Roughly 10,000 years before the arrival of English settlers in the 17th century, indigenous peoples inhabited the region around the Rappahannock River basin. Fredericksburg and nearby Falmouth, both chartered in 1728, were river ports for ocean-going sailing vessels in an international system of trade. Small farms coexisted with large estates owned by elite White families and worked by enslaved Black persons. Two of the grand homes from this era are present-day museums. Belmont, site of Gari Melchers Home and Studio, shares the story of an important American artist. Nearby Chatham is part of the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.

Long before he was commander of the Continental Army and first president of the United States, George Washington spent his boyhood at Ferry Farm across the Rappahannock from Fredericksburg. His widowed mother, Mary Washington, resided in a house not far from Kenmore, the mansion built by her daughter Betty’s husband, Fielding Lewis. These sites, and the city’s Hugh Mercer Apothecary and Rising Sun Tavern, are open to the public as part of the Washington Heritage Museums.

Revolutionary War veteran James Monroe practiced law here in the 1780s at what is now the James Monroe Museum. As the fifth U.S. president, he invited his wartime comrade, the Marquis de Lafayette, to visit America for a grand tour that included an enthusiastic welcome in 1824 to Fredericksburg’s Town Hall (today the Fredericksburg Area Museum).

Four major Civil War battles fought in and around Fredericksburg in 1862 and 1864 brought great loss of life and destruction of property. The Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park commemorates these pivotal events. The war also inspired some 10,000 enslaved Black men, women, and children to escape bondage and begin new lives as free people. Their stories, and the ongoing legacy of social justice activism, are told in the region’s Trail to Freedom and Civil Rights Trail.

Local Events

Betty WashingtonBetty Washington's Birthday Party
June 22, 2024 - June 22, 2024
City of Fredericksburg

We celebrate George every year in February, but let’s not forget about his sister. Betty Washington Lewis was born on June 20, 1733. Come help us ce... Read More


Scott Harris

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