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Region has ties to presidents
The Fredericksburg area's connection with the presidency dates to before "the war"--back to the life and times of the original George

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Date published: 8/8/2004


IF YOU ARE a new arrival to the Fredericksburg area, allow me to offer a couple of points of reference as you begin to learn about the region's rich history.

First, don't be confused when someone speaks of "the war."

You might hear that this church or that home "served as a hospital during the war." Or someone may proudly state that they had ancestors "who fought in the war."

We mean the Civil War.

Some longtime residents also may refer to it as The War for Southern Independence; or perhaps, The War of Union Aggression, or even The Late Unpleasantness.

Secondly, if the conversation is about presidential politics and someone refers to "George W.," think George Washington instead of George W. Bush.

Many older residents have good reason to think of Washington as "our president." He was born in nearby Westmoreland County. He lived at Ferry Farm in Stafford County from about age 6 to 20. And he visited Fredericksburg frequently as an adult to spend time with both his mother, Mary, and his sister, Betty Washington Lewis, who lived at Kenmore.

During one of President Washington's visits to Fredericksburg, in April of 1791, he was treated to a grand reception that included dinner, speeches and entertainment.

Washington, of course, was a trend-setter in many ways and you could say that his visits to the Fredericksburg area established a "precedent" that many presidents have followed.

For example, I doubt that many communities can boast of visits by Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower while they were in office.

A 1995 story published in The Free Lance-Star used information from historians and newspaper accounts to document visits to the Fredericksburg area by at least 18 of the nation's 42 chief executives.

Jackson, Eisenhower, Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge stopped to pay homage to Mary Washington or visit the area's Civil War battlefields.

Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant were here as part of their duty during wartime. In 1862, Lincoln visited Union troops occupying Stafford and Fredericksburg. And in 1864, Grant directed Federal forces against Robert E. Lee in the battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House.

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