Here it is folks, how Sligo and the Ferneyhough family were affected by the Battle of Fredericksburg. I know, I know. You all have been waiting with baited breath for this installment. I, too, have been waiting for it.
So, for a refresher the Fredericksburg Campaign took place during December 1862, the Chancellorsville Campaign which took place during May 1863, and a third battle in June 1863 which was the beginning of the Battle of Fairfax. All of these battles affected Sligo. You can also check out Part I of this post which gives a little bit more detail (just a little). At this point in time Sligo was occupied by Eliza Ferneyhough, widow of John R Ferneyhough Jr who had died in 1860, and their children: Thomas Gilbert (John Ferneyhough Jr’s adult son from his first marriage to Mary Frances Gilbert), George (as in George Thrift who would later build our Sligo), Sallie, and Fannie Chesley (a granddaughter).
Noel Harrison states that Sligo was situated “behind the Union front line during…December 1862 and May 1863 Battles of Fredericksburg and between the opposing front lines during the June 1863 engagement near Fredericksburg” (1995, Fredericksburg Civil War Sites, Vol 2, p. 102). I like how succinctly he wrote that because I have spent literally hours looking cross-eyed at all of the documentation I have and not comprehending a word. In the Works Progress Administration (WPA) of Virginia Historical Inventory of Sligo (Site) it is reported that the Federals used the house in 1862 as a hospital and drilled and were quartered around the property (Deaderick, 2 June 1937). With that being said, the WPA of Sligo (Home Site) states that Confederate soldiers were quartered in the house during December 1862 (Deaderick, 14 June 1937). So, I guess no matter which way you look at it, Sligo was in the thick of it.
The WPA of Sligo (Home Site) gives an account of how George (remember George, the son of Eliza) listened-in on the plans of the Confederate soldiers quartered in his home and ran to tell his mother. The family quickly gathered their belongings and left. After the Battle of Fredericksburg they returned to discover the house ransacked and a threat from the Union soldiers that they would hang George who was a 2nd Lieutenant in the boys Military Company of Fredericksburg. After this the Ferneyhough family moved to Richmond and did not return to Sligo until 1865. Unfortunately, they returned to find the house in disrepair. All but one secondary building had been burned and much of the farming equipment thrown into the well. (Deaderick, 14 June 1937)
I was having a conversation with my girls the other day about what it might be like to have to leave everything behind because soldiers were coming and it wasn’t safe anymore. Their eyes grew big and they had many questions including who was the good guy and who was the bad guy (good question with many implications and I explained it as best as I could at an eight and seven year old level), how many lovies could a person bring, and (most importantly) what about the farm animals and pets? We decided that the soldiers probably used or took the farm animals and we hoped the Ferneyhoughs were able to bring their pets.
I want to remind everyone that the WPAs weren’t exactly thoroughly researched and a lot of the information was conjecture or word-of-mouth. We do, however, have accounts of soldiers who write of Sligo. One particularly interesting letter written by a soldier of the 122nd New York Infantry during the June 1863 battle describes how Confederate sharpshooters used Sligo as a “den” and shot at the Union lines (Harrison, 1995, Fredericksburg Civil War Sites, Vol 2, p. 103). I imagine anyone with a metal detector reading this right now is probably salivating; there’s surely something left in the ground.
So, there it is. The Civil War at Sligo. It took me a while to sit down and write this because 1. Every time I write about the Ferneyhough family I have to log into my Ancestry.com account and look at my previous emails between myself and our Dovetail consultant in an effort to piece together who was who (and in an effort to be as accurate as possible). and 2. The information is in pieces and scattered about and it took a minute to organize myself. Lucky for you the children are out for the day and it’s raining so what else did I have to do?
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