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An 1863 band concert in Fredericksburg, and a famous map

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Date published: 7/19/2003

CONFEDERATE LT. Claudius B. Denson of Duplin County, N.C., had difficulty reach- ing Fredericksburg from Richmond when he was ordered here in the summer of 1863. His superiors in the Confederate Engineer Bureau had detailed Denson and a small party of surveyors and mapmakers to complete a map of Spotsylvania County and the vicinity of Fredericksburg, then cross into enemy-held Stafford and work on a map of that county.

Denson had been born in Suffolk County in Virginia, but was teaching school in Duplin County, N.C., when the Civil War erupted in 1861. The 23-year-old teacher organized a company that became part of the 20th North Carolina, and won an election to command the unit with the rank of captain. During the congressionally mandated reorganization of the armies in the spring of 1862, Denson's company elected someone else in his stead. The former captain wound up at lower rank in the Confederacy's fledgling engineer establishment, drawing much-needed maps.

Denson's visit to Fredericksburg to finish the famous map supplies an interesting glimpse of the town at midwar. Two letters that the lieutenant wrote to his wife are in the collection of Dr. Mike Masters of North Carolina, who granted permission for publication of these excerpts.

On July 3, 1863, Claude Denson wrote from Richmond to "My Precious Wife" to describe his plans. The transcribed excerpts in this article change no words, although they silently omit some.

The fearful heat that we are enduring here exceeds anything I have known for years. Every article becomes thoroughly wet in two hours' wear. We are detained here, and it is doubtful if we get off tomorrow. I have seen Capt. [Benjamin Lewis] Blackford, and must say that I wouldn't give Capt. Grant for a thousand such. I can say I shall do well enough, however, though I bitterly regret the change. Capt. B. is a young man, who dresses in a very fine uniform, and appears pleasant enough, but I think him conceited, and desirous to be authoritative. But I shall not hesitate to leave, and apply for a transfer if I find it desirable.

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