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

Rappahannock County in the Civil War

Rappahannock County in the Civil War Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Devry Becker Jones (CC0), April 17, 2021
1. Rappahannock County in the Civil War Marker
While there were no large-scale military actions, several dozen skirmishes and many troop movements occurred here. As a gateway to the northern Shenandoah Valley, the county was a major thoroughfare for both Union and Confederate forces on a number of occasions. It was also a part of the territory known as (Colonel John) Mosby's Confederacy. Three important regional roads, the north-south Richmond Road & Sperryville-Thornton Gap Turnpike & the east-west Warrenton-Rappahannock turnpike would witness the passage of the most or all of Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia in the campaigns of 2nd Manassas, Antietam & Gettysburg. The fords near the headwaters of the Rappahannock River would play important roles in each of these movements.

In the most notable military encounter here, Gen George Custer would be lucky to escape with his life following an attack on Confederate General A.P. Hill's Corps at Newby's Crossroads during its march south after Gettysburg. For valor in this incident two of Custer's men were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Confederate General JEB Stuart's cavalry traversed the county a number of times.

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Famous for his vanity, Stuart lost half of his mustache (and nearly his life) during a sharp exchange with Union forces at Corbin's Crossroads near Amissville.

The Union Army of Virginia under General John Pope would be located in the county during the summer of 1862. This occupying force brought with it the deprivations of 'total war', a Union strategy designed to inflict pain upon the civilians supporting the rebel army. Pope vigorously expressed the concept through a number of infamous orders, but he was merely expressing the methods of the Confederate Acts recently passed by the U.S. Congress. Crops, livestock, and structures were confiscated or destroyed. Residents were required to take a loyalty oath to the Union; those who would not were threatened with property loss and/or death. Many residents left the county to find refuge with friends or family away from the war zone. When not harassing the citizens, Pope's army had its own difficulties. Many hundreds of cases of typhoid fever occurred with its camps, between Sperryville and Gaines Crossroads (BenVenue). A large number of the infected soldiers died and many were buried in or near Washington.

Of about 6,000 white residents in 1860, over 1000 men served in the military during the war. Most joined Rappahannock-based units (e.g. Flint Hill Rifles, Sperryville Sharpshooters, etc.) in the regular Confederate army.

Rappahannock County in the Civil War Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Devry Becker Jones (CC0), April 17, 2021
2. Rappahannock County in the Civil War Marker
Others became members of Mosby's partisan rangers. Although Southern sentiment dominated resident's service, several Rappahannock natives joined the Union army and at least five Afro-Americans were members of the United States Colored Troops. Over 100 of these soldiers were killed in action and at least 80 died from wounds or disease. 170 of Rappahannock's soldiers were prisoners of war at least once during the war, and some were captured 2 to 4 time. Some died in prison camps. The many hollows along the Blue Ridge served as convenient hideaways for deserters or draft dodgers. Late in the war, the Confederacy operated camp at Rock Mills with the specific mission to track down deserters. Rappahannock units participated in many of the important campaign of the war including 1st & 2nd Manassas. The Seven Days, Antietam, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Spotsylvania, and Petersburg.

In 1860 there were some 3520 slaves and 312 free blacks in Rappahannock Country. Approximately 400 Rappahannock whites owned slaves. Most slave owners had 2-5 slaves who worked side by side with their owner. Several large landowners owned 20 or more slaves, a few had over 50. Slave labor was employed in the construction of many of county buildings and homes. Although much of the slave's history is lost, several poignant oral histories and written records provide some insight into their lives; one local

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slave Eliza Brown Davidson, who met General Custer during his visit here, later accompanied his family on their western adventures and wrote about her experiences. A number of well-preserved slave quarters also provide stark reminders of the lives and circumstances of these forgotten people who played a major role in county history.

Civil War Trails Sites in Rappahannock County
The Gettysburg Campaign
1. Hittle's Mill - Leading Lee's Second Northern Invasion
Confederate Gen. Robert Rodes' division, the vanguard of Lee's Army, camped here June 11, 1863 on the march to Gettysburg.

2. Woodville Camps - First Waypoint to Gettysburg
Woodville's location, about one days march from Culpeper, made it a frequent campground for both Union and Confederate Armies. Approximately ½ of Lee's Army of No. Virginia passed here en route to and from the Battle of Gettysburg.

3. Sperryville - Important Crossroads
With its strategic location near one of the gaps in the Blue Ridge at the intersection of roads leading to Culpeper, Warrenton, and the Shenandoah Valley Sperryville saw much troop activity during the Civil War.

4. Music, Omens, and Destiny - Heth's Camp
Henry Heth's division of Lee's Army of No. Virginia camped here en route to Pennsylvania in the summer of 1863. Heth's men would initiate the Battle of Gettysburg.

5. Gaines Crossroads - The Animal must be very Slim
Lee's entire army passed through this intersection on the march to Gettysburg; two-thirds of the forces passed again on the retreat. George Pickett's division camped here. Gen Richard Ewell used Ben Venue mansion as his headquarters.

6. Encounter With Lee - "Don't You Ever Forget It"
When a Confederate officer asked a young boy where to find a drink, the child had no idea of the man's identity. As the soldiers departed another turned to the boy and said, "that's Robert E. Lee, and don't you ever forget it!"

7. Minding The Gaps - A Fatal Oversight
A day long skirmish took place here on July 21-22 as Union forces attempted but failed to block Lee's Army on the retreat from Gettysburg.

8. Battle Mountain - Custer's Early Last Stand
During the Confederate retreat from Gettysburg, Union Gen. George Custer attacked portions of A.P. Hill's & Longstreet's Corps strung out along the road at this intersection. Confederates south of this location doubled back and nearly flanked Custer who narrowly escaped to Amissville by bushwhacking cross-country. Two Union men received the Congressional Medal of Honor for actions here.

John Pope's Union Army of Virginia
9. Union Army of Virginia - John Pope's Pronouncements
The Union Army of Virginia was formed in June, 1862 by combining three smaller armies that had fought (and lost to) Stonewall Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley campaign. Gen. John Pope, who was appointed the commander would issue an infamous series of statements and orders that would enrage both friend and foe.

10. Chester Gap - Gateway to the Shenandoah Valley
Chester Gap was an important strategic and tactical passageway between the Piedmont and the northern Shenandoah Valley. Its 1st major use was by Nathaniel Banks 2nd Corps of Pope's Army of Virginia.

11. Banks's Camp - The Lull Between the Storms
The Union Corps of Nathaniel Banks camped here for a month in the Summer of 1862 following their defeat by Stonewall Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley. They would move on in August to bear a major portion of the fighting at Cedar Mountain, just south of Culpeper.

12. Charles Czaky Nordendorf - Changing Sides
Nordendorf was a was a Prussian immigrant who served as an aide and scout for Union Gen. Nathaniel Banks when the 2nd Corps camped here in the summer of 1862, often providing inaccurate information. In late 1862, Nordendorf switched sides, serving as an engineer for the Confederacy and a prolific composer of Southern patriotic songs.

13. A Tale of Two Mills - Trading and Burial Ground
During the Civil War, at least two mills stood along the Rush River in this area on the property of John Jett. These included the Baggerly/Jett/Calvert/Washington/Avon Mill which served as a neutral trading spot and a second, the Schwartz/Jett/Calvert/Estes Mill, about a half mile downstream with a Union burial ground nearby.

14. Banks's Grand Review - "Ruffles, Flourishes, Heat, Drill"
The 2nd Corps of Union Gen. Nathaniel Banks camped to the east and south of Little Washington and conducted daily drills in the fields directly to the southeast of this location including a massive Grand Reviews by Banks and Pope. An army telegraph line to Sperryville ran past this point.

15. Banks's Grand Review Corps - "I'm Going to fight mit Sigel"
Union Gen. Franz Sigel commanded the 1st Corps of the Army of Virginia during its occupation of Sperryville in 1862. With "Sigel, who was German and such fellow ex-revolutionaries as Carl Schurz, Alex Schimmelfennig, and others with clearly "foreign" names, including Poles like Krzyzanowski, and Frenchman Gustave Cluseret the public and the newspapers spawned the image of a German Corps.

16. Rehearsals for Fame - Notable Footprints from the German Corps
Pope's Army of Virginia contained a number of junior officers who would rise to prominence later in the war. Several of those who achieved fame are presented here.

17. Hint of Total War - "Pope Must Be Suppressed"
Union General John Pope and his Army of Virginia brought 'total' war to Rappahannock County in the July and August 1862 two years before Gen. William Sherman's more destructive 'March to the Sea'. This Union policy was designed to inflict intense pain on civilians who supported the Southern cause, pain that was particularly acute in Sperryville.

18. Milroy's Camp - Woodville
Union General Robert Milroy camped here during the Union occupation of 1862. Numerous slaves flocked to his camp where he employed them as cooks, teamsters, pioneers and laborers. Milroy rounded up much of the local white population who he forced to take loyalty oaths. A large mock battle took place near here during Milroy's encampment.

19. Kitty Payne - Freedom Lost and Regained
Katherine "Kitty" Payne, born into slavery in 1816 near present-day Huntly in northern Rappahannock County, was freed, captured in Pennsylvania by slave catchers and returned here where she endured a year-long court proceedings to determine her status. She was eventually freed once more and returned to Gettysburg, PA, where her husband, Abraham Brian would own a farm on the future battlefield.

20. Twilight of Slavery - Enlightened Accommodations No Match for Freedom
The Ben Venue slave cabins are among the mos sophisticated examples of such quarters in Virginia. Most housing for slaves consisted of shacks or log cabins with stick-and-mud chimneys and little ventilation. During the antebellum period, however, prosperous owners sometimes constructed more substantial quarters in prominent location as visible expressions of wealth.

21. Sister Caroline - From Slavery to Freedom
Caroline Terry, known locally as "Sis-tah Cah-line" (1833-1941) was born a slave, perhaps in Southampton County, but spent most of her life in Rappahannock County. During the Civil War she worked at the Sperryville Hotel and acquired several military relics when soldiers camped in this area. Three of her children were likely fathered by her owner and his son.

22. Dangerfield Newby - Tragic Journey to Harper's Ferry
Dangerfield Newby was one of the John Brown raiders at Harper's Ferry. Newby had attempted to purchase the freedom of his wife, Harriett, who was enslaved in Brentsville, Prince William County, but could not raise sufficient funds. He joined Brown's raid in a futile hope of freeing his wife. Newby was the first raider killed. The Newby ancestral home (Dangerfield's grandfather and father) is located at this crossroads.

23. Eliza Brown and the Custers - "Standin' up for Liberty
Eliza Brown, a slave on a local plantation, met Union General George Custer here in 1863 and became the longtime cook and servant for Custer and his family, traveling west with them following the war. She was known for her outspokenness and bravery under fire.

Mosby's Rangers
24. Albert Gallatin Willis - A Life Laid Down for a Friend
During a mortal feud between Confederate ranger John Mosby and Union Generals Sheridan and Custer in the fall of 1864, one of Mosby's men, Albert G. Willis was captured with a comrade at Ben Venue. The men were brought north of Flint Hill where he was to be hanged. In an ultimate gesture of sacrifice, Willis offered to take the place of his comrade. He is buried on the grounds of the Flint Hill Baptist Church.

25. Mosby and Snoden - The Gray Ghost and the Artist
New York City native Robert Knox Sneden, an architect and engineer, was captured by Mosby Rangers at Brandy Station and passed through Woodville on a route that would eventually take him to Andersonville Prison in Georgia. Sneden left a detailed account of his experience as well as 100's of color drawings of scenes from the war.

2nd Manassas and Antietam Campaigns
26. Hinson's Ford - Important River Crossing on a Historic March
Nearby lies Hinson's Ford, the 1st large fordable crossing point on the Rappahannock River above Waterloo Bridge. On August 25, 1862 Stonewall Jackson crossed this ford en route to the Union rear at Manassas Junction. He was followed a day later by Longstreet's Corps and Robert E. Lee. After destroying Union supply trains there on August 27, Jackson proceeded to just west of Groveton. One day later his attack on a Union column marching north from Warrenton initiated the 2nd Battle of Manassas.

27. Corbin's Crossroads - Stuart's Close Shave
About 1 mile south of Amissville in November, 1863 JEB Stuart and John Pelham had a day-long skirmish with Union forces during which a portion of Stuart's mustache was shot away.

Miscellaneous Sites
28. The Rappahannock Old Guard - The Black Flag
This unit, comprised almost exclusively of county residents played a key role in the final action of the Battle of Front Royal on May 23, 1862 at Cedarville. Despite enormous casualties they made a change at Union Cavalry that led to capture of a large number of prisoners.

29. Honored in Their Generation - Confederate Monument ca. 1900
This monument commissioned by the Rappahannock County Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1900 was the work of Herbert Barbee (1848-1938), a son of famed sculptor William Randolph Barbee. The names of 115 County soldiers killed in the war are inscribed on the monument.

30. The Mapple - Host to Generals
Middleton Miller built this residence circa 1840. Miller owned a woolen factory on the Rappahannock River near Waterloo about 15 miles to the east that manufactured "Confederate Gray" cloth. The factory was destroyed by Union troops early in the Civil War. Nonetheless Miller was a generous host to both Northern and Southern officers who passed through Little Washington.

31. Medical Miracle - "A Chance in Twenty"
When Confederate Major Richard Snowden abdomen was ripped open by a shell at the Battle of Cedar Mountain, his wounded was deemed fatal. Two brotehrs from Rappahannock County, Drs. Thomas and William Arniss, nursed him back to life in what was and is considered a medical miracle. The marker recognized the office of William Arniss.

32. Thorn on Gap - Tactical Mountain Pass
This gap in the Blue Ridge was used as a thoroughfare for both Northern and Southern troops. It visibility to both the east ans west made it an important location for a visual signal station. Union forces held the gap during the occupation of Rappahannock County in the summer of 1862. Ewell's Corps of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia crossed here on the retreat from Gettysburg.

33. Slate Mills - Reconnaissance, Advance, Retreat
This area was often patrolled by both Union and Confederate forces reconnoitering near the Blue Ridge. Confederate forces camped near here on the retreat from Gettysburg. A.P. Hill's Corps used this relatively protected route during the Bristoe Station campaign.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African AmericansWar, US Civil. In addition, it is included in the Medal of Honor Recipients series list. A significant historical year for this entry is 1862.
Location. 38° 42.859′ N, 78° 8.831′ W. Marker is in Washington, Virginia, in Rappahannock County. Marker is at the intersection of Library Road (County Road 683) and Old Mill Road (County Road 683), on the right when traveling west on Library Road. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 3 Library Rd, Washington VA 22747, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Rappahannock People Before and During the Civil War (here, next to this marker); The Rappahannock Old Guard (here, next to this marker); Union Army of Virginia 2nd (Banks's) Corps Encampment (here, next to this marker); Charles C. Nordendorf (here, next to this marker); Union Army of Virginia (here, next to this marker); Banks's Camp (here, next to this marker); Washington, Virginia (within shouting distance of this marker); A Tale of Two Mills (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Washington.
Additional keywords. loyalty oaths

Credits. This page was last revised on April 18, 2021. It was originally submitted on April 18, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 537 times since then and 261 times this year. Last updated on April 18, 2021, by Bradley Owen of Morgantown, West Virginia. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on April 18, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.

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Sep. 26, 2023