From Noel Harrison:
Antebellum Virginia had few more attentive and charming chroniclers than George William Bagby, especially when it came to describing natural and historical attributes as mutually enhancing. A reprint of his reminiscences of canal travel beside the James River provided some of the most enjoyable reading of my college years.
George William Bagby. From: Selections from the Miscellaneous Writings of Dr. George W. Bagby 1 (1884).
On the eve of the Civil War, Bagby assumed the editorship of the Richmond-based Southern Literary Messenger. Its issue of April 1861 carried a brief but extraordinary article offering his diagnosis of, and therapy for, one of the ills afflicting Southerners along the eastern seaboard:
Everybody knows that people are like sheep. They follow their leader. Especially is this the case with travellers going North. Whether they go for business or for pleasure, they take the same beaten track, year after year, with the most persistent reverence for monotony. It is surprising that they are never tempted into any of the by-paths and out-of-the-way roads, for variety’s sake, or the “fun of the thing.” During the present year, and perhaps for many years to come, there will be little travelling northward, except by knapsack wearers. But, whenever peace is declared, tourists will be apt to take up their old line of march, and this will continue until the cities of the South present attractions equal to those of Boston, Philadelphia and New York. Sooner or later, Maryland will be in the Southern Republic, and thousands will go to Baltimore, if no further. To these, we respectfully recommend a slight change of programme.
Sure, Bagby acknowledged, war now loomed, and the only northbound tourists would be “knapsack wearers,” perhaps for years. Yet he saw military victory over the Yankees as certain, leaving as a deeper problem the myopic, Yankee-like haste and joylessness that the Richmond-Washington-Baltimore railroad corridor (including its northbound, Aquia-Washington steamboat connector along the Potomac River) imposed upon travelers.
Bagby’s article continued by highlighting Fredericksburg as a point of vital divergence for people headed north:
Don’t go on to Washington by way of Acquia Creek. Stop at Fredericksburg. It is a wonderfu[l] old town, filled with people of the good old Virginia stock…. The unfinished tomb of Mary, The Mother or Washington…and many other curious and ancient sights, are there.
Viewing the unfinished monument to Mary Washington in December 1848. From: Benson J. Lossing, The Pictorial Field-Book of the American Revolution (1851).