On May 10, 1863 Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson died in the office building of the Fairfield Plantation. Today, this location is most associated with the death of Jackson, but the history here spans a much wider period before and after the Civil War. Follow along and discover the history of this complex place.
This tour of the Stonewall Jackson Death Site can listened to at home or used as a guide onsite. If following this tour onsite, the distance covered will be less than a quarter of a mile and the tour will take about 30 minutes to complete.
This audio tour is also available via the National Park Service app (available at the Apple Store and on Google Play).
In the aftermath of the Battle of Chancellorsville, Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson died here in Guinea Station, Virginia on May 10th, 1863. This tour explores the history of Guinea Station and the people who lived and visited here during the Civil War. Explore the grounds of Fairfield, a historic slave plantation, where Jackson died and discover how the memory of his death was forged over time. Before leaving the parking lot, learn about the creation of the community of Guinea Station to understand why Jackson was here in 1863.
Jackson Death Site Audio Tour, #1, Guinea Station
Welcome to the Jackson Death Site Audio Tour! This tour of the grounds explores the history of Guinea Station and the people who lived and visited here during the Civil War. Explore the grounds of Fairfield, a historic slave plantation, where Jackson died and discover how the memory of his death was forged over time. At this stop, learn about the creation of the community of Guinea Station to understand why Jackson was here in 1863.
Welcome to the Stonewall Jackson Death Site. This audio walking tour includes four stops, covers less than a quarter of a mile of ground, and will take approximately 30 minutes to finish. To begin the tour, start in the parking lot. In front of you, facing west, is the plantation office building known today as the Stonewall Jackson Death Site. While facing the office building, the railroad is located to the left at the base of the hill. The Poni River is located roughly one mile south of the railroad. During the time of the Civil War, this area of Caroline County, Virginia was known as Guinea Station.
Today, the Stonewall Jackson Death Site is well-known as the place where Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson died on May 10th, 1863, following his wounding at the Battle of Chancellorsville. This tour will explore important events that took place here at Guinea Station and will uncover the impact that Thomas Jackson’s death had on the Civil War and on the way the conflict is remembered today.
The story of Guinea Station begins well before the Civil War. The surrounding area was first home to Indigenous people who lived here for thousands of years prior to the arrival of English colonists during the 1600s. When English settlers established the Jamestown colony in 1607, there were seven Indigenous tribes living in what is today Caroline County. Native Americans traveled along and fished in the nearby Mattaponi River. In the 1620s, English colonists began pushing westward from Jamestown into present-day Caroline County, using rivers such as the Mattaponi to reach further inland. As more and more colonists pushed into Indigenous-controlled lands during the mid-1600s, violence broke out between the two groups. In 1666, colonists squatting on Indigenous lands declared war on several Indigenous tribes. The war went on for over a decade.
In order to stop the ongoing war between colonists and Indigenous tribes, the English government created the Treaty of Middle Plantation, which was signed by thirteen tribal representatives in 1677. This treaty weakened the power of Indigenous tribes in eastern Virginia, which allowed more settlers to move west. One such settler, Michael Guinney, purchased a tract of land in this area in 1704. Shortly after his arrival, he funded the construction of a bridge near the confluence of the Po and Ni Rivers. A small village, named Guinea, grew around the bridge.
In 1732, several counties in Virginia undertook the construction of a major road that would make the transportation of tobacco by land easier. This new road, known as Stonewall Jackson Road today, ran through the town of Guinea and crossed over the Poni River at Guinney’s Bridge. Michael Guinney took advantage of increased travel through the area and opened a tavern alongside the road in 1735. The tavern served as a place for travelers to stop and socialize. It also served as an early center for the trade of enslaved people in Caroline County. At the time, wealthy, White, colonial landowners dominated political, economic, and social life in Virginia. These landowners relied on enslaved labor to maintain their wealth and prominence. There were many plantations located in and around Guinea during the 1700s, including one of the largest plantations in the area, Ormesby, which was owned by the Thornton family and included the land where the Stonewall Jackson Death Site now sits.
Over the following decades, one development that brought significant change to Guinea Station was the arrival of the railroad in the 1830s. In 1836, the Richmond, Fredericksburg, & Potomac Railroad (commonly referred to as the RF&P) was completed through Caroline County, connecting the state capitol of Richmond to Aquia Landing on the Potomac River. Five stations were built in Caroline, the northernmost of which was located here in Guinea. As a result, the town became known as Guinea Station. The railroad opened up markets and created more economic opportunities for plantation owners. In the 1840s, a prominent family, the Chandlers, moved to Guinea Station to take advantage of these opportunities. Unbeknownst to the Chandlers at the time, their new home would become tied up in a bloody civil war that would bring many well-known figures to their doorstep and free the nearly 70 people they enslaved.
The next stop on the tour is the site of the plantation main house, an area of grass outlined with four brown posts and marked by a sign which reads “Chandler House Site.” Leave the parking lot and walk past the office building until you reach the outlined area in front of you.
Walking Directions to the Chandler House Site, Stop #2
Leave the parking lot and walk past the office building until you reach the outlined area in front of you.
During the early 1800s, the Thornton family established Fairfield Plantation here along the Richmond, Fredericksburg, & Potomac Railroad. At the time of the Civil War, the plantation was home to the Chandler family and roughly 70 enslaved people and the Chandler family. What was life at Fairfield like during the Antebellum period? How did the lives of the enslaved people and the Chandlers differ? What type of changes would war bring to this place?
Jackson Death Site Audio Tour, #2, Chandler House Site
For the second stop on the Jackson Death Site Audio Tour, learn about the history of this site as it developed into a busy slave plantation in the 1800s. What was life at Fairfield like in the years before the war? How did the lives of the enslaved people and the Chandlers differ? What type of changes would war bring to this place?
The space outlined on the ground in front of you was once the site of a large, brick house known as Fairfield. John Thornton utilized enslaved labor to construct this house and an extensive plantation in the 1820s. During the Civil War, the Chandler family and the people they enslaved lived at Fairfield.
Prior to the creation of Fairfield Plantation, this land was part of the Ormesby Plantation, which dated to the early 1700s. In 1806, members of the Thornton family divided the Ormesby Plantation three ways. John Thornton received 465 acres of Ormesby, which included the land on which the Stonewall Jackson Death Site now sits. During the 1820s, John Thornton funded the construction of a house here, which became known as Fairfield Plantation. Then in 1828, John Thornton ordered the construction of a plantation office building, the only original building that still stands today. It is likely that he utilized enslaved labor to construct the main house and outbuildings. During John Thornton’s ownership of Fairfield, he increased the size of the plantation to 753 acres. After John and his wife, Mildred, died in 1844 and 1845, Thomas Coleman Chandler purchased the property at auction.
In the lead-up to the Civil War, Thomas Chandler lived at Fairfield with his wife, Mary, and their ten children. The Chandlers enslaved 66 people, who they forced to labor in the surrounding fields and in the main house. Thomas Chandler also employed an overseer, Pearson Payne, to manage the plantation. In 1854, Thomas Chandler funded the construction of a new, two-story, brick house in place of the original house. The Chandlers temporarily moved into the office building during its construction. Chandler likely utilized enslaved labor for the construction of his new house. The site of the Chandler’s house is outlined here in front of you. Thomas Chandler’s plantation records reveal that his family enjoyed many luxuries at Fairfield, such as molasses, sugar, and coffee, while the enslaved people had a limited diet and lived in poorly constructed quarters. Virginia laws denied enslaved people basic rights, including the right to legally marry and to read and write. The luxuries enjoyed by the Chandler family came at an immense cost, a cost that the people they enslaved paid with their daily toil.
In contrast to the environment today, Fairfield was not a calm, quiet place during its time as a working plantation. In 1860, the buildings present at Fairfield included the main house, smokehouse, office, barn, stables, outhouse, and quarters for enslaved workers. The Chandlers also had a three-terraced garden in front of their house as well as large quantities of horses, cows, sheep, and hogs. Thomas Chandler benefitted greatly from his home’s proximity to Guinea Station, evidenced by the many items he had access to, such as guano fertilizer from Peru. Yet, Fairfield’s location beside the RF&P had a second consequence that was realized when civil war broke out in 1861. The Chandlers’ plantation was directly in the path of traveling armies. As war spread through Virginia, the lives of the Chandlers, as well as the lives of the people they enslaved, were forever changed.
The next stop on the tour is the plantation office building. The building is open to the public during summer months when staffing is available.
Walking Directions to the Fairfield Office, Stop #3
The next stop on the tour is the plantation office building, the only historic structure still standing on the site today. The building is open to the public during summer months when staffing is available.
Located along the Richmond, Fredericksburg, & Potomac Railroad, Fairfield Plantation was frequented by soldiers from both sides during the Civil War. Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson spent his final moments in the plantation’s office building. What important events took place here during the war? How were civilians impacted by the repeated arrival of armies? Check our Operating Hours & Seasons to learn if the building will be open during your visit.
Jackson Death Site Audio Tour, #3, Fairfield Office
The Civil War comes to Guinea Station at the third stop on the Jackson Death Site Audio Tour. Fairfield Plantation, ideally situated near the railroad, was caught in the middle of moving armies during the war. While the death of Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson was the most famous wartime incident that happened here, living near a key supply hub meant that no life would go untouched by the conflict. What did it mean for war to come to Guinea Station?
Today, the office building is the only structure from the Fairfield Plantation that still stands. The building is a one-and-a-half-story, square, frame building clad in white weatherboard siding and with little ornamentation overall. Looking at this structure today, would you know that there was once a plantation here? During the early 1900s, the Richmond, Fredericksburg, & Potomac Railroad Company, led by a Confederate veteran, preserved the office building because of its association with Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. Yet, many other important events took place here at Guinea Station during the Civil War.
When the Civil War began in 1861, the Chandler family chose to directly engage in the conflict. Thomas Chandler’s three oldest sons joined the Confederate army. Thomas, who was 63 years old at the time, remained at home with his wife and remaining children. He continued to operate the plantation, and he provided supplies to the Confederate army on a number of occasions. The war also impacted the enslaved people living at Fairfield. In May 1862, U.S. soldiers moving south from Fredericksburg briefly occupied Guinea Station. Even though these soldiers only remained at Guinea Station for a few days, eight enslaved people at Fairfield used their presence as an opportunity to run away and left Caroline County with the U.S. Army. Thomas Chandler later applied to the Confederate Congress, which reimbursed him for the loss of eight enslaved workers.
During the Battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862, Guinea Station became the northernmost supply depot for the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, led by General Robert E. Lee. The Confederate Quartermaster Department transported thousands of pounds of supplies from Guinea Station to troops in the field, possibly utilizing the labor of enslaved men impressed by the Confederate Army. After the battle, a portion of Lee’s army, under command of General Thomas Jackson, camped at Guinea Station. Jackson set up his tent near the main house at Fairfield. His soldiers turned to whatever means of entertainment they could find as they waited for spring weather. In February 1863, General Jackson’s soldiers had a massive snowball fight. Despite these occasional moments of fun, however, most soldiers spent the winter exposed to the elements and suffering from supply shortages. Some soldiers deserted. Others died of disease in camp.
By the spring of 1863, the U.S. Army of the Potomac and Confederate Army of Northern Virginia fought once again, this time at Chancellorsville, roughly 30 miles northwest of Guinea Station. During the second day of the battle on May 2nd, 1863, Jackson’s army corps carried out an extensive flank attack, which caught the U.S. Army of the Potomac off guard. However, his attack failed to fully overrun the center of the Federal line and reconnect Jackson’s force with the remainder of the Confederate army under command of General Robert E. Lee. When nightfall brought the Confederate attack to an end, Jackson conducted a reconnaissance of the Federal position to determine whether he should renew the attack into the night. As Jackson and his staff rode out on horseback in front of the Confederate line in darkness, soldiers in the 18th North Carolina Regiment confused Jackson’s party for U.S. cavalry and fired on them. General Jackson was wounded in the left arm and in the right hand. One of Jackson’s aide’s, Keith Boswell, was killed by the same volley, and others were wounded or captured.
The surviving members of Jackson’s staff evacuated him to a field hospital near Wilderness Tavern. There, they met with Jackson’s doctor, Hunter McGuire, who examined Jackson’s wounds and determined that his left arm needed to be amputated. McGuire put Jackson under anesthesia and removed his left arm in the early morning hours of May 3rd. The following day on May 4th, Jackson traveled by wagon twenty-four miles to Guinea Station. Confederate surgeons hoped to transport Jackson by train to a more permanent hospital in Richmond. Earlier that day, however, the U.S. cavalry severed the RF&P. As a result, Jackson could not be moved until Confederates could repair the railroad. Under General Lee’s instructions, Jackson’s staff brought him to Fairfield and put him up in the office building. Members of the Chandler family as well as Jim Lewis, an enslaved man hired out to Jackson, prepared the building for his stay and helped make him comfortable.
On May 5th and 6th, Jackson continued to rest at Fairfield and seemed to be doing well. However, his condition worsened on May 7th. By then, the railroad was back in operation, but Jackson was too ill to move. Doctor McGuire diagnosed him with pneumonia. Desperate to find a solution, McGuire called in a pneumonia specialist, Doctor David Tucker, from Richmond. Mary Anna, Jackson’s wife, also traveled to Fairfield from Richmond to be with her husband. Mary Anna brought Julia, the Jacksons’ newborn baby, and Hetty, a woman the Jackson family enslaved, with her from Richmond. At about 3:15 p.m. on May 10th, 1863, Jackson died in the office building. News of his death quickly spread throughout the country. Mary Anna chose to have Jackson’s body buried in Lexington, Virginia. While Robert E. Lee’s army achieved victory at Chancellorsville, the battle came at an immense cost. Lee’s army suffered over 13,000 casualties, including General Jackson.
While Jackson was the most well-known Confederate soldier to come to Fairfield after the Battle of Chancellorsville, he was not the only one. In the aftermath of the battle, thousands of wounded soldiers crowded around the station waiting for transportation to hospitals in Richmond. Roughly six thousand U.S. soldiers captured at Chancellorsville also camped at the station until the Confederate Army could move them to prisons in Richmond. In December of 1863, the Chandlers sold Fairfield Plantation, but continued to live there until March of 1865. More chaos followed in May of 1864, when a cavalry skirmish took place at Guinea Station after the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House. During the skirmish, the U.S. cavalry destroyed the railroad station. As U.S. General Ulysses Grant passed through the area after the skirmish, he stopped at Fairfield and talked with Mary Chandler.
The Civil War, which the Chandlers had wholeheartedly supported, drastically altered their lives. When the war ended in 1865, all three of Thomas Chandler’s sons who served in the Confederate Army returned home. The community of Guinea Station slowly recovered from the damage it had suffered during four years of war. For the roughly 10,000 people who had been enslaved in Caroline County, the 13th Amendment ensured that the freedom gained during the war would be permanent. Yet, decades of violence and strife awaited them. To assist formerly enslaved people in their transition from slavery to freedom, Congress created the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, more commonly known as the Freedmen’s Bureau.
Federal agents working for the Freedmen’s Bureau came to Caroline County in 1865. Bureau agents did not always protect and look after the interests of Black citizens. They often oversaw the creation of unfair labor contracts that kept formerly enslaved people tied to the same white landowners who enslaved them before the war. Thomas Chandler entered into a labor contract apprenticing four young boys to him until they reached the age of 21. While slavery had been officially abolished, contracts like these established coercive labor relationships that often resembled slavery.
In the postwar era, a new problem emerged as the country struggled to reunify. How would the conflict be remembered, and who would have a role in forging that memory? War brought influential figures such as Ulysses Grant and Thomas Jackson to Fairfield Plantation, launching the site into national prominence. The enslaved people who lived here utilized the war as an opportunity to seize their freedom. Despite the many significant events that took place here during the Civil War, over time public attention became fixed on a single moment—the death of Thomas Jackson.
The last stop on the tour is the stone marker, located along the edge of the parking lot.
Walking Directions to the Smith Marker, Stop #4
Continue back toward the parking lot to the rectangular granite stone marker.
During the early 1900s, former Confederates preserved the building where Thomas Jackson died. His death became central to the Lost Cause, an ideology created by former Confederates that argued the Civil War was not fought over the issue of slavery. The landscape they forged during the early 1900s placed Jackson’s death at the forefront and overlooked the plantation that existed here for four decades. What does this site tell us about the people who created it? How should we remember the death of Jackson today?
Jackson Death Site Audio Tour, #4, Smith Marker
In the years after the war, Jackson's death became central to the Lost Cause, an ideology created by former Confederates that argued the Civil War was not fought over the issue of slavery. At this final stop on the Jackson Death Site Audio Tour, think about what it means to remember the past. How does the way we chose to represent history impact our understanding of the present?
Located in front of you is a granite marker placed here by a former member of Thomas Jackson’s staff in 1903 to mark the site where Jackson died. As the nation began the work of reuniting at the war’s end, Americans wrote about the conflict and emphasized what they considered to be the most important aspects of the war. This marker is an example of how former Confederates chose to remember the war.
The first efforts to memorialize Jackson’s wounding and death took place as early as 1876 when former Confederates placed a large boulder at the site of his wounding. Local residents pushed for a formal monument to be placed at the wounding site after U.S. veterans placed a monument to U.S. General John Sedgwick on the Spotsylvania Court House Battlefield. The placement of the Jackson Monument in 1888 coincided with efforts to memorialize the Confederacy as a whole. These efforts led to the creation of an ideology known as the Lost Cause. After the war, former Confederates sought to redeem their history by crafting a false narrative of the war. They romanticized the pre-war South, denied the role of slavery in the secession movement, and emphasized the superiority of Confederate soldiers.
Former Confederates writing after the war popularized the idea that after Jackson’s death, the Confederacy entered a period of never-ending decline. They placed great importance on the Battle of Chancellorsville, which they deemed Lee’s “greatest victory.” The Confederate Army’s tactical victory at Chancellorsville was followed by a major defeat at Gettysburg. Many writers argued that if Jackson had lived, the Confederate Army would not have faced defeat at Gettysburg or at the end of the war. One of Jackson’s many biographers, William Chase, wrote that after his death, “the Confederacy was in an eclipse from which it never passed.” In reality, the Confederacy was already in a state of decline before the Battle of Chancellorsville. There were also other Confederate armies besides Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in motion. Rather than embrace these truths, former Confederates used Jackson’s death as an excuse for defeat, overlooking the two years of war that followed.
Writers of the Lost Cause had an easy time memorializing Jackson because of the lack of criticism he received after his death. Since Jackson was not present for the defeats that followed his death, no blame could be placed on his shoulders. Biographer George Henderson wrote in 1898 that during his time as a Confederate general, Jackson “never committed a single error.” Another writer, John Esten Cooke, admitted in 1866 that Jackson’s merits were “exaggerated” by former Confederates, including himself. Writers were also able to speculate about Jackson’s views on slavery because he wrote little about his life. While Jackson enslaved seven people during his life, former Confederates portrayed him as a blameless supporter of racial equality and muddied facts about the people he enslaved, including Jim Lewis, to build Jackson’s credibility as a Confederate hero and to obscure the role of slavery as the war’s root cause.
As former Confederates fabricated Jackson’s memory in writing, Fairfield Plantation fell into disrepair. The instability and destruction brought by war made recovery difficult. During Edgar McKenney’s ownership, he reduced the property’s size to 172 acres after going bankrupt. The property traded hands three additional times between 1884 and 1909. Property owners continued to sell off land over time, and the house and outbuildings fell into disrepair. While former slave plantations like Fairfield faded from prominence, the community of Guinea Station experienced a period of rapid growth at the turn of the century. The Richmond, Fredericksburg, & Potomac Railroad rebuilt Guinea Station, and new factories and businesses opened.
Around the same time that the community of Guinea Station grew, former Confederates finally took on the task of preserving the office building where Thomas Jackson died. By 1900, his role as a Confederate martyr had been solidified. That same year, the Virginia General Assembly chartered the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Association. A group of former Confederates created the organization with the sole purpose of purchasing the building where Jackson died. They hoped that it would serve as a “perpetual memorial” to Jackson. Two of the founding members were Hunter McGuire and James Power Smith, a former member of Jackson’s staff. At the time, the property was owned by another Confederate veteran, George Robert Collins, who rented out the property to a Black family. The family lived in the office building, while the main house was used as a storehouse. The Evening Star, a newspaper in Winchester, Virginia, applauded the group’s effort to save the site from what the writer deemed “ruin’s ravages,” an unfair judgement made against the property’s Black tenants. In the late 1800s, White preservationists frequently took issue with the presence of Black people at sites associated with White historical figures.
The Stonewall Jackson Memorial Association never realized their dream to purchase the building. Despite this major setback, James Power Smith continued in his mission to memorialize the Confederacy. In 1903, Smith oversaw the placement of this marker, which reads: “Stonewall Jackson, Died May 10, 1863. Buried Lexington, VA.” It was originally located at the base of the hill in view of the railroad tracks; park staff moved the marker to its present location during the 1960s for easier access. Not long after the marker’s placement in 1903, the president of the RF&P, William White, became interested in the site of Jackson’s death. White had actively supported the Confederacy during the war and served in the Confederate army. In 1909, White purchased the 5-acre tract of land on which the office building sat. Around that time, White oversaw the demolition of the house and outbuildings, except for the office building. Two years later, White sold the property to the RF&P.
When William White died in 1920, his successor, Eppa Hunton, Jr., the son of a Confederate general, carried on the task of preserving the building where Jackson died. He coordinated with a committee of women formed within the railroad company, some of whom were members of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, to carry out a rehabilitation project on the office building. The group also gathered historic artifacts related to Stonewall Jackson, including the bed in which he died. After two years of work, the RF&P opened the building to the public in 1928 as a “shrine” to Jackson. Hunton coordinated the opening with the dedication of the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park that same year. In commemoration of its opening, the Charlotte Chronicle in North Carolina reported that the site would become “the Mecca of Southern pilgrimage.”
In 1937, the RF&P Railroad Company donated the property to Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park. National Park Service officials named the site the “Jackson Shrine.” At the opening ceremony, the acting U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Charles West, gave a speech in which he promised the federal government’s “sacred trust” in promoting Jackson’s “valor and character.” The Jackson Shrine came into the National Park Service during a time when the federal government prioritized reconciliationist memories of the Civil War that focused on the shared valor of soldiers on both sides rather than the actual causes of the war. For decades, park rangers working at the Jackson Shrine focused solely on Jackson’s death, overlooking the broader story of this place. Former NPS historian, Ralph Happel, wrote that in the Fairfield office, which he referred to as “that old house,” both the Confederacy and “a way of life” died with Jackson. By calling the office a house, Happel removed the building from its original setting. His usage of the phrase “way of life” sought to romanticize life on a plantation and ignore the horrors of slavery. With ideas like these placed at the forefront of the park’s interpretive goals, visitors to the Jackson Shrine encountered a one-sided version of the past.
Today, the National Park Service aims to represent this site in a more holistic way. In 2019, in the wake of public critique of its administration of the site, the National Park Service renamed the site the “Jackson Death Site.” In making this change, the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park embraced a new goal: to discuss all of the important events that took place here over time and recognize its role in perpetuating Lost Cause mythologies in the past. While the physical remnants of the many people who came through this place are gone, their stories remain. These stories teach us important lessons about our shared history and how what we choose to remember can change what we think about the past.