Living History: A glimpse at Point of Rocks

The Chesterfield County Historical Society of Virginia (CCHS) held a Living History Day at the county’s newest Civil Ward park at Historic Point of Rocks last Saturday. The special event focused on Civil War’s medical stories, with re-enactors portraying surgeons, soldiers and Clara Barton, who served as superintendent of nursing at the Point of Rocks hospital. Mary Ann Jung gave two live performances of Clara Barton during the day, as well as answering questions from visitors. Along with tours of the Strachan House, Thomas A. Wheat, portraying a Union surgeon and John Pelletier, portraying a contract surgeon, discussed Civil War medicine and demonstrations. Representatives from the Richmond National Battlefield Artillery gave artillery demonstrations.

According to CCHS, Point of Rocks takes its name from a 60-foot high sandstone cliff that stands along the Appomattox River. The site was used by native American Indians and was mentioned by Captain John Smith in his notes on Virginia. In 1642, Abraham Wood established a trading post there. The land was then passed to Wood’s heirs for 371 years, making Point of Rocks one of the oldest properties in the county continuously owned by one family.

At the time of the Civil War, Rev. John Alexander Strachan, founder of Enon Baptist church, owned Point of Rocks. Strachan constructed a house on the property in 1841. First fighting at Point of Rocks took place on June 26, 1862. A Union field hospital was established in May, 1964. As the Bermuda Hundred Campaign gave way to the Siege of Petersburg, the hospital further developed into a large complex that could hold more than 5,000 patients at a time. Patients were under the care of two women pioneers in the field of medicine, Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, and Harriet P. Dame.

President Abraham Lincoln, his wife Mary Todd, and sons Robert and Tad, visited Point of Rocks on March 27, 1865, along with Gen. Grant and his wife Julia.

Chesterfield County purchased the property encompassing Point of Rocks in 2013 from the descendants of Rev. Strachan with a grant from the American Battlefield Protection Program, funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund administered by the National Park Service and matching funds provided by the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors, and the Cox family.

Living History Day will be an annual event.  The Historic Point of Rocks Park will be open daily beginning in April, 2014.

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