Civil War in Rappahannock County
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Civil War in Rappahannock County, Virginia
While there were no large-scale military actions in Rappahannock County, several dozen
skirmishes and many troop movements occurred here. As a gateway to the northern Shenandoah Valley,
the county was a major thoroughfare for Union and Confederate forces on a number of occasions.
It was also on the southern edge of the territory known as (Col. John) Mosby’s Confederacy.
Three important regional roads, the north-south Richmond Road and Sperryville-Thornton Gap
Turnpike and the east-west Warrenton- Rappahannock Turnpike would witness the passage of most
or all of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in the campaigns of 2nd Manassas, Antietam
and 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 the Confederate Army at Newby’s Crossroads during the
army’s retreat south after Gettysburg. Confederate Gen. JEB 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 Gen. John Pope occupied the county during the summer
of 1862, bringing with it the deprivations of “total war,” a strategy designed to inflict
pain upon civilians supporting the rebel army. Many residents left the county to find refuge
away from the war zone. Pope’s army had its own difficulties. Many hundreds of cases of typhoid
fever occurred within its camps between Sperryville and Gaines Crossroads (BenVenue).
Of the roughly 6,000 white residents in the county in 1860, more than 1,000 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.
Others became members of Mosby’s partisan rangers. Although Southern sentiment dominated
residents’ reasons for service, several Rappahannock natives joined the Union army and several
were members of the United States Colored Troops. More than 100 county soldiers were killed in
action and at least another 80 died from wounds or disease. Rappahannock units participated in
many of the important campaigns of the war including 1st & 2nd Manassas, The Seven Days, Antietam,
Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Spotsylvania and Petersburg. A few were present at Appomattox.
In 1860, there were some 3,520 slaves and 312 free blacks in Rappahannock Country.
A number of well-preserved slave quarters provide stark reminders of the lives and circumstances
of these forgotten people who played a major role in county history.
For Further Historical Information, Please Contact:
Rappahannock Historical Society
328 Gay Street
Washington, VA 22747
Civil War Traveler
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