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Sterling in Loudoun County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Ambush at Ankers's Shop

“It was a complete surprise”

 
 
Ambush at Ankers's Shop Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, May 11, 2011
1. Ambush at Ankers's Shop Marker
Inscription. Samuel and Henrietta Ankers lived at this site during the Civil War. On the morning of February 22, 1864, just outside their front door, about 160 of Confederate Lt. Col. John Singleton Mosby's horsemen ambushed 150 of Union Capt. J. Sewall Reed's cavalrymen. During the previous two days, Reed and his men - primarily the 16th New York Cavalry and Californians in the 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry - had ridden from Vienna west through Middleburg and Rector's Crossroads hunting unsuccessfully for Mosby. Reed was returning eastward along the Dranesville Turnpike (present-day U.S. Route 7) to your right when Mosby sprang his trap.

Mosby's men were hidden in a pine thicket south of the road, below the ridge line of Bridges Hill near Ankers's blacksmith shop. As the advance guard rode by, Mosby blew his whistle, and his men opened fire and then charged into the road. The Federals rallied, but the surprise and ferocity of the attack broke their column. Some fled to the nearby Potomac River.

One Confederate was killed and 5 were wounded. Reed was killed, as were at least 12 other Federals, while 25 were wounded and more than 50 were captured. Some of the dead were buried in the Ankers family cemetery, and some of the wounded were tended to in the house. Later, about 35 of the captured Union soldiers died of illness or disease at the
Map of the Action image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, May 11, 2011
2. Map of the Action
infamous prison camp at Andersonville, Georgia. Mosby and his men continued to harass the Federals until war's end.

"It was a complete surprise, and would have confused the best organized soldiers in the world."
- Pvt. Charles P. Briggs, Co. A, 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry

(Sidebar):
Johnathan Edwards Ankers, son of SAmuel and Henrietta Ankers, was a youth during the war. According to family tradition, he was told to stay away from the windows of his house to avoid being shot during nearby engagements.
 
Erected 2011 by Virginia Civil War Trails.
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the Virginia Civil War Trails marker series.
 
Location. 39° 1.608′ N, 77° 23.597′ W. Marker is in Sterling, Virginia, in Loudoun County. Marker is on Harry Byrd Highway (State Highway 7), on the right when traveling west. Click for map. Located on the grounds of Northern Virginia Community College (Loudoun Campus). Marker is in this post office area: Sterling VA 20165, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. "The Ankerage" (within shouting distance of this marker); Gettysburg Campaign (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); Guilford Signal Station
Portrait of John S. Mosby image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, May 11, 2011
3. Portrait of John S. Mosby
(approx. 0.8 miles away); Vestal's Gap Road in the 1800s (approx. 0.8 miles away); Vestal's Gap Road (approx. 0.8 miles away); Lanesville Historic Area (approx. 0.8 miles away); Lanesville House and Vestal's Gap Road (approx. 0.8 miles away); The Braddock Campaign (approx. 0.8 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Sterling.
 
Also see . . .  Second Dranesville. Also known as the Ankers' Shop fight. (Submitted on May 11, 2011, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.) 
 
Categories. War, US Civil
 
Portrait of Captain J. Sewall Reed image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, May 11, 2011
4. Portrait of Captain J. Sewall Reed
Portrait of Prt. Joseph H. Burke image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, May 11, 2011
5. Portrait of Prt. Joseph H. Burke
Pvt. Joseph H. Burke, Co. M, 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry, was captured here. He died at Andersonville on July 4, 1864. Co. A. ("California Hundred") and Cos. E, F, L, and M ("California Battalion") were organized in San Francisco, Ca. Photo courtesy of Michael Sorenson Collection.
Site of Ankers' Homestead and Cemetery image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, May 11, 2011
6. Site of Ankers' Homestead and Cemetery
Geese frequent the location, close to a heavily traveled modern highway.
Mosby's Blocking Position image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, May 11, 2011
7. Mosby's Blocking Position
Looking southeast from the cemetery location down modern day Virginia Highway 7. Ankers' Shop stood just to the south (right) of the highway near the intersection in the distance. Mosby set a blocking force of three men across the pike near the intersection. The remainder of the Confederates hid in a wooded area to the south (right) of the pike.
Capture of the Federals image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, May 11, 2011
8. Capture of the Federals
Looking northwest from the cemetery location. When the trap sprang, Confederates swept across the pike, past the Ankers' homestead, and over what is today the college parking area. Most of the Federals surrendered in this area.
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 1,271 times since then and 11 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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