[correspondence of the Richmond Dispatch.]
Having been called to this place by business, I will avail myself of the occasion to make up a letter out of material that I am satisfied will interest the general reader.
Twelve months ago I was here as the correspondent of another journal, and witnessed the sad scenes attendant upon the evacuation of the town in mid-winter by its then occupying citizens, made up mainly of decrepit men, frail women, and helpless children; and never, while memory serves me, will I forget that long and dismal procession.
For the first time in my life, I really feared lest Fredericksburg
was a "finished" town.
The brutal behest of an ingrate General decreed that the people must leave and the town be destroyed.
The citizens of Fredericksburg
, great as was the sacrifice, cheerfully made it, and, to their everlasting praise, it will be recorded in history that there were no womanly repining or unmanly exhibitions of regret.
Indeed, one of the best and purest of our Southern Generals
told me that he did not hear even a child cry on that memorable occasion; and then how shall I speak of the fearless few of both sexes who, mid ten mortal hours, when the enemy from one hundred and seventy-five guns rained shot and shell on the devoted city, quailed not, but stood nobly by their homes and household gods — even to witness the destruction of their own hearths, and the sacking by an infuriate and drunken soldiery of their neighbors' homes; and their patience in exile, and the endurance of those who lived for six weary months right under the enemy's guns?
I have seen the people of Fredericksburg
under all these circumstances, when high courage and true patriotism were indeed essential, and I have yet to see the first one of them who does not rejoice in his sacrifices, and not one of them to-day can be found who lacks faith in the final triumph of our cause.
What a lesson for those of our people who have never suffered!
But I promised some facts, and not speculative observations.
Well, the town now numbers very nearly two
thousand inhabitants, notwithstanding all she has suffered.
Her city organization is complete, at the head of which Mayor Slaughter
Her Courts are held regularly, not more than four sessions having been omitted during the war, and on the occasion of my visit a Grand Jury Court was in session, and it was indeed a gratifying spectacle to behold the civil Courts here right on the border in full away in the midst of this dreadful war. The Commonwealth's Attorney, W. T. B. Barton
, who has held this position for more than thirty years, made a most able charge to the Grand Jury
, alluding in fitting terms to the misfortunes of the town since the assembling of the last Grand Jury met in the city.
The Clerk of the Court
, Mr. J. J. Chew
, who, by the way, is probably the oldest and best in the State
, told me that the Grand Jury
returned some forty presentments, mostly for selling liquor to soldiers.
The fund appropriated by soldiers, citizens and others for the relief of the sufferers, has been finally disposed of. One hundred thousand dollars was given out to the people.
Thirty thousand has been set aside to relieve the needy this winter, and fifty thousand has been invested as a permanent school fund.
Mr. R. T. Thom
, so long the efficient Postmaster, though now in his eighty second
year, looks so hale and well that he laughingly tells his friends he wants to visit Richmond
, but is afraid to come lest he will be conscripted.
Divine services are held regularly four Sundays in each month — twice a month by Rev. Mr. Kregel
, of the Baptist Church, and twice a month by Rev. Mr. Keppler
, of the Episcopal Church.
Since the Yankees
left a great trade has been carried on between Stafford
and the town in rags, old iron, Yankee blankets, overcoats, &c.
The town in times past enjoyed great reputation for the beauty of its women.
My impression is that the present generation will fully reach up to the standard of the past in good looks, and what is above all price in their excellence and worth.