On May 3, 1863, this photo was taken during a second Battle of Fredericksburg which was part of the Chancellorsville Campaign.
This modern photo was taken from about the same spot as the historic view above. In the early 19th century a stone wall was built along this three block section. During the first Battle of Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862, the wall protected Southern soldiers fortunate to stand behind it. Behind the wall, only around 300 Confederate soldiers were shot. By contrast in front of the wall, approximately 8,000 Union soldiers were hit. After the war, much of the wall was removed. A portion was rebuilt in the 1930's and in 2004.
Map of Sunken Road/Marye's Heights walking tour
Early in the battle, General Thomas R.R. Cobb was mortally wounded within sight of the house where his mother was born. As the primary writer of the Confederate Constitution, Cobb was the best known soldier killed in the Battle of Fredericksburg.
Several years after the war, Rufus B. Merchant, a former member of Cobb's Legion, suggested that the state of Georgia purchase Martha Stephens's house along the Sunken Road and create a small park in memory of Cobb's Georgia Brigade, the centerpiece of which would be a monument to Cobb. Merchant found some support, but the Cobb family disapproved fearing that a public fundraising effort might "have the semblance of ostentation, and perhaps excite jealousies...." Instead the family erected a small monument, shown here, in 1888 on or very near the spot where Cobb was mortally wounded.
Martha Stephens (also spelled Stevens) lived along the Sunken Road. She had several common law husbands and interchangeably used three different last names, apparently a reflection of her mood at the moment. She also owned the adjacent Innis House, one of her other last names. Martha's social status rose considerably in the aftermath of the Battle of Fredericksburg because of her help to Confederate soldiers. This monument was erected to her by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and dedicated on December 18, 1917. The inscriptions states "Here Lived Mrs. Martha Stephens Friend of the Confederate Soldier, 1861-1865 U.D.C.
The Stephens House was built prior to the war and lived in by Edward Stephens and his common law wife, Martha Stephens who interchangeably used three last names in written records. During the Battle of Fredericksburg it was used as a headquarters by General Thomas Cobb and General Joseph Kershaw.
The Innis House was built about 1861 on property owned by Martha Stephens. In 1861 it was lived in by John Innis, one of Martha's common law husbands. Today it is owned by the National Park Service and is open on special occasions such as during the anniversary of the battle and on the Saturday evening of the Memorial Day weekend.
The Innis House was lived in until the 1970's. After the house was sold to the park, restoration work returned the house to its 1862 appearance. Work crews removed modern layers of wood and wall paper revealing hundreds of bullet holes like the ones seen here.
This 19th century view shows the Sunken Road, Stone Wall and Innis House.
This modern view is from about the same place as the photo above. Note the stone walls on both sides of the road which are original. Also note that the road is sunken in this section. The wall beyond the Innis House was rebuilt in 2004.
Richard Rowland Kirkland, 2nd South Carolina Regiment
On December 14, the day after the major assaults, thousands of injured and suffering Union soldiers in front of the stone wall cried for help. Richard Rowland Kirkland, a 19 year old sergeant from South Carolina, voluntarily risked his life to take water and provide assistance to the suffering Union soldiers. He later became famous as the Angel of Marye's Heights.
The monument to Richard Kirkland was due to Dr. Richard Lanier, a local dentist and director of the Fredericksburg Centennial Commission. He persuaded both the South Carolina and Virginia legislatures to supplement his fund raising drive. The monument was dedicated on September 29, 1965. World-renowned sculptor Felix DeWeldon created this impressive work of art. Since most of the land was in front of the stone wall had long before been built upon, the monument was erected on a small piece of land owned by Mary Washington College that was transferred to the National Park Service in 1987.