Ellwood Manor

A sign that says Ellwood pointed along a path leading to a two story red house.
Currently nestled in the Wilderness Battlefield, Ellwood was a former slave plantation that became embroiled in the Civil War when battle came to its doorstep.

NPS Photo





Unlike the more opulent Chatham, Ellwood was no symbol of wealth and power. Ellwood was a prosperous, antebellum agricultural operation of middling size—designed for function, not show. Perched on a knoll overlooking Wilderness Run, Ellwood stood at the center of an extensive 5,000-acre tract of land that encompassed much of what in 1864 would become the Wilderness battlefield.

William Jones built the present building, Ellwood, about 1790, and he or his descendants would own the place for the next century. The Jones-Lacy clan was perhaps the most prominent family in western Spotsylvania County.

Ellwood was a home for its owners, but also place of forced labor for the several dozen enslaved people who lived on the property prior to the Civil War. The unrequited toil of these people sustained the plantation and made the lives of the owner comfortable and profitable. Enslaved people worked hundreds of acres of cultivated fields, harvesting grains, corn, fruits, and at times tobacco. They also made the yard of the house hum as they toiled in the outbuildings that surrounded the main house—the stables, barns, smokehouse, storehouses, and kitchen. Enslaved people had something to do with virtually every aspect of the function and appearance of a plantation. They created niceties that defined plantation hospitality: the pressed linens and tablecloths, the elegant dinners, the tidy gardens and walkways.

The prominence of Ellwood and its owners attracted visitors. Legend holds that "Light Horse Harry" Lee, Robert E. Lee's father, wrote his memoirs in one of the upstairs bedrooms. In 1824, Revolutionary War hero Marquis de Lafayette dined at Ellwood during his triumphant tour of America. Other founders, such as James Madison and James Monroe, may have stopped here too.

Five years after losing his first wife in 1823, 78-year-old William Jones married his former spouse's 16-year-old grandniece, Lucinda Gordon. William and Lucinda produced a child, whom William promptly named after his first wife, Betty Churchill. When William Jones died in 1845, Ellwood passed to his wife Lucinda, but only so long as she did not remarry. Two years later, Lucinda choose heart over home, married her love, and gave up Ellwood to her daughter, Betty Churchill Jones. In 1848, Betty married a tutor named J. Horace Lacy. The Lacys owned Ellwood during the Civil War, and indeed until 1907.


The Civil War

In 1857, the Lacys purchased Chatham, in southern Stafford, and the family used Ellwood as a summer home, preferring the more palatial Chatham (now park headquarters) as their primary residence. J. Horace Lacy was an ardent defender of slavery and secession. After the outbreak of the Civil War, Lacy evacuated his family from the region, while he took a position in the Confederate army.

While the Lacys fled at the approach of the Union army, the region’s enslaved population, including those at Ellwood, fled toward the Union army. By 1863, slavery had functionally ended at Ellwood.

Military events touched Ellwood first in 1863. The house served for months as a Confederate hospital after the Battle of Chancellorsville. During the battle, Stonewall Jackson’s chaplain—J. Horace Lacy’s brother, Beverley—retrieved the general’s amputated arm and buried it in the Jones-Lacy family cemetery at Ellwood. In the fall of 1863, Union troops occupied and looted Ellwood.

Ellwood became famous as the “Lacy House” in 1864, for its role in the Battle of the Wilderness. The grounds teemed with Union artillery and soldiers as they prepared for, or recovered from, intense fighting a mile to the west. General Ulysses S. Grant, recently appointed commander of all Union armies, made his headquarters just a few hundred yards north of Ellwood. Union Generals Gouverneur K. Warren and Ambrose E. Burnside, two of the army's four corps commanders, moved into Ellwood itself. Orderlies and staff officers swarmed around the buildings, carrying orders to front-line troops.

By battle's end, Ellwood's floors were stained, its gardens trampled, its fences gone. Graves dotted the grounds. The house's civilian caretakers had been arrested and sent to Washington.



Ellwood faced years of neglect and a slow recovery. In 1872, the Lacys moved once again into Ellwood full time. In 1873, the press proclaimed Lacy the “White Man’s Candidate” when he ran for the state legislature. He won and served one term in Richmond. For the rest of his life he was an ardent proponent of the Confederacy and its Lost Cause, often making speeches defending Confederates.

The war marked a decisive transition for Ellwood. With Ellwood’s enslaved population free and Lacy’s personal wealth diminished, there was little to distinguish Ellwood from dozens of middling farms throughout Virginia. And so it would remain until 1977, when Ellwood came into public ownership as part of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.

A stone marker next to a tree enclosed in a low wooden fence.
Ellwood Cultural Landscape Report

Take a deep into the history of Ellwood and download the Ellwood Cultural Landscape Report.

A cannon in a foggy field surrounded by blooming dogwoods trees.
Wilderness Battlefield

The clash of US and Confederate forces in the Wilderness in the spring of 1864 marked the beginning of General Grant's Overland Campaign.

Last updated: October 14, 2023

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120 Chatham Ln
Fredericksburg, VA 22405


540 693-3200

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