Saturday, July 31, 2010

A move to the Rappahannock

Today at Warrenton Junction; July 31, 1863

From the diary of Colonel Charles S. Wainwright

We have now been in this spot for nearly a week, so I suspect no one will be sorry to move out of it tomorrow, which we have orders to do in the direction of Rappahannock Station. The weather is really warm, hot one you may call, and this low spot very close, with the woods very close. The whole army army I believe is to move up to the line of the river.

The army would indeed move up to the Rappahannock; and while some would disagree, I state that the last phase of the Gettysburg campaign is about to begin.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Washin' my drawers

Today at Brandy Station: July 30, 1863

Another entry from the diary of Private Edwin Weist of the 20th Indiana

Camp near Warrenton. Mailed a letter to Anna this morning. The day has been pleasant with the appearance of rain. I was about two miles from camp this morning in search of du berries. The officers are ordered to make out a requisition for camp or garrison equipage. The first Brigade changed camp this morning. The reg. was inspected by Brigade inspection. I washed a pair of drawers to day in the creek was pretty hard work. About 11. o.clock we moved camp moving about forty feet and went into camp by column of Divisions. Had some heavy shower of rain this afternoon. Commenced a letter to cousin Carrie.

Yes - Edwin had a busy day.
-Mailed a letter
-Search for du berries
-change camp
-regimental inspection
-washed his drawers
-dealt with a summer shower
-wrote a letter

Such is the life of a private.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Resting and refitting the cavalry

Today at Brandy Station: July 29, 1863
The 2nd Virginia Cavalry Regiment's commander, Colonel Thomas Munford establishes a horse pasture for the broken-down horses in the regiment, in order to restore them to duty. He did this in spite of orders from Stuart to the contrary. The horses of the sick and wounded men were kept there also, until the men returned.

As we all know, the Gettysburg Campaign was brutal on the Confederate horseflesh, and Munford would do what he could to reconstitute those horses (and men) who could be brought back into active service

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Back in Fauquier

Today in Brandy Station: July 27, 1863

From the diary of Private Edwin Weist, 20th Indiana Infantry

"Camp near Warrenton. It has rained some little to day. Col. Berdan has placed guards all around the camp and does not allow anyone to pass out even for water without a pass. I wrote a letter to father to day. We had word day before yesterday while marching through Gen. Ward that Indiana had captured Morgan and his whole force. We have three cheers for the gallant old state and its gallant Governor."

The Army of Northern Virginia has been followed down the Shenandoah and Loudoun Valley's by the Army of the Potomac and, crossing the 'Dare mark line' of the Rappahannock River, is settling into Culpeper and Orange Counties.

The Army of the Potomac, is filtering down into Fauquier County. The 20th Indiana, part of the First Division of the Third Corps, encamped around Warrenton, Virginia. Their stay however, would be short. On July 31, they would travel by foot, train and boat -- to New York City, to quell the draft riots which erupted in that city. The 20th Indiana would be in New York for two and a half months.

As for John Hunt Morgan, well his stay up north would not be as long as some had hoped.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Presque Isle

Today at Brandy Station: July 26, 2010

As it appeared in today's Culpeper Star Exponent.

A peek inside Presque Isle

By Rhonda Simmons Published: July 26, 2010
Sitting atop a grassy knoll near the confluence of the Rappahannock and Hazel Rivers in eastern Culpeper County, a stately brick house has stood the test of time.
The 19th century 4,500-square-foot Federal-style house accommodated Union head-quarters during the American Civil War and generations of local families over the years.
Built in 1813, Presque Isle features original hardwood floors, several fireplaces, four bedrooms, a renovated kitchen, ornate plaster moldings, a basement and an attic.
“This home is a historical marvel. It’s not only unique in its presentation in Culpeper County, this house would be unique and a rare gem wherever it’s at,” said historian Clark “Bud” Hall, president of the Brandy Station Foundation.
Homeowners Alan and Phyllis Johnson of Orange County opened their historic home to the public on Sunday for a fundraising event.
As part of the Museum of Culpeper History’s 10-year-anniversary on Main Street, a total of 130 guests gathered on the house’s manicured lawn and listened to Mountain Remedy during the Picnic at Presque Isle.
“They’re doing this as a gift to the museum and we are doing this as a thank you to all of the members in the community,” said museum executive director Lee Langston-Harrison.
The menu included hot dogs, hamburgers, baked beans, cole slaw, fresh fruit, pasta salad, lemonade and iced tea.
Located at the end of a three-mile gravel road, the 135-acre plantation includes a pond, five wells, three natural springs, two brick buildings used as slave quarters, an old blacksmith shop and several rental properties.
Planter Alan Johnson, who purchased the property in 2003, also uses the land to grow soybeans.
“We’ve been working on the farm for all of these years and you never finish,” said Alan Johnson. “The millwork, floors and doors are all original. It’s a unique place.”
The couple tried to keep the house in its original condition except for a few upgrades.
“It’s just so unique to keep it the way it was,” said Phyllis Johnson. “So many times people buy places and you don’t even recognize them because they’ve added so much stuff and changed things around.”

History of the home
The property actually dates back to the archaic period, according to Hall, who served at the event’s guest speaker.
“This was determined by an archeological (study),” said Hall, a close friend of the Johnsons. “This was the home of prehistoric peoples. That’s been documented by finds on the property particularly the spear points.”
Manahoac Indians, a Siouan tribe, also occupied the property, Hall added.
“They were hunters and gatherers and they camped in this area,” he said. “It’s interesting that their archeological remnants were shown to be exactly where the prehistoric camps were. They built on top of each other.”
Judge Daniel Grinnan of Fredericksburg built the house during the early 1800s and completed it in 1813.
By the Civil War, the Major family was living in the home.“What happened here during the war was profound,” Hall explained. “You didn’t see brick homes in Culpeper County during that era. People came from miles around to visit this home. This is easily the most remote house in the county. Therefore, it has always proved to be very mysterious to people.”
During the war, Presque Isle frequently changed hands between Union and Confederate control.
The property is also tactically located between Welford’s Ford on the Hazel River and Freeman’s Ford on the Rappahannock River.
“This house is situated militarily in a profoundly strategic sense in the center of two of the most important Civil War crossings. It was bound to incur Civil War activity and in truth it would.”
While the Majors family still lived in the home, Union Gen. Emory Upton and his soldiers occupied the home from December 1863 until May 1864, according to Hall.
“Just because the Yankees showed up didn’t mean they were leaving,” Hall said. “All credit to the Major family for staying in the home. Because they didn’t vacate the home, the Yankees could not tear the house apart. But if you had to turn a house over to somebody, you’d want it to be Emory Upton. He was a great guy.”
After the war, Upton was appointed commandant of West Point and published several books regarding military tactics.
“He was a very distinguished guy,” Hall said.
Want to help save a battlefield?
The Civil War Preservation Trust is trying to protect 782 acres of hallowed ground where the Battle of Brandy Station ensued.
Organizers are requesting donations of $85.68 per acre through the Help Save the Brandy Station Battlefield campaign.
The two tracts of land that make up this new effort are considered highly significant to this particular campaign that started June 9, 1863.
According to historians, the northernmost tract is where Gen. John Buford’s Union cavalry fought against Rooney Lee’s Confederate troops. The southernmost tract features land where Union cavalry under Col. Thomas Devin’s leadership clashed with Gen. Wade Hampton’s Confederate soldiers.
“There is no piece of Piedmont plain in Culpeper County that witnessed more infantry and cavalry action than this property.”
The CWPT’s goal is to raise $67,000.
To donate, visit

Friday, July 23, 2010

CWPT initiative on the Brandy Station Battlefield

Today at Brandy Station: July 23, 2010

Today, the Civil War Preservation Trust announced an effort to raise $67,000 to secure 782 acres of land on the Brandy Station Battlefield. The money will be used to pay costs of creating conservation easements on two separate properties.

What this will do is allow the owners tax credits. In return the land, no matter who owns it, cannot be improved (houses, etc.). In other words, it remains pristine. As is.

If you could place a trooper, be he blue or gray down on this acreage, he would be challenged to know what year it was. (OK, he may see cars and airplanes - but you get my point)

Please visit the CWPT website:

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Beautiful Downtown Fairfax Courthouse

Today at Brandy Station: July 15, 1862

No this image wasn't taken on July 15, but I wanted you to have a look at what the Federals might have seen as they came into Fairfax Courthouse in the summer of 1862.

Yes Fairfax. The first town in Culpeper County was originally called this. Many Civil War maps show the name Fairfax Courthouse rather than Culpeper. According to Eugene Scheel's book, Culpeper, A Virginia County's History Through 1920, the Virginia General Assembly established the town of 'Fairfax' rather than the traditionally accepted name of Culpeper Court House on February 22, 1759. However, the name was rarely used except in official documents.

The photo is from 1862, probably early August, by Timothy O'Sullivan. The Courthouse is plainly visible, when it was on the the corner of Davis and Coleman (now Main) Street. In the background is the Baptist Church. The wartime courthouse would be removed and the Courthouse was moved to its current site on Davis and West Street in July 1873.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

You Burnt What?

Today at Rapidan Station: July 13, 1862

There is a interesting exchange of correspondence found in the Official Records, tells of an incident concerning the Orange and Alexandria Railroad Bridge across the Rapidan.

In a message from Major General Nathaniel Banks to Colonel George Ruggles, Banks reports that ..."Major [James M.] Deems [First] Maryland Cavalry has returned this morning [July 14] from the front. He [Deems] reports that the party sent to burn small railroad bridges by mistake of orders destroyed the Rapidan Bridge."

Commander of the Army of Virgina, John Pope responded: "I regret very much indeed that any orders were given to burn any railroad bridges, great or small. The object of your movement was to preserve the road [referring to the O&A], not to destroy an portion of it. We are advancing and shall continue to advance, and the roads must be preserved for our use....By injuring them yo are obstructing our own movements, not those of the enemy. Be particular therefore to impress positively upon all your officers that they are to repair the roads in advance, not to destroy them. If you have a corps of workmen set them to work immediately to rebuild the small bridges that you have destroyed as rapidly as possible."

By reading Pope's message, you get a very distinct impression that he does not what any bridges burned or the railroad harmed in any way.

Hmm, (with tongue in cheek) I wonder if this is the reason Pope never advanced beyond Culpeper toward Richmond.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Occupy in Force

Today at Brandy Station: July 12, 1862

From the Official Records

To Major General N[athaniel] P. Banks

The major-general commanding desires me to state that the position he desired and designated for your right flank was a point about 8 miles east of Sperryville. He still desires you to take that position, if not already occupied. It would be even better to have your right resting not five miles from Sperryville....

General Pope does not desire a simple cavalry reconnaissance toward Culpeper. He wants that to be occupied in force, and directs that General Hatch take up his headquarters there, throwing out strong cavalry pickets at least 20 miles in the direction of Gordonsville and Richmond...

George D. Ruggles
Colonel and Chief of Staff

General Banks responded:
...Orders were issued today to send back all surplus stores and for ten days' rations. Will will march the 14th instant toward Sperryville. General [John] Hatch understands he is to occupy Culpeper as his headquarters. He has the entire cavalry force, a full battery, and the infantry he desired, and will scout the country in advance as far as he is able.

And so begins the march toward the Battle of Cedar Mountain.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Been gone, coming back

Today at Brandy Station: July 11, 2010

Yes it has been a while, and for that, I apologize. Unfortunately I have to work for a living and that has greatly impacted my spare time when I am home. This unfortunate condition will abate in a week or two.

Yesterday, I along with Brandy Station Foundation President Bud Hall spent the day with members of the National Press Club. They toured the sites on the battlefield, hiking to Buford's Knoll, walking a portions of the fields of St. James and standing on the crest of Fleetwood Heights, as Bud spoke of the stirring events that took place there. After lunch, the NPC spent about 45 minutes at the Graffiti House. Finally, as time was short, they were driven to various sites in the Stevensburg area, a section of the battlefield that is not given it's proper due.

As the day ended, the President of the NPC congratulated the Brandy Station Foundation "on the fine job BSF is doing in "protecting the interests of America's greatest cavalry battlefield."

Today, I was at the Graffiti House again, this time as a Docent, speaking with those who came to see what the house has to offer. It is always an extreme pleasure to tell the story of the house and the people who past through to our guests.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Battle of Jacks Shop Lecture and Tour

Today in Madison County: upcoming event alert: July 14, 2010

Yes the battle took place on September 22, but a lecture and tour of the fight will take place on July 14 (Bastille Day). The event is sponsored by The Madison Historical Society and the Madison Conservation Friends.

Tour of the Battle of Jack's Shop
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 9:30am Bethel United Methodist Church in Rochelle

The battle of Jack's Shop took place on 22 September in 1863. The contest was not only the biggest battle of the Civil War to occur on Madison County soil but also one of the largest cavalry engagements of the war. Fought from dawn to dark, the running battle involved thousands of troopers from two divisions of the federal army under Generals Buford, Kilpatrick, and Devin who had ambushed General Lee's cavalry division under General J E B Stuart.

On July 14, 2010, the Historical Society is cosponsoring, along with a group of interested citizens, an historical presentation on the Battle of Jack's Shop. A brief lecture given by Harold Woodward Jr., the author of several books on the history of Madison County and a Civil War Historian, will be followed by a tour of several of the sites on which the very bloody horse artillery and cavalry battle took place. The lecture will take place at 9.30 am in the pavilion of the Bethel United Methodist Church in Rochelle. The tour will follow immediately afterward.

Come to the lecture and tour to find out why the battle took place and who won. Coffee and donuts will be available to supply the energy necessary to withstand the excitement of the morning. For more information:
or call Doug at 540.948.3306