Rich in history with a fascinating tapestry of people, places and memorials, Fredericksburg and surrounding counties invite visitors to explore the area’s past.

“Officially, Fredericksburg was founded in 1728. Many important battles were fought here and influential people carved their places in history,” says Bill Freehling, director of Economic Development and Tourism for Fredericksburg. “It was George Washington’s boyhood home and his mother and sister lived here. Thomas Jefferson penned the Statute for Religious Freedom here and James Monroe had a law firm in Fredericksburg. George Washington’s sister, Betty, married Fielding Lewis, a colonel during the American Revolutionary War, and lived in an historic home— Kenmore—that you can continue to tour today.”

Early in its history, the region was a thriving center of commerce, with rich and fertile farmland supporting tobacco plantations and agriculture. The Rappahannock River created a flourishing trade route for merchants, explorers and early settlers. The river’s role was so important, in fact, that by the mid-1750s, it served as a port of entry for European exports.

From the late 1700s through 1830 the area’s economy shifted from tobacco to grist and flour mills, shipping finished products to New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore or distributing to local merchants.

Occupying a pivotal location, the region is the site of four major Civil War battles, including conflicts in Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg.

“We’re located in a strategic position, about half-way between Washington D.C.—the capital of the Union—and Richmond—the Confederacy capital—making Fredericksburg a key strategic location for both sides,” says Freehling.

Getting around the region to see the sites and memorials is easy. Guided battlefield tours are available, or history buffs can plan their own personal driving tour.

“Catch a trolley for a tour of the city’s Historic District,” says Freehling. “It’s a fun way to get oriented.” — By Cathy Cuthbertson