You are now standing inside the perimeter of what was once a Union 11th Corps winter camp. Soldiers not only camped and drilled here, but also built roads and fortifications in and around this park. Since the Civil War, the majority of Stafford's Civil War camps have been lost to farming or development. This site's trail takes you through a regimental-size camp that today still contains visible remains of soldiers' hut sites, chimneys, trash holes and defensive positions. Individual camp features are identified throughout the camp by small white signs. We do not know which specific regiment camped here, although many years ago, large numbers of New York buttons, bullets and some U.S. accoutrements were found in this camp by local citizens who had permission to search for artifacts in this area.
A soldier's description of the march to, and construction of, winter quarters, Stafford County Virginia, 1863
At right are translated excerpts from a letter of an 11th Corps soldier to his parents in Germany. The author, Sergeant Wilhelm Francksen, immigrated to the United States from Germany in late 1861 and subsequently joined the Union Army. At times the translation is awkward as he tries to explain various American concepts or terms to his German parents. After departing Stafford, Sergeant Fraucksen was badly wounded in the neck at Gettysburg, PA. The wound partially paralyzed his legs, and he was discharged from the Army in February of 1864. He died in the 1870's.
"Camp near Stafford, Virginia March 1,1863"
My dear father,
We marched 13 miles in 2 days, moving forward slowly with frequent stops because our wagons could not proceed. Completely drenched and frozen to the bone, we arrived where we were to be posted on the 2nd afternoon, made a fire and put up our little cotton tents, after we had brushed off the ground in a makeshift fashion. Then we toiled to make a cup of coffee and gulped it down along with a few Crackers, a hard wheat bread, a kind of ships biscuit, and a piece of salt pork, and finally 2-3 men cowered together tightly wrapped in Blankets—woolen covers—under the small linen roof, pressed close together to keep at least a little warm. The next morning snow was piled high on the tent, and our joints were stiff from lying on the cold ground. During the day the order came to build some sturdy warm huts, and so we started cutting down trees and dragging them back through the woods, without any paths, which gave us no end of trouble. We also had to cook our own food and get hold of wood and water for this.
We were bustling around like ants in an anthill. A few days later a little town had grown out of this wasteland, consisting of good huts made out of raw tree logs, with chimneys, a fireplace and comfortable places to sleep. The soldier in the field is quite inventive, as was demonstrated by the construction and the furnishings of our little houses. Some of them were so delightful and cutely made, I would have liked to wrap one of them up and send it to you as a curio. The tree trunks were fit very skillfully together, the joints filled out with green moss, there was a porch in front of the hut with green firs, cedars and wild laurel, with red berries with moss and colorful stones in front. Inside too, everything was very clean and tastefully furnished: a fireplace, seats, a little table, with beds in the back, 2 bunk beds, each one for 2 men?."
Sgt Wilhelm Francksen,
26th Wisconsin Infantry
Source: Germans in the Civil War, The Letters They Wrote Home by Walter D. Kamphoefner & Wolgang Helbich, 2006
Soldiers' winter quarters
Soldier's winter quarters were diverse; however most contained small huts resembling miniature cabins made of logs from nearby forests and topped with canvas or board roofs. Some huts were dug into the ground to take advantage of the earth's insulation. Depressions of several of these remain today. Other huts were built totally above ground. Hut interiors were often finished with boards, and many had fold-down platform bunks. Some soldiers just stayed in canvas tents. All of the above types of quarters appear to have been used in this camp. Camp layouts ranged from neatly organized lines to haphazard scattering of quarters. Some sites have piles of rock where original fireboxes or chimneys fell or were disturbed. Unique in this camp are an intact sandstone hearth and large firebox. Sandstone is prevalent in this area; however, in other Stafford camps bricks appropriated by the soldiers were also used. Many chimneys utilized wooden barrels or chinked logs above their fireboxes.
One of several hut replicas at the nearby White Oak Civil War Museum - FSCWS photo