The following article is provided by the Facquier County Department of
Economic Development, Facquier County, Virginia.
Fauquier County in the Civil War
By the mid-1800s, with rumors circulating of slave rebellions, tensions
between the North and South began to mount. In Fauquier, the tension
was felt with the formation of groups like Turner Ashby’s Mountain
Rangers, The Warrenton Rifles, Warrenton Home Guard and The Black
Horse Cavalry. These groups patrolled Fauquier County making every
effort to disrupt activities of the Underground Railroad.
In the fall of 1859, abolitionist John Brown led a raid on the federal arm-
ory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia) with the intention of
providing arms for a vast slave rebellion. Brown was instead caught and,
in December of 1859, was hanged. Brown’s hanging was celebrated in the
South, mourned in the North, and tensions between the two sides were
In the fall of 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected as President of the Unit-
ed States. However, in Fauquier County, Lincoln received only one vote,
cast by Henry Dixon in the building that now houses the Fauquier Heritage Society in Marshall.
Soon after the election, in December 1860, South Carolina seceded; by
February 1861, five more southern states followed suit. On April 12th, Confederate troops fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina,
and 34 hours later, the Federals surrendered the fort to the Confederates.
Five days later, on April 17th, Virginia seceded from the Union.
With its location near the border of North and South and near the Confed-
erate capital of Richmond, Fauquier County’s fate was sealed. Fauquier
County saw not only vast troop movements and frequent occupation by
Federal troops, but by the end of the war, Fauquier would be the scene of
five major engagements – at Thoroughfare Gap, Upperville, between Buck-
land and Warrenton, at Auburn and Rappahannock Station (now Reming-
Fauquier felt its first true loss on June 1, 1861 when Union and Confeder-
ate troops clashed at Fairfax Court House in nearby Fairfax County. Here, Captain John Quincy Marr, leader of the Warrenton Rifles, was killed.
His death officially counted as the first loss of a Confederate officer in
Six weeks later, in mid-July, Gen. Stonewall Jackson and Brig. Gen. Joseph Johnston marched 10,000 troops to Piedmont Station where they boarded
trains bound for Manassas Junction and the First Battle of Manassas. This
marked the first time in history that troops were transported to battle by
After almost a year, in March of 1862, Union Col. John Geary and his
troops rode into Upperville. This marked the beginning of Fauquier’s
frequent occupation by Union troops.
Second Battle of Manassas
In August 1862, troops from both sides began to position themselves for
the Second Battle at Manassas. From August 22nd-25th, troops clashed
in Fauquier along the Rappahannock River, Fauquier White Sulphur
Springs, Lee Springs and Freeman’s Ford, producing several hundred
casualties. At the same time, Gen. J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry made a daring
raid on Union Gen. John Pope’s headquarters at Catlett Station.
On August 27th, Union Gen. John Buford learned from captured Confed-
erates that Longstreet’s troops were located two miles away in Salem (now Marshall). Upon entering Salem, Union troops almost caught Gen. Robert
E. Lee and Lt. Gen. James Longstreet, who were riding well ahead of their
column of troops.
On August 28th, skirmishing began around Chapman’s Mill, which lies
within Thoroughfare Gap, a major route for troop movement from east to
west. Despite valiant efforts by Union troops, Confederate troops on their
way to Manassas were not delayed, and Lee’s army reached the battlefield
in time for the Second Battle of Manassas (August 28th-30th). Ten days
later, North and South clashed at Antietam Creek in Maryland – the single bloodiest day of the war and in American history.
Two months later, at his headquarters in Rectortown, Union Gen. George McClellan received word from Pres. Lincoln of his replacement with Gen. Ambrose Burnside. McClellan bids farewell to his troops at the Warren
Green Hotel in Warrenton.
In late March 1863, Gen. J.E.B. Stuart gives orders to John Singleton Mos-
by to form Company A, 43rd Battalion of the Virginia Cavalry, which
would come to be known as “Mosby’s Rangers”. The Federals dubbed
Mosby the “The Gray Ghost” for his ability to strike without warning and disappear just as quickly, and his guerilla tactics were a new method of
fighting which enraged the Union army. Headquartered in Rectortown,
Mosby’s Rangers performed daring feats all over Northern Virginia but
roamed most extensively in Fauquier and Loudoun Counties.
In June 1863, Gen. J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry clashed with Union forces at
the Battle of Upperville which raged for three days, beginning just west
of Middleburg, and continuing west (down what is now Route 50) through Upperville to Ashby’s Gap. Gen. Stuart’s intention was to mask Gen. Lee’s
troop movement north through the Shenandoah Valley to Pennsylvania.
The Turning Point
Beginning July 1, 1863, more than 150,000 soldiers clashed for three days
at the Battle of Gettysburg in south central Pennsylvania. Some consider
this battle to be the turning point of the Civil War, turning in favor of the
In October 1863, Union and Confederate troops clashed at Auburn, near Warrenton, in two separate encounters. The second and larger battle at
Auburn resulted in 1,600 casualties and a Confederate loss.
A few days later, on October 19, 1863, Gen. J.E.B. Stuart and his cavalry
found themselves being pursued by Union Gen. Kilpatrick. Stuart’s men
turned and ambushed their pursuers and the Union cavalry turned and fled.
The encounter resulted in 230 casualties and became known as the “Buck-
land Races” because of the speedy exit of the Union cavalry.
On November 7, 1863, the Union army crossed the Rappahannock River
at Kelly’s Ford and Rappahannock Station. After a series of brutal attacks
in which many Union men were killed, the Confederates were overrun and
1,600 were taken prisoner. The surprise Union attack convinced Gen. Lee
to relinquish Culpeper County and head south to Orange County for the
On January 1, 1864, as the war entered its fourth year, William “Extra
Billy” Smith of Warrenton, took over as Governor of Virginia. In Novem-
ber 1864, the Union carried out “The Great Burning Raid” against citizens
of Fauquier and Loudoun Counties. The raid was carried out by 6,000
Union troops and was meant to flush out Mosby and his men, as well as
punish those civilians who would aid the Confederates by hiding Mosby
and his Rangers. At Gen. Ulysses Grant’s suggestion, Gen. Sheridan gave
the orders and for five consecutive days Union troops set fire to barns, mills,
crops and fields, in addition to releasing, taking or slaughtering livestock throughout the farms of Fauquier and Loudoun.
Within four months of the Great Burning Raid, the war was heading into
its final phase. On April 9, 1865, four years after the war began, Lee sur-
rendered at Appomattox Courthouse.
Crooked Run Valley