Fredericksburg Civil War urban legends and ghost stories
By DEBORAH NGANGA
Many University of Mary Washington students have heard about the ghost of Virginia Hall, but not everyone knows about other urban legends in Fredericksburg, such as the historic Kenmore Plantation and Chatham Manor.
Kenmore Plantation was occupied and built by Betty Washington Lewis, the younger sister of George Washington, and her husband, Colonel Fielding Lewis. Fielding Lewis used his land to raise tobacco, wheat and corn, but he was also a successful merchant, trading goods internationally with England.
The mansion is said to be haunted by the ghost of Colonel Fielding Lewis. Some visitors have spotted him upstairs at his desk dressed in his Revolutionary-era wardrobe, stressing over his finances. He lost a lot of money during the war because he was not able to continue trading with England. He also loaned money to the state of Virginia to build a gun factory in Fredericksburg, though a lot of that money was not paid back to him. People have also heard footsteps and the mysterious turning of doorknobs.
The mansion has been under construction since 2001, which has been carried out by the George Washington Foundation. According to the Restoration tab on their website, they state that their goal is, “to further the knowledge of the property and restore it to its historically accurate, 1775-1800 appearance.”
The rooms, color schemes, ceilings and closets have been restored to better represent the Revolutionary War-era and its history. Though the building is still being refurbished, it is still open to visits from the public, tours also are provided.
The second urban legend is that of Chatham Manor. Chatham Manor is part of the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park. Chatham Manor is a plantation that overlooks the Rappahannock River, founded by William Fitzhugh in 1768.
In 1805 it was the site of a slave revolt. A few of Fitzhugh’s slaves tried to overpower their supervisors and escape, though they didn’t get very far. Then, during the Civil War, the manor was utilized as a headquarters for the Union army and also used as a care center for wounded soldiers.
The urban legend of Chatham Manor has an almost Romeo and Juliet feel to it. An English girl was sent to stay at Chatham Manor. Her parents sent her to America to find a husband and get away from her lover in England. However, her lover followed her to America with plans to elope.
The forbidden couple was discovered, and she was forced to return to England. She did end up becoming a wife and a mother, but she did not marry her love. Because of this, she was never happy. Before her death, she vowed to return to the one place that truly made her happy, Chatham Manor. It is said that once every seven years, on the anniversary of her death, June 21, she walks on the path leading from the manor to the river, dressed in all white.
So, if you would like to see if Kenmore Plantation or Chatham Manor is actually haunted for yourself, or if you just enjoy learning about Fredericksburg history, you can stop by for a visit. Kenmore Plantation is located at 1201 Washington Avenue and Chatham Manor is at 120 Chatham Lane.