the annals of American history, this centuries-old structure is more than
just a resting spot for a soldier's severed limb.
by Lee Woolf
Editor's Note: This story was
originally published by The Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg. Lee
Woolf is a longtime reporter and editor with the newspaper. He lives in
More than 3,000 visitors will stroll down the lane at
Ellwood this year. Most have traveled some distance to satisfy their
curiosity about “the arm.”
And it’s a fact that the amputated arm of Lt. Gen.
Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson is buried in the Jones–Lacy family
cemetery about a quarter-mile walk from the house.
But the 200-plus years of history witnessed by the
two-story frame home on the Spotsylvania/Orange county line about 15 miles
west of Fredericksburg includes much more than Jackson’s severed limb.
And that longevity is part of the message being
delivered by the Friends of Wilderness Battlefield in a fundraising campaign
to restore the most historic rooms in the house.
“Ellwood has spanned the history of our nation,”
said Carolyn Elstner, who has family ties to the property and is head of the
“Just the fact it’s still standing makes it unique.
And it needs to be preserved to tell its story to the children of today and
to future generations.”
The cast of characters who have played a role in
Ellwood’s dramatic tale include the Marquis de Lafayette; Gen. Robert E.
Lee and his father, “Light Horse Harry” Lee; Union generals Gouverneur
K. Warren, Ambrose Burnside, Ulysses S. Grant and George Meade; legendary
Marine Gen. Smedley Butler; and President Warren G. Harding.
And if military history is not to visitors’ liking,
perhaps they will be intrigued by the story of the home’s original owner,
William Jones. Five years after losing his first wife in 1823, the
78-year-old Jones created a stir in the family by marrying his former
spouse’s 16-year-old grandniece. Today, Jones and both wives are in the
family burial ground, not far from Jackson’s arm.
part of the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. The
entrance to the house is a gravel road off State Route 20 less than a mile
southwest of its intersection with State Route 3.
The house is open on weekends and holidays from
Memorial Day through the end of October. The house is also open the first
weekend in May to mark the anniversary of the Battle of the Wilderness. The
battle’s 142nd birthday will fall on May 5–7, 2006. Access to the
grounds at other times of the year can be arranged at the Chancellorsville
Battlefield Visitor Center on Route 3.
Elstner has a special reason for wanting to see Ellwood
restored. She is the grandniece of Hugh Willis, a law professor who
purchased the property in 1907.
Ellwood passed into the hands of Elstner’s
grandparents, Blanche and Leo Jones, in 1931. She remembers spending many
Sunday afternoons as a child playing on the grounds with her brother and
general "Stonewall" Jackson's arm is buried in the family
cemetery at Ellwood House. Out of respect for Jackson, the chaplain
of his corps recovered the arm from a pile of amputated limbs and
brought it to Ellwood for burial. Alan Zirkle photo.
It was Elstner’s father, Dr. Gordon W. Jones, a
longtime Fredericksburg obstetrician, who sold Ellwood and 97 acres to the
National Park Service in 1971 for $159,000. He donated more land so that the
site now consists of 180 acres, much of which is leased for farming.
By the 1980s, the house was in bad shape with
deteriorating walls and severe insect damage. The National Park Service
stabilized the structure and restored the exterior to the way it appeared
during the Civil War. But no funds were available for further restoration.
In 1998, the Friends of Wilderness Battlefield, in
partnership with the park service, opened the house to the public. The
group, which has 250 members nationwide, maintains the grounds and provides
tour guides to interpret Ellwood’s history.
The first phase of the fundraising campaign exceeded
expectations. Most of the $155,000 from the capital campaign came from
private donors. Elstner says that many donations came from visitors to
Ellwood seeking knowledge about ancestors who fought in the Civil War.
Elstner says the top priority is restoring and
furnishing as many downstairs rooms as possible, including the parlor — or
Warren Room — and the entrance hall. A second round of fundraising will
begin this fall.
Elstner says the original wood floors will be restored,
the woodwork will be repaired, and the walls and ceiling will be plastered
and painted. In addition, the rooms will be furnished with antiques or
“I know this is exactly what my family wanted,”
says Elstner. “It’s very gratifying to be a part of making this
Ellwood was completed about 1790, so its history
coincides with the nation’s independence. “The place was made of
materials from the environment,” says Elstner, looking at the hand-hewn
beams in the ceiling of the Warren Room. “No doubt done by slave labor
from timber prepared on the farm and with bricks fired here.”
Elstner says Ellwood had eight rooms at a time when
most Spotsylvania houses had two or three.
William Jones or his descendants owned the property for
more than a century. At the time of his death in 1845, the estate consisted
of 5,000 acres. In many ways it was a typical, midsize antebellum farm.
Cattle and sheep grazed in the pastures and crops of
mostly wheat, oats and corn filled the clearings. Outbuildings included
stables, barns, a kitchen, icehouse, dairy, smokehouse and slave quarters.
Elstner says Jones owned 107 slaves in 1820.
A Distinguished Guest
The Marquis de Lafayette stopped at Ellwood for
breakfast in 1825 after a visit to Montpelier, James Madison’s home in
Elstner says that since Ellwood served as a private
coach stop, it’s likely that both Madison and James Monroe stopped at the
house during their travels to and from Fredericksburg.
It also is likely that Lafayette stopped by the
property in 1781 during the Revolutionary War, when his troops passed
through the area. Elstner says there are records showing that William Jones
sold meat to Lafayette’s army.
“Light Horse Harry” Lee is said to have written
part of his memoirs in an upstairs bedroom at Ellwood. Lee, a hero during
the Revolution, suffered financially after the war and briefly served time
in debtors’ prison in Spotsylvania County. The Jones family may have
helped in his release during the winter of 1809-’10.
Elstner says Lee was a friend of William Jones’
brother, Churchill, who lived in Orange County. Since Lee was required to
stay within the borders of Spotsylvania, he resided at Ellwood for a period
William Jones and his second wife, Lucinda, had a
daughter — Betty Churchill Jones — who was born in 1829. After Jones
died and Lucinda remarried, Ellwood became the property of 19-year-old
Betty, who in 1848 became the bride of J. Horace Lacy, a lawyer and
The couple lived at Ellwood until 1857, when they
purchased Chatham Manor in southern Stafford County and moved there. They
continued to use Ellwood as a summer home until the outbreak of the Civil
War, when Lacy, an ardent secessionist, joined the Confederate army.
Robert E. Lee’s visit to the property dates to 1863
when he stopped at the Confederate hospital at Ellwood after the Battle of
Chancellorsville, on his way to Gettysburg.
After “Stonewall” Jackson was wounded by friendly
fire on May 2, 1863, during the Battle of Chancellorsville, he was taken to
a field hospital near Ellwood. His left arm was amputated and tossed on a
pile of limbs.
Beverley Tucker Lacy, the chaplain of Jackson’s corps
and the brother of J. Horace Lacy, was present at the hospital. Out of
respect for Jackson, Beverley Lacy wrapped the arm in a blanket and took it
to Ellwood for burial in the family cemetery.
In 1903, James Power Smith, a Fredericksburg minister
and former member of Jackson’s staff who married into the Lacy family,
placed a small stone monument to mark the burial spot of Jackson’s arm.
The only time the arm has been disturbed is when Gen.
Butler directed a group of Marines from Quantico in a mock battle near
Ellwood in 1921. To satisfy his curiosity, he ordered a dig at the site —
and sure enough, he found an arm and reburied it. Also present that day was
But Jackson’s arm is just part of the Civil War
history associated with the property.
“Ellwood is very unique because it relates to two
campaigns,” says Greg Mertz, the supervisory historian for the
Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.
“It stood in the rear of the Confederate army at
Chancellorsville. And it stood at the rear of the Union army at the
It was during the Wilderness campaign in May 1864 that
Warren and Burnside, two Union corps commanders, made their headquarters at
Ellwood. Grant and Meade resided nearby and attended several meetings in the
A contemporary account describes the scene at
Warren’s headquarters in vivid detail, with busy orderlies, clerks,
teamsters and cooks going about their duties and soldiers relaxing in twos
and threes by campfires.
After three days of heavy fighting, the armies moved on
to Spotsylvania Court House. Ellwood was left with blood-stained floors, but
at least it had survived.
“There aren’t many standing structures within the
park boundaries,” says Mertz. “Ellwood
is special because there is something tangible there. And that’s a
great commodity. It stands witness to what occurred there.”
Ellwood House is open 11 am - 5 pm weekends and
holidays from Memorial Day weekend through October. To donate to the
restoration, make checks payable to Friends of Wilderness Battlefield --
Ellwood, P.O. Box 576, Locust Grove, VA 22508. For more info and directions: