On July 4, 1862, the residents of Fredericksburg, Virginia did not celebrate Independence Day, as they were no longer a part of the United States of America. The Union soldiers stationed directly across the river from Fredericksburg did.
For eight decades the town had celebrated the nation’s independence; but in 1862, residents in the town passed the day quietly, without notice, their attention drawn more by the news of the massive fighting around Richmond and hopes for their own independence from the now-hated Union.
Across that river in Stafford County, the Union army suffered anything but gloom, intent on celebrating the “86th birthday of this great and once happy Republic.”
The day ended with yet another 34-gun salute and an elaborate display of fireworks, arranged by General Rufus King. The display “equalled anything of the kind witnessed in the cities,” wrote one man. “The heavens were ablaze with rickets…Roman candles, fire wheels, colored lights, etc.” Some wayward fireworks fell into the town itself.