When the Union troops arrived to Stafford County and the town of Falmouth in April 1862, there was a great deal of activity on the south side of the Rappahannock River in the City of Fredericksburg. Docked steamboats and bridges across the Rappahannock were set fire by Confederates, as they scurried and settled into a defensive position. Civilians closed up their buildings and homes, and fled to more distant locations out of harm's way.
As recalled by slave John Washington, "No one could be seen on the streets but the colord people. and every one of them seemed to be in the best of humors...".* Slaves throughout the region seemed unafraid of the Union army, instead rejoicing in anticipation of the opportunity for freedom. John Washington, his cousin James, and a freed colored man approached the Rappahannock River near the fall line. There they were invited by Union soldiers to cross the river to Falmouth. And on April 18th, 1862, Good Friday, John was informed that he was free.
THE CROSSING LOCATION TODAY
The Crossing exhibit marks the approximate location of John Washington's transport across the Rappahannock River. Two signs commerorate his literal crossing of the river, and are symbolic of his first steps crossing over from slavery to freedom.
The first sign can be found in present-day Old Mill Park near the historic site of Ficklin's Mill in the City of Fredericksburg (pictured above). The other sign is located in the Port of Falmouth Park on the north bank of the river in Stafford County (pictured at right). Visit the maps page to see the exact locations of these two markers, and other points of interest.
PARK INFORMATION & HOURS
Old Mill Park (Crossing I)
2216 Caroline Street
Fredericksburg, VA 22401
Hours: Apr. 1 - Oct. 31, daily 8:00am-8:00pm. Nov. 1 - Mar. 31, daily 10:00am-5:00pm.
--Maintained by the City of Fredericksburg Parks & Recreation Department: (540) 372-1086.
Historic Port of Falmouth Park (Crossing II)
401 River Road
Falmouth, VA 22405
Hours: Memorial Day to Labor Day, open daily 8:00am-7:00pm. (Closed Sept - May.) There is sufficient room for one vehicle to park at the gate, and view the marker a few feet away. Special group tour access is available by appointment during closed months.
--Maintained by Stafford County Parks, Recreation & Community Facilities, (540) 658-4871.
NOTE: Both of these riverside parks may be closed during inclement weather or due to conditions considered hazardous to public safety. Please check with each respective Parks & Recreation office for the most current park regulations regarding visitation.
*Quote above taken from the narrative of John M. Washington titled "Memorys of the Past", as published on page 190 in A Slave No More by David W. Blight.
**The Crossing exhibit was made possible by a grant from the Virginia Sesquicentennial Commission and the Virginia Tourism Corporation.***