Perhaps the most recognizable architectural structure in the town of Buchanan is the Buchanan Swinging Bridge. Not long ago we read an article about this quaint little town and decided to head there to check the town out and to see if there were any treasures we couldn’t live without in the couple of antique stores in town (there weren’t). The town is a small southern town on the James River. Main Street is dotted with mom and pop shops (there were no chain stores that we saw). The people were friendly and this would be a great place to get away from the rat race.
While the town is small, the town and the bridge are rich in history. The bridge is 366 feet long and just over 57 feet tall and portions of this bridge date back to 1851. Today the Buchanan Swinging Bridge is recognized as a National Register Historic Landmark. The large stone pier rising from the James River was constructed in 1851 as part of the Buchanan Turnpike Company’s Toll Bridge. Back then, the bridge was a covered bridge. The toll to use the bridge was five cents for every person plus an additional five cents for each horse, mule, oxen or wagon. On June 13th 1864 Confederate General McCausland burned the bridge by packing it with oil soaked hay and then lighting it on fire when Union General William Averell’s cavalrymen attempted to cross the bridge on their way to Lynchburg where they would join up with Union General Hunter who was under orders to burn Lynchburg because Lynchburg was a major supply depot for the Confederate Army. The wind carried embers across the river and eleven houses burned. Averell’s men helped extinguish the fire. The bridge survived the fire but was unusable. The next day, General Hunter’s troops crossed the Blue Ridge Mountain (on what is now Route 43) on his way to Lynchburg.
After the war, the bridge was rebuilt but in 1877 the bridge was destroyed by a major flood. The R&A Railroad Company built another bridge during this time and that bridge was toll free. In 1897 this bridge was replaced with a steel bridge that remained in use until 1938. In July 1937, construction of the current concrete James River Bridge was started with an agreement to maintain a pedestrian bridge (today’s Buchanan Swinging Bridge) between the town of Buchanan and Pattonsburg (the town on the opposite side of the James River). Today, the Buchanan Swinging Bridge uses the large stone pier of the original covered bridge that dates back to 1851.
If you are looking for a nice day trip you may want to consider a trip to Buchanan where you can grab a bite to eat at one of the mom and pop restaurants in town. From Lynchburg, take RT 460 west to Bedford’s RT 43 exit. Stay on RT 43 and you will wind up at the Peaks of Otter entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Turn Left onto the Parkway (heading south) and stay on the Parkway for about 5 or 6 miles until you see the exit for RT 43. Take Rt 43 into the town of Buchanan. As you enter the downtown area, the bridge is on the right. Driving time from The Carriage House Inn Bed and Breakfast in Lynchburg is about 90 minutes. And just in case you were wondering, yes, the bridge does swing back and forth as you walk across the bridge.
It’s hard to imagine Americans being held as a Prisoner of War in America, but there was once an instance in our history where this actually occurred, during the Civil War. Most of us probably never think about this but during the Civil War Lynchburg housed thousands of Prisoners of War. In 1862, the current site of E. C. Glass High School, was known as the fairgrounds. During this period it was a large military encampment that quartered Confederate troops on their way to various battlefields earlier in the war. In June of 1862 (about 150 years ago) the city of Lynchburg had thousands of Union POW’s arrive in the city as trainloads of prisoners, who were captured by General Stonewall Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley, were taken to the Fair Grounds. Below are copies of articles that were reprinted from The Daily Virginian which recently appeared in the News and Advance. The photo above shows what a tent during the Civil War would have looked like. These tents are on the grounds of E. C. Glass High School, which can be seen in the background. The Virginia State Flag would not have been flying during the War.
June 12, 1862
“A large number of Yankee prisoners variously estimated at from 3,000 to 3,500 who were taken by Jackson some weeks since, arrived here yesterday, and were escorted to the Fair Grounds. The poor [demons] looked jaded and dirty, whilst some of them were actually bare footed. …though they came into our country upon a hostile mission and deserved death on the battlefield, there was much in their woebegone appearance to excite our sympathy. They are prisoners in an enemy’s country and that is enough to repress any undue manifestation of exultation over them, and to excite emotions of humanity towards them; but if it were not, the fact that many of our own brave country men are similarly circumstanced should …awaken feelings of pity for our …foes.”
June 13, 1862
“Our Yankee Guests—The prisoners of whom we spoke yesterday are encamped near the Fair Ground, and will, we understand, remain there several days. We indulged in conservation with a number of them yesterday and found them exceedingly insolent. They seem to presume upon their condition as prisoners, to offer insult to those who would reason with them calmly about the folly and wickedness of their invasion of our territory … We saw not a man who talked otherwise or seemed disposed to admit that we have any right of self government. They say that we will be compelled to submit to their overwhelming numbers … We are sorry to say that we left them with a more decided repugnance for the whole race than we had previously.”
June 13, 1862
“We are not in favor of treating our enemies who are helpless prisoners in our hands, with either inhumanity or indecorum … And yet it becomes us not to act in such a manner as to lead our enemies to suppose they are welcome amongst us, or that our people have any sympathy for their cause. … They should not be feted and entertained at private houses, as we understand was the case with the Yankee officers who were here a few nights ago. If Northern men amongst us … would indicate to the public, their sympathy for the cause represented by the prisoners of, they could not adapt any means that would more effectually accomplish that object, than by acting in the manner aforesaid … it is obviously proper that the community should know whether there are any amongst us who have Northern proclivities…”
The Carriage House Inn Bed and Breakfast in Lynchburg, VA is approximately 20 miles from Appomattox Courthouse we wanted to make our blog followers and guests aware of a unique experience taking place just minutes from us in April.
“The Long Road Home – Fall of Richmond” re-enactment and living history weekend will take place April 5, 6 & 7, 2013 in the Clover Hill Village, just east of Appomattox, VA. Beginning at 9:00 am of Friday and lasting until 2:00 pm Sunday a unique set of events, activities and interactions will be taking place within the living history village. Visit with troops while they set camp. View battalion drills, trench work, battles and hospital scenes. Interact with Generals Lee and Grant, Presidents Lincoln and Davis. Attend a wedding and barn dance. Watch the medal presentation and pay call. Obtain an interesting perspective of life during the Civil War.
Unless you are a re-enactor and will be “camping” call us, 434.846.1388, to make your reservation and stay in comfort (indoor plumbing, central heat, a hot shower, our delicious 4-course breakfast, comfortable bed)! We’d love to host you while you experience the way things were.
For more detailed information and to see the full weekend schedule visit www.appomattoxhistoricalsociety.org Clover Hill Village is located at 5747 River Ridge Road in Appomattox.
Just east of downtown Farmville, a 19th century railroad bridge has been converted into a pedestrian trail that provides a sweeping panoramic view of the Virginia countryside. High Bridge spans nearly half a mile, reaches a height of 125 feet above the Appomattox River and is well worth the hour drive from Lynchburg.
Part of a 31-mile trail system and state park that connects Burkeville, Rice, Farmville, Prospect and Pamplin City the trail has become popular with walkers, bikers and even horseback riders. Though the trail is wide, level and flat it’s almost a mile from the parking lot to the bridge. The deck of High Bridge originally consisted of almost 2000 railroad ties. Along the bridge are several lookouts and covered benches to sit upon and reflect. At either end of the bridge are picnic tables.
Built in 1853 as part of the South Side Railroad the original single track, wooden bridge had a pedestrian walkway beside the tracks and a wagon bridge below. The bridge was a vital link for trade between Lynchurg and Petersburg.
In April 1865, during the Civil War, the bridge became of strategic importance to the Confederate and Union armies as they moved west from Richmond toward Appomattox Courthouse. After the Battle of Sailor’s Creek, a band of Union soldiers attempted to destroy the bridge but were thwarted by arriving Confederate horsemen. The following morning the Confederates set fire to the bridge in an attempt to prevent the Union soldiers from crossing. Despite the damage done to the bridge, the Union troops managed to follow in pursuit on the lower wagon bridge. In 1914 the railroad company completed the steel-tower bridge that remains standing today.
After our walk this past Sunday we stopped for lunch at Walker’s Diner. This 1950’s era diner is best known for it’s homemade french fries. They have the usual diner breakfast fare, served until 11 each day. The lunch menu consists of nine varieties of hamburgers, several subs, wraps and other sandwiches along with the appropriate diner sides. The people we saw eating dessert looked very satisfied. Farmville has several antique shops, various specialty shops but is best known for Greenfront.
To get to the High Bridge State Park parking area closest to the bridge take Route 460 toward Farmville. Travel Main Street through downtown. Once you pass the shops & restaurants turn right onto River Road. The parking lot is about 3 miles down River Road on your left. To walk toward the bridge follow the trail toward Richmond, not Farmville.
We plan to return in the fall when the leaves have begun to turn colors. The colors should be spectacular! As you walk the bridge trail you are in the treetops and we can’t wait to see the colored leaves against the dark green of the native pine trees.
If you choose to stay with us at The Carriage House Inn Bed and Breakfast your 4-course breakfast will keep you from being hungry until after your hike. We can pack you a picnic lunch to enjoy along the trail if you choose not to dine in Farmville. Call us at 434.846.1388 and we’ll help you enjoy a day with Mother Nature.
The Museum of the Confederacy Appomattox is now open!
Visitors to the museum start and end their tour in the main exhibit area with the museums crown jewel: the sword worn by Confederate General Robert E. Lee at the Army of Northen Virginia’s ceremonial surrender on April 12, 1865.
Touring the museum will take about two hours. During this time you will experience exhibits that include: the story of secession and the beginning of the Civil War, Confederate flags, soilders of the war, slavery and the important part it played in the Civil War, war correspondence, five important battle campaigns, the Appomattox surrender and Reconstruction and life after the war. You will not want to miss the Wall of Faces, an interactive feature, that shows pictures of people who lived during the Civil War-era and includes biographies about them.
Located at 159 Horseshoe Road, Appomattox, VA the museum is open daily between 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Admission fees apply.
You will want to combine your visit to the museum with a visit to Appomattox Courthouse National Park, located just a few miles away.
The state flag of each state that belonged to the Confederacy fly at the entrance of the museum as well as the American flag which represents the re-unification of the North and South.
Located about a 25-minute drive to Appomattox, The Carriage House Inn Bed and Breakfast in Lynchburg, VA is a great spot to stay while exploring the area and it’s Civil War sites, museums and points of interest. Call 434.846.1388 to make your reservation or visit our web site at www.TheCarriageHouseInnBandB.com.
Prior to the Civil War, Lynchburg, also know as the City of Seven Hills, was a bustling little city on the James River. Several railroad lines passed through the city as well as the city’s canal system made Lynchburg a transportation hub in its day. Being a transportation hub made it easy for the tobacco farmers, lumber barons and factory owners to transport their products to market. As the anti-slavery movement started gaining momentum the economy of Lynchburg was changing from agricultural to manufacturing. The riverfront and downtown saw massive tobacco warehouses, often four or more stories tall taking up the better part of a city block, as well as huge brick factories and foundries supporting the local economy. The population of Lynchburg was approximately 6,853 and enjoyed a good standard of living. Local doctors working from their store front offices made house calls to keep the population healthy as there were no hospitals in town.
When the Civil War broke out, Lynchburg’s population dropped by about a quarter as many of the able-bodied men enlisted in the Confederate Army. Those that remained behind ran the factories and worked the fields. Train loads of food, clothing, ammunition and supplies left the docks and trains of Lynchburg. As war raged on, the boxcars returned to Lynchburg full of wounded soldiers, both Union and Confederate. Prior to the Civil War, the wounded were treated on the battlefield. Due to the extensive network of railroads throughout the South, the wounded during the Civil War were transported to hospital cities. Lynchburg went from a city with no hospitals to a city with 32 hospitals. 19 of the huge tobacco barns were converted to hospitals as were other factories and warehouses. The few doctors that were in Lynchburg were assisted by the remaining townspeople, mostly women, who oversaw the care and treatment of the wounded. At any given time during the Civil War, the hospitals were treating 3,000-4,000 soldiers. Unfortunately, many of them never made it back to the battlefield or home as we didn’t have the lifesaving technologies we have today.
Today, only two of these tobacco warehouses stand and soon there may be only one. Over the decades most of them were torn down. The Miller Building, circa 1845, on Dunbar Street was a tobacco warehouse which operated as a hospital and morgue during the Civil War. For the last several years it has been vacant and as water leaked through the roof the building became unstable. Last week a four story section of the exterior wall collapsed. The owners of the building would love to save this part of history but have indicated they don’t have the financial resources to restore the building and may be forced to tear it down if they can’t figure out a way to save it.
Lynchburg and the surrounding area if full of history. On your next visit to the area plan on staying at the Carriage House Inn Bed and Breakfast in downtown Lynchburg. The home was built by Richard Thomas (R. T.) Watts who served in the Civil War. R. T.’s horse was shot out from under him near Fredericksburg, Virginia during the battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse. He was captured and spent the rest of the war in a POW camp in Delaware. After the war he returned to Lynchburg and built this fine home. Rather than just visiting historical sites, plan on spending the night in one of them. For reservations call: 434-846-1388 or visit our website: http://www.TheCarriageHouseInnBandB.com
Statistical information for this blog was taken from “A Prototype of a Confederate Hospital Center in Lynchburg Virginia” by Peter Houck.
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