Chatham has watched quietly over Fredericksburg for almost 250 years—an imposing, 180-foot-long brick manor house once visible from much of town. It has witnessed great events and played host to important people. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln were here; Clara Barton and Walt Whitman too. To some residents it was a home, to others a place of toil, and to soldiers during the war a headquarters or a hospital.
Here at Chatham, as at few other places, is the full breadth of Southern history: its rise on the foundation of slavery, its ruin during the turbulent years of the Civil War, and its rebirth in the 1900s. Chatham is not merely the story of a Southern house, but of American culture—sometimes cruel and unjust, sometimes noble and refined, but always interesting.