Today, with our country more culturally united, and as a nation more integrated as a people with common aspirations and goals, it’s difficult to visualize the clash of armies in our communities and around our homes. Imagine then, for a moment, that you and your spouse were Alfred and Mary Plumb, and that your home in Waynesboro was dead center in a battlefield toward the end of the War Between the States.
Imagine yourselves huddling in the basement listening to the roaring cannon and rifle fire as the artillery from both sides sent errant cannon balls into your home, destroying your roof. Imagine when the fighting stopped, coming up from the basement to survey the damage and to treat the wounds of soldiers from both armies.
It’s hard to imagine, but it did happen to the 19th century owners of the Plumb House, a historic home located on Main Street in Waynesboro. The home, which is now the Plumb House Museum, bore silent witness to the Battle of Waynesboro on March 2, 1865, only one month before the formal surrender of the Confederate Army at the courthouse at Appomattox.
The Plumb House is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places, as well as the Virginia Landmarks Register, and the Virginia Civil War Trails Location. Built in the early years of the 19th century, it is the oldest wooden structure in the town of Waynesboro. In addition to its prominence as survivor and witness to one of the final battles of the Civil War, the home represents the lifestyle of the average hard working citizen of Virginia during the early 1800s.
Virginia has impressive evidence of the lives of the wealthy movers and shakers during our early years of independence, places like Jefferson’s Monticello, Madison’s Montpelier, and Washington’s Mount Vernon, but much fewer are those homes that represent the lives of the common man during that time.
The Plumb House gives visitors the opportunity to embrace the spirit of the time. The house itself tells an epic story, beginning with its slave-built patio, the chicken ledgers marked on the doors, and the bullets that are lodged in the kitchen door. The museum also contains Native American artifacts, clothing, quilts, and old photographs of the period.
If you happen to be visiting during March, you may be lucky enough to experience the reenactment of the Battle of Waynesboro, an annual event during which local enthusiasts, accompanied by the roar of cannon and the staccato of rifle fire, recreate the overwhelming might of the Union soldiers under George Custer as they crush the remaining Confederate resistance in the Shenandoah.