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During the Battle of Fredericksburg, December 11–15, 1862, the town sustained significant damage from bombardment and looting by the Union forces.

At the time of European encounter, the indigenous inhabitants of the area that became Fredericksburg were a Siouan-speaking tribe called the Manahoac.

English colonists recorded the name of the Manahoac village there as Mahaskahod.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis of the United States Department of Commerce combines the city of Fredericksburg with neighboring Spotsylvania County for statistical purposes. Located near where the Rappahannock River crosses the Atlantic Seaboard fall line, Fredericksburg was a prominent port in Virginia during the colonial era.

and 58 miles (93 km) north of Richmond, Fredericksburg is part of the Northern Virginia region and is included in the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Statistical Area.

The battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House were fought nearby in May 1864.

The Washington Woolen Mill, a large three-story building, was converted to use as a hospital during the war.

It promoted the development of a canal on the Rappahannock and construction of a turnpike and plank road to bind the interior country to the market town.

By 1837, a north-south railroad, which became the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad, linked the town to Richmond, the state capital.

John Washington, a literate slave who shortly crossed to freedom, wrote later about people watching the approach of Union troops across the river from Fredericksburg: “No one could be seen on the street but the colored people.

and every one of them seemed to be in the best of humors.” A Second Battle of Fredericksburg was fought in and around the town on May 3, 1863, in connection with the Chancellorsville campaign (April 27, 1863 – May 6, 1863).

After the war, Fredericksburg recovered its former position as a center of local trade and slowly grew beyond its prewar boundaries.

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