield. The fortifications and entrenchments were removed to make way for their huts and cabins. Any possible physical remains were lost when a power plant was built in the early 1900’s. The developers of Rappahannock Landing eviscerated the ground the Federals advanced across as well as a significant portion of the hilltop where the Louisianan’s and North Carolinian’s were positioned.

    Three Medals of Honor were earned on November 7: H. Seymour Hall, 121st New York Infantry, Otis O. Roberts, 6th Maine Infantry, and Walter G. Morrill, 20th Maine Infantry.

    1. I attended UMICH for history, I spend nearly all my free time reading, researching, and writing all things Civil War ( albeit amateur ) so I realize my feelings are extraordinary biased. Even so, stories like these from Dr. Mackowski and others would always make me sad, but as I get older I find they cause a certain ‘healthy anger’ in me, which is to say, when i’m off disability in jan. I would like to commit too organizations that physically help the parks, that is to say through labor or security. I would also like to get a job as soon as my disabled status is released, so I could give more to the parks I love since I only have to take care of my dogs and myself. I did hear a snip it at Walmart applied to build and Gettysburg where the Confederates or assembling to hit culp’s Hill and that Gettysburg having the end of the month to decide, is actually considering it. Apparently some man, a skinny somewhat humorous man that is, I think his name was Abraham yes some Biblical name like that, referring to the very land itself as being hollowed isn’t enough. How sad and disrespectful we are to our very own past.

  3. I attended a Fauquier County planning meeting back in 2011 to discuss a potential park at Rappahannock Station. Because they couldn’t fit a battlefield trail, parking lot, boat ramp, and fishing pier on the proposed property they eventually scrapped the idea altogether. They had no idea of the historical significance of the area and no desire to learn. A great early exposure to the joy working with government and grant-funded studies!

  4. Some of the earliest discussions about saving this land revolved around the lack of archaeological evidence to authenticate the claims made by historians about the size and scope of the battlefield. Archaeology is key to both preserving and accurately interpreting these events, soldiers, and places. Once they are removed so goes our ability to prove the other primary source materials with incontrovertible evidence.

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