“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
The Plains in Fauquier County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)

The Plains

The Death of a “Jessie Scout”


—Mosby’s Confederacy, First Manassas Campaign, Second Manassas Campaign —

The Plains Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 23, 2007
1. The Plains Marker
Inscription. The Plains, situated on the Manassas Gap Railroad between Piedmont Station and Manassas Junction, was frequently traversed by troops from both sides.

Throughout the war, local resident Edward (Ned) Carter Turner kept a detailed diary. Ned’s son, who died while in service, served with Mosby’s Rangers while Ned’s brother was a Rear Admiral in the U.S. Navy. On August 30, 1862, following the Battle of Second Manassas, Turner wrote: “The fighting portion of the army [Confederate Army of Northern Virginia] has passed, but the whole country is swarming with stragglers or deserters who are making themselves extremely troublesome to the people. Our yards are crowded with them all day and the bar and stable lofts at night. They are begging for food of people who have none to give and are insolent and revengeful when disappointed.”

Two days before, on August 28, a Federal spy was hanged on an oak tree just east of here (on modern Route 55). Jack Sterry was caught by Confederate Gen. John Hood and judged a “Jessie Scout,” named for Jessie Fremont, wife of Union Gen. John Fremont, who suggested that Federal spies avoid detection by dressing in Confederate uniforms. Sterry was discovered when the soldier from whom he stole the uniform was found nearby, mortally wounded. The dying soldier identified his
Intersection of John Marshall and Old Tavern Road (Va 55 and 245) image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 23, 2007
2. Intersection of John Marshall and Old Tavern Road (Va 55 and 245)
assailant, and the swift sentence was determined by a drum-head court. Nearly 75 years later, highway workers unearthed the remains of two soldiers, thought to be the spy and his victim, when widening Route 55.

Dr. Edward Clarke, a local physician, was a spy of a different sort. As Union troops passed his porch (now 6494 Main St.), he casually whittled a stick, carving a notch for each piece of artillery. A manservant took the notched stick to waiting Confederate officers.
Erected by Civil War Trails.
Marker series. This marker is included in the Virginia Civil War Trails marker series.
Location. 38° 51.722′ N, 77° 46.451′ W. Marker is in The Plains, Virginia, in Fauquier County. Marker is at the intersection of Main Street/John Marshall Highway (Virginia Route 55) and Old Tavern Road/Fauquier Ave (Virginia Route 245), on the right when traveling east on Main Street/John Marshall Highway. Click for map. Marker is in this post office area: The Plains VA 20198, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 5 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Campaign of Second Manassas (approx. 0.2 miles away); Number 18 School (approx. 3.1 miles away); Thoroughfare Gap
The Clarke House image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 23, 2007
3. The Clarke House
Location where Dr. Clarke "whittled" while the Union army proceeded through town.
(approx. 4.3 miles away); a different marker also named Campaign of Second Manassas (approx. 4.3 miles away); a different marker also named Thoroughfare Gap (approx. 4.3 miles away); McClellan Relieved From Command (approx. 4.3 miles away); Salem (approx. 4.3 miles away); Mosby’s Rangers Disband (approx. 4.4 miles away).
More about this marker. Caption under main Picture: “Crossing the Manassas Gap Railroad, and Alexandria and Warrington (sic) Turnpike, at White Plains;” so reads the incorrect caption to an engraving in the September 28, 1861, edition of Harper’s Weekly. The mistake originated in the 1859 edition of the Nine-sheet Map of Virginia which misidentified the Plains and White Plains.

The marker also features a small picture of John S. Mosby.
Regarding The Plains. The exact sites of the hanging of Jack Sterry and where the bodies were exhumed 75 years later is not reported accurately in any source.
Additional comments.
1. Place Name Confusion
As mentioned in the caption for the woodcutting on the marker, the name of The Plains was incorrectly marked on maps prior to the Civil War. The Plains should not be confused with White Plains, VA, in the Southern section of the Commonwealth. When reading official dispatches from the Civil War period, accounts use both names depending on the source.
    — Submitted June 23, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.

2. The Plains Name Confusion
I found Craig Swain's comments informative. I have been struggling with understanding the Confederate troop movements described in my great grandfather's diary of his time in the 13th Miss Infantry. Apparently he used the term "white plains" to describe a campsite used during the retreat from Leesburg. He also used the spelling "Warrington", I assume from Warrenton which he described as 12.5 miles from "The Plains". Curious that the Harper's print has the same two errors.
    — Submitted January 30, 2012, by Robert Thompson of New Orleans, Louisiana.

Categories. War, US Civil
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 1,661 times since then and 97 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. • J. J. Prats was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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