Potomac Creek Bridge
Leeland Road, Stafford County, Virginia
“Beanpoles and Cornstalks”
The mound of earth beside you and the stone blocks protruding from it are all that remain of the south abutment of a bridge that once carried Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad across Potomac Creek. During the first year of the Civil War, the railroad was the principal lifeline for Confederate encampments and batteries located along the nearby shore of the Potomac River. In the spring of 1862, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston ordered Confederate forces to abandon the area. Advancing Union Troops encountered only the ruins of the bridge here at Potomac Creek.
Over the next three years, the Union army built as many as four railroad bridges atop this same abutment. In May 1862, engineer Herman Haupt supervised unskilled Union infantrymen in harvesting two million feet of local lumber to construct the first of these structures, accomplishing this task in just nine days. During a visit to the Fredericksburg area, President Abraham Lincoln led Secretary of War Edwin m. Stanton and Rear Admiral John A Dahlgren on a walk across the 80-foot-high, 400-foot-long span. Stanton became dizzy while crossing the bridge and only finished the walk by holding onto Dahlgren’s hand.
Around 1899, the south abutment and its approaching right-of-way (now occupied by the county road that you followed to get here) were abandoned. The railroad and bridge were shifted to their present locations at that time.
“I have seen the most remarkable structure that human eyes ever rested upon. That man Haupt has built a bridge across Potomac Creek, about 400 feet, over which loaded trains are running every hour, and, upon my word, gentlemen, there is nothing in it but beanpoles and cornstalks.” — Abraham Lincoln