Centreville in Fairfax County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
St. John's Episcopal Church
Still Faithful after the Ravages of War
Passing armies occupied and fortified Centreville, positioned between Washington, D.C., and Manassas Junction, beginning in July 1861 when Confederate and Union forces met during the war's first significant campaign. As American and British journalists sought to understand the First Battle of Manassas and define the character of its combatants, the “desecration” of “the little Episcopal church on the “hill” that once stood here became newsworthy.
Days after the defeat of the Union army, correspondents for the Richmond Dispatch reported that Saint John's Church was covered with drawings and insults to the Confederacy. A British journalist wrote that he was horrified that “a building devoted to the worship of the Omnipotent had been desecrated and polluted by the enemy.” The New York Times denied that Federal soldiers were responsible. In a front-page story, a Times correspondent described his visit to the church before the battle and pointed to evidence of abuse by Southern soldiers stationed in Centreville prior to the Federal advance. The church vandals, he concluded,
The little church was destroyed later in the war, as were many houses, farms, and trees around Centreville. Describing the town in his Sketchbook, Alexander Gardner wrote, “War crushed it. … Scarcely a vestige of its former self remains.” In 1872, the parishioners completed the church that stands before you. A keyhole visible in the ceiling suggests that they scavenged wood, including doors, from Centreville's many ruins.
A mile southwest of here, Confederate soldiers Dennis Corcoran and Michael O'Brien were the first to be executed for mutiny. They were re-interred here in St. John's churchyard in 1979. The remains of unknown Confederate soldiers killed in the Battle of Dranesville on December 22, 1861, are also buried here.
Erected 2012 by Virginia Civil War Trails.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Cemeteries & Burial Sites • Churches & Religion • War, US Civil. In addition, it is included in the Virginia Civil War Trails series list. A significant historical month for this entry is July 1861.
Location. 38° 50.478′ Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 5649 Mount Gilead Road, Centreville VA 20120, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. A different marker also named St. John's Episcopal Church (within shouting distance of this marker); Historic Centreville Park (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Mount Gilead (about 700 feet away); A Place on the High Ground (about 700 feet away); Mount Gilead Historic Site (about 700 feet away); Harrison House (approx. 0.2 miles away); Newgate Tavern (approx. 0.2 miles away); Convicts and Slaves (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Centreville.
More about this marker. On the lower left of the marker is a photo captioned St. John's Church, constructed about 1850, 1862 photo Courtesy Library of Congress. On the upper center of the marker is a photo captioned Centreville, abandoned Confederate winter quarters, March 1862, with St. John's Church on far right horizon - Courtesy Library of Congress. The right side of the marker displays a map captioned Plan of Federal Works, Centreville - Courtesy Library of Congress.
Also see . . .
1. St. John's Church. -Northern Virginia History Notes, Debbie Robison (Submitted on July 4, 2012.)
2. A Tiger Execution. -The New York Times, Terry L. Jones (Submitted on July 4, 2012.)
Credits. This page was last revised on May 15, 2021. It was originally submitted on July 4, 2012. This page has been viewed 1,299 times since then and 24 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on July 4, 2012. • Craig Swain was the editor who published this page.