One day shy of summer, the spring edition of Don Hakenson’s twice-yearly Mosby Tour kicked off from the Truro Anglican Church in Fairfax City, Virginia. He was assisted by LTC (R) Eric Buckland, author of several books on Mosby’s Keydet Rangers and Mosby’s Men. Don has been conducting these tours for 15 years, as part of the Stuart-Mosby Historical Society. A large air-conditioned bus was provided for the attendees, which included at least four couples. Even Don’s wife Carol came along for the ride.
What is now the Truro Church Rectory was the Dr. William P. Gunnell House in the early 1860s. By 1863, the house had been confiscated by the Union Army and was occupied by Gen. Edwin Stoughton. It was here, in the early morning of March 9, 1863, that the sleeping general was disturbed by a slap on his hindquarters. Immediately bolting awake, he demanded:
“What is the meaning of this!”
The man doing the slapping responded:
“Pardon, sir, but have you heard of Mosby?”
“Of course I have! Have you caught him?”
“No, sir. I am Mosby and I have caught you!”
The tour started on the exact spot where John S. Mosby became notorious in the North and a hero in the South. Fairfax City is also the site of the first Confederate officer killed in the Civil War (Capt. John Quincy Marr, June 1, 1861) and the birthplace of the Confederate battle flag.
The first dismount was the Stuart-Mosby Civil War Cavalry Museum (http://www.stuart-mosby.com/stuart-mosby-cavalry-museum) in Centreville. Tour participants could handle Colonel Mosby’s Colt .44 cap and ball pistol (recently donated by a Mosby descendant) and the silver cup given by the Chinese merchants of Hong Kong to U.S. Consul Mosby for his six years of exemplary service from 1879 until 1885. From there the bus headed out Route 66 West to Route 29 South, past historic Civil War sites in Gainesville, Buckland Tavern (where JEB Stuart spent the night of June 25, 1863, on his way to Gettysburg), and New Baltimore. Don and Eric kept up a running commentary throughout the tour.
The next stop was Warrenton Cemetery, where Colonel Mosby and several of his rangers are buried. We pulled up behind another bus which contained a Mosby Tour group visiting from Leesburg, led by Mosby scholar Horace Mewborn. Close to Colonel Mosby’s grave was the grave of Richard Montjoy, whom Mosby considered one of his best officers, killed in action in November 1863.
The group remounted and drove past several other Mosby sites in Warrenton, including the house where he lived after the Civil War, which was a museum from March 2013 until November 2014, but is now closed. For more information, check out the museum website (www.mosbymuseum.org). This writer was the docent at the Mosby Museum and can be contacted for further information.
From Warrenton, the bus headed south for a dismount at a closed Pizza Parlor in Opal. During the Civil War it was known as Fayettesville. On September 16, 1863, Lieutenant Turner and Billy Smith led a party of 30 Rangers and captured four sutler wagons, 12 horses and two mules. The men had surprised the owner and Union guards who were inside the shop playing cards. They loaded themselves with sutler goods of every description, then set fire to the rest of the goods and wagons. On November 21, 1863, Mosby attacked some Union wagons at the same place.
The next stop was Fleetwood Hill, site of the Battle of Brandy Station (June 9, 1863), the largest cavalry engagement of the Civil War. The conflict lasted 11 hours, and although the Confederates managed to retain the field, it was the first time the Union Cavalry went toe-to-toe with the Confederate cavalry. JEB Stuart would take serious criticism for being surprised at Brandy Station. This is considered the opening battle in what became the Gettysburg Campaign. This is also where Mosby captured Robert Sneden, Union soldier and famed artist/mapmaker, in November 1863.
After lunch in Culpeper, there were stops at Fairview Cemetery (resting place for Rangers William Farley, James Wiltshire and Stacey Bispham). Nearby is the Masonic Cemetery, where Rangers John J. Fray and Richard Lewis are buried. Then the tour proceeded 10 miles north of Culpeper, to the historic Little Fork Episcopal Church (constructed 1773-76), where Company D of the Little Fork Rangers were formed. The church is in need of funds to upkeep this Colonial gem in excellent condition (www.littleforkchurch.org/Church-Groups/Little-Fork-Preservation-Committee).
From there democracy reigned on the bus and it was on to the Gray Ghost Winery in Amisville, where the spirit of Colonel Mosby is honored in the home-grown Virginia wines. Don is planning his next Mosby Tour on September 19, 2015. when the bus will visit Mosby sites in Loudoun County. Three of the sites the bus will visit will be the Ebenezer Church, where Mosby divided the money obtained from the Greenback Raid; the North Fork Church, where Company H of the Rangers was formed on April 6, 1865; and the location of the fight at Hamiliton against Union Col. Marcus Reno that occurred on March 21, 1865. For more information, check out Don’s website (www.hakenson.org) and Eric’s website (www.mosbymen.com).
-William S. Connery is a frequent contributor to the Courier. He is the author of the History Press book Mosby’s Raids in Civil War Northern Virginia and for two years was docent at the Mosby House Museum in Warrenton, Virginia. He is available for talks on his books and other War Between the States topics and can be reached at email@example.com.
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