What is the Trail to Freedom?


Wading from the small bobbing boat on the Rappahannock River on the shallow shores of Falmouth beach, the sound of rushing water, swirling, and cool behind you, the crunch of loose dry dirt and rock under foot, the swish of cotton linen, the echo of song before you. The sharp ache of your feet and back replaced by the dull hum of fear and the sweet ache of hopes and future generations yet imagined and unseen on the journey to Freedom. You’re on the Trail to Freedom.

Where will the trail take you?

Where is it?

Located halfway between Richmond, Virginia and Washington, DC, The Trail to Freedom retraces the routes of these freedom-seekers -men, women, and children – through the City of Fredericksburg, Virginia and the County of Stafford, Virginia.

Why did they do it?

On April 18, 1862, the Union Army occupied the port town of Falmouth, located in southern Stafford County, along the Rappahannock River: On May 2, they crossed the river and occupied the City of Fredericksburg. Throughout the region, the enslaved saw the arrival of the Federal forces as an opportunity for freedom.

How did they do it?

Risking all, many enslaved people left their masters and sought the protection of Union forces. Some served with Federal troops in support positions. By mid-September 1862, at least 10,000 freedom-seekers passed through the area, traveling thousands of miles by foot, wagon and rail, months prior to the Emancipation Proclamation on their way to Washington, DC and beyond.