In the early 1600s, lands of what would become Frederick County, Virginia were initially owned by the English Virginia Company. The English royal government took claims to those lands in 1624, claiming it to be part of the Colony of Virginia and formed it into part of Orange County, Virginia. On December 21, 1738, the House of Burgesses Frederick County from part of Orange County, Virginia..
In 1749, Culpeper County, Virginia was from part of Orange County, Virginia by a decree from the Virginia legislature. Culpeper County is named after Lord Thomas Culpeper, the Colonial Governor of Virginia, whom served from 1680 to 1683.
In present day, a series of historical markers show the history of Culpeper County.
In March 1862, the Exchange Hotel was taken over by the Confederate Army and received the Confederate and Union wounded, from the battlefields surrounding Orange County, for the duration of the war. During the Civil War, the Exchange Hotel became known as the Gordonsville Receiving Hospital.
Dr. B.M Lebby of South Carolina was the director and its operation continued under his leadership until October 1865.
The wounded and the dying came from nearby battlefields such as Cedar Mountain, Chancellorsville, Trevilian Station, Mine Run, Brandy Station, and the Wilderness were brought by the trainloads. Although the hospital was primarily a Confederate facility, the hospital treated the wounded from both sides. Twenty-six Union soldiers died here.
By the end of the U.S. Civil War, more than 70,000 men had been treated at the Gordonsville Receiving Hospital and just over 700 would be buried on its surrounding grounds and later interred at Maplewood Cemetery in Gordonsville.
In present day the former Gordonsville hotel and hospital serves as the Exchange Hotel Museum. The museum details the medical history of the U.S. Civil War.
In 1740, the Historic Saint Thomas Episcopal Church was founded as a Colonial Parish of the Church of England. The church served as General Robert E. Lee’s place of worship during his encampment in Orange County in the winter of 1863 to 1864. During that winter essential movement of troops and supplies for General Lee’s Confederate Army, occurred in preparation for larger battles in the Spring, such as battle where Generals Lee and Grant’s armies clashed for the first time in May 1864. This first engagement resulted in 26,000 casualties and marked Grant’s first step toward Appomattox.
In 1764, James Madison, Senior, father of President James Madison, built the Montpelier house in Orange County, Virginia. James Madison Junior, the Fourth President of the United States, was born at Port Conway, Virginia, Bear Fredericksburg, and grew up at the Montpelier home. Madison would take ownership of the house after his parents passing and lived with his wife Dolly Madison at the home.
In 1714, Lieutenant Governor Alexander Spotswood established Fort Germanna in present day Orange County, Virginia. The name Germanna, which was selected by Governor Alexander Spotswood, reflected both the German immigrants who sailed across the Atlantic to Virginia and the British Queen, Anne, who was in power at the time of the first settlement at Germanna.
In present time, Fort Germanna has a visitor center which has information, about the various historical structures that used to exist around the fort, in addition to the archeological work that is currently being done to excavate the remains of those structures.
The history of Orange County, Virginia dates back to the mid-eighteenth century when it was named after William IV, Prince of Orange, according to a proclamation from 1734.
The Battle of the Wilderness was the beginning of General Ulysses S. Grant’s Union Army offensive to overtake the Confederate Capital in Richmond, that began in Febuary 1964. The Battle of the Wilderness was the first time General Grant’s and General Lee’s armies combated one another during the U.S. Civil War.
While the Union army outnumbered the Confederate army, the advantage in numbers was undermined by the thick woods, that the troops encountered during the parts of the battle in the wilderness of Orange and Spotslyvania Counties, that made it difficult to advance forward in an orderly fashion.
Part of the Battle of the Wilderness occurred during a forest fire. Some soldiers returned to fight were the fire occurred to see skeletons of dead soldiers who had their bodies burned.