|The hapless Gen. Edwin Stoughton (courtesy of National Archives)|
Several buildings that are associated with the raid survive to this day. Late last summer, I stopped in Fairfax after a morning trip to Ox Hill Battlefield Park. I found a parking spot near the courthouse and walked to the Mosby-related sites, which are all located within a few blocks of one another.
The Fairfax Courthouse was my first stop. This iconic structure, dating to 1800, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. During the raid, the courthouse square served as the rendez-vous spot for Mosby's men, who broke into squads to round up prisoners and horses around town. The Union telegraph operator was captured as he slept in his tent on the square.
|The Fairfax Courthouse. A Civil War Trails marker out front tells the story of the courthouse during the conflict. Both Union and Confederate troops occupied the building at one time or another. The trappings of a construction site detracted from an otherwise picture-perfect scene!|
|The Moore (Murray) House, where Mosby unsuccessfully sought Sir Percy Wyndham, the officer who had called him a horse thief. According to a marker outside the home, Mosby retorted that "the only horses he had every stolen had Union troopers on their backs armed with two pistols and a saber." After the war, the house belonged to R. Walton Moore, a Congressman and State Department counselor under President Franklin Roosevelt. The building is now used for commercial purposes.|
There were signs in the room of having been revelry in the house that night. Some uncorked champagne bottles furnished an explanation of the general's deep sleep. He had been entertaining a number of ladies from Washington in a style becoming a commanding general. The revelers had retired to rest just before our arrival with no suspicion of the danger that was hovering over them. The ladies had gone to spend the night at a citizen's house. . . . As, the general was not awakened by the noise we made in entering the room, I walked up to his bed and pulled off the covering. But even this did not arouse him. He was turned over on his side snoring like one of the seven sleepers. With such environments I could not afford to await his convenience or to stand on ceremony. So I just pulled up his shirt and gave him a spank. Its effect was electric. The brigadier rose from his pillow and in an authoritative tone inquired the meaning of this rude intrusion. He had not realized that we were not some of his staff. I leaned over and said to him: "General, did you ever hear of Mosby?" "Yes," he quickly answered, "have you caught him?" "No," I said, "I am Mosby—he has caught you." (Mosby, Belford's Monthly, 126-27.)A couple of markers around the house commemorate the general's capture.
|Historical marker describing the significance of the William Gunnell House to Mosby's raid on Fairfax Court House. (See here for more information on the marker.)|
|Marker commemorating Mosby's raid on Fairfax and the capture of Stoughton. The United Daughters of the Confederacy placed the marker here in 1937. The marker makes the exaggerated claim that Mosby captured 100 prisoners and horses. The spire of the Truro Church is visible in the background. (See here for more information on the marker.)|
[Johnstone] lay there concealed and shivering with cold and fear until after daylight. He did not know for some time that we had gone, and he was afraid to come out of his hole to find out. His wife didn't know where he was. In squeezing himself under shelter he had torn off his shirt, and when he appeared before his wife next morning, as naked as when he was born and smelling a great deal worse, it is reported that she refused to embrace him before he had taken a bath. (Mosby, Belford's Monthly, 128.)
|Joshua Gunnell house (c. 1830) (courtesy of Historical Marker Database). The site is now dedicated to commercial use.|
|The Ford Building (c. 1835) on Chain Bridge Road, where Antonia Ford resided in March 1863 (courtesy of Historical Marker Database). According to the marker out front, a search of the house by Union authorities after the raid "revealed an honorary aide-de-camp commission to Antonia from Gen. Jeb Stuart." The structure currently houses offices.|
For More Information. . .
Lucky for us, Mosby liked writing about his wartime exploits in Northern Virginia. I'd recommend that readers check out these two accounts of the Fairfax Raid by the Gray Ghost himself:
- The Memoirs of Col. John S. Mosby, pp. 168-87 (1917)
- "One of My War Adventures," in Belford's Monthly, Vol. 9, pp. 122-32 (1892).
The City of Fairfax has put together a map and description of the key historic sites in town, including the buildings connected to Mosby's Fairfax Raid. You will find all of the relevant addresses here if you wish to follow my walking tour.
I also would like to mention two guidebooks that cover the Fairfax Raid, as well as a multitude of other Mosby sites across the region:
- Thomas J. Evans, James M. Moyer, & Virgil Carrington Jones published Mosby's Confederacy: A Guide to the Roads and Sites of Colonel John Singleton Mosby in 1991. Although the maps and graphics could use an overhaul, this comprehensive work covers a range of well-known and more obscure locations connected to Mosby.
- Local historians Donald Hakenson and Chuck Mauro have just published A Tour Guide and History of Col. John S. Mosby's Combat Operations in Fairfax County, Virginia. This book is a welcome addition to the body of work on the Civil War in Fairfax County. Hakenson and Mauro take readers on a tour of Mosby-related sites all over the county. An accompanying documentary, Mosby's Combat Operations in Fairfax County, Virginia, is also available.
The City of Fairfax will be hosting an all-day event on Saturday, March 9 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Mosby's Fairfax Raid. Aside from the requisite reenactment, the event will feature interpretive stops outside Mosby-related sites, as well as Mosby scholars symposium, book signing, and film screenings. More information on this event can be found here.
Aside from the information cited above, the following sources were useful in compiling this post:
James A. Ramage, Gray Ghost: The Life of Col. John Singleton Mosby (1999); Jeffry D. Wert, Mosby's Rangers (1991); Ashley M. Whitehead, Antonia Ford (1838-1871), in Encyclopedia Virginia.