At the Symposium over the weekend, one of the attendees asked me how to get to the John Pelham marker at Kelly’s Ford. “Keep walking out the trail, and when you think you’ve gone too far, keep going,” I told him. “You’ll eventually come to a fork. Take the right, and it’s off in the bushes on the left-hand side down the trail.”
“I kept going all the way to the river,” he said.
“It’s out there,” I assured him.
I later heard that he asked someone else. “Chris apparently doesn’t know where it is,” he told that person.
Except I do. I just didn’t have exact directions to give him, that’s all. (I admit, “It’s out there” doesn’t really pinpoint much.)
On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to take Sarah Kay Bierle and some other folks out to the site (including my 2-year-old battlefield buddy, Maxwell). While we were out there, Sarah shot a quick video for ECW’s YouTube channel. I, meanwhile, measured the trip so I could provide, here on the blog, more exact directions to the site of the marker for all those who try to make the trek and can’t find their way.
The marker is located in the C. F. Phelps Wildlife Management Area on the south bank of the Rappahanock River. There’s a parking area just off Route 674, 0.9 miles from the intersection to Kelly’s Ford Bridge.
From the yellow gate at the parking area, it’s .38 miles to the marker. My Fitbit told me I took 806 steps to get there.
Past the yellow gate, a gravel road stretches into the woods. The remains of a stone wall are visible in the woods to the right of the path; this is the stone wall Federal troops hunkered down behind during the first phase of the battle.
The gravel road eventually narrows to a pathway. Farther along, it will wind beneath a large fallen tree that leans over low enough to force hikers to crouch beneath it. The tree is crawling with poison ivy, so be careful not to brush against it as you duck under.
About 0.05 miles farther, the path forks. The fork isn’t easy to see unless you’re looking for it. Go right.
More fallen brush across the path forces a hiker to do a little weaving.
And then suddenly, past the foliage of a fallen tree, there’s the marker, standing like a creature of the forest, still but vigilant, watching, waiting, wondering if you’ll see it.
And now you can, too.