Trail of Freedom

The National Park Service, Stafford County, and the City of Fredericksburg worked collaboratively in 2010 to post new historical markers on either side of the Rappahannock River to signify a momentous event in the history of slavery in Fredericksburg.  The sign on the Fredericksburg City side of the river marks the actual location that John Washington, a former slave, crossed the River and officially became a free man when the Union troops invaded Fredericksburg on April 18th, 1862.  In the following few months, nearly 10,000 slaves crossed over to Stafford County and, consequently, to freedom.  Washington crossed near the Bridgewater Mill, which was located within what is now Old Mill Park.  A few remains of the mill serve as a visual marker for the site that Washington first crossed the river, as seen in the picture below.

The remains of the Bridgewater Mill conveniently mark the spot where the first slaves crossed the Rappahannock River to freedom in 1862.Photo Credit: http://fredericksburghistory.wordpress.com/2010/06/17/the-slaves-voice-emerges-part-ii-trail-to-freedom/

The remains of the Bridgewater Mill conveniently mark the spot where the first slaves crossed the Rappahannock River to freedom in 1862.
Photo Credit: http://fredericksburghistory.wordpress.com/2010/06/17/the-slaves-voice-emerges-part-ii-trail-to-freedom/

 

This site is part of the “Trail of Freedom” that runs through the City of Fredericksburg, as well as the surrounding Stafford and Spotsylvania Counties, and represents portions of the route slaves took on their journey to the north during the Civil War.  Though not part of the famous Underground Railroad, this trail still provided access to freedom for thousands of slaves in the South.  Many aspects of the trail route came from John Washington’s own memoirs, which were rediscovered and published in the 1990’s.  “The Crossing,” as this location is known, marks the end of the John Washington Walking Tour and the beginning of the Trail to Freedom Driving Tour.  More information can be found by visiting their website.

 

Photo credit: Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/cwp2003000117/PP/

This photograph shows newly freed African Americans crossing the Rappahannock River. Photo credit: Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/cwp2003000117/PP/

 

 

 

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