On the Banks of the Rappahannock with George Washington (sort of)

Photo taken from the area of Ferry Farm, Washington’s boyhood home, looking across the Rappahannock River at the middle pontoon sight. Fredericksburg’s Sandy Bottom neighborhood is on the far hill.

Doing a little research today on a Fredericksburg-related project, I came across an old favorite. During the battle on December 13, 1862, Federal troops stationed along the Rappahannock River near the middle pontoon crossing found some historical inspiration from their location.

Even as the cannonballs flew, they noticed George Washington’s boyhood home on the east bank of the river. As the story goes, young George Washington threw a stone—or a silver dollar, depending on the version of the story—across the river at this site.

Despite the battle, some of the Federals felt inspired to tap into their “inner Washington.” According to the regimental historian of the 13th New Hampshire:

“even in the midst of the shelling, the shells constantly flying each way over our heads, the men enter into a context of stone throwing for amusement; attempting to throw a stone across the Rappahannock, where it is said that Gen. Washington did, from the Washington farm to the Fredericksburg shore at the ferry landing, just where the central pontoon bridge now is. Many make the trial, but only one succeeds, a huge fellow from Michigan.”


S. Millet Thompson, Thirteenth regiment of New Hampshire volunteer infantry in the war of the rebellion, 1861-1865. A diary covering three years and a day (Houghton, Mifflin and Company: Boston, 1888), 68.

4 Responses to On the Banks of the Rappahannock with George Washington (sort of)

    1. Indeed, they did. They both saw him as father of their “country.” I had the chance to do a deep dive into this in my book “Seizing Destiny.” When Washington’s birthday arrived, both armies commemorated it.

      (Thanks for the excuse to plug the book!) 😉

    2. And it is also no coincidence that Jefferson Davis was inaugurated as President of the Confederate States on 22 FEB 1862, or that President Lincoln ordered “an attack on all fronts” to commence by 22 FEB 1862.

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