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Historic Events


The following article is provided by the Facquier County Department of

Economic Development, Facquier County, Virginia.


Fauquier County in the Civil War


Rising Tensions


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

further exacerbated.


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-



War Begins


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.



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