Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Fond Farewell to Lewinsville & Langley! Off to Farmwell!

My wife and I just closed on a house in Ashburn, Virginia this past Monday. We are very excited to get more space and to live a little farther from the chaos "inside the Beltway"! Ashburn (Farmwell and Farmwell Station during the 1860s) is situated in Loudoun County, a place steeped in Civil War history. The Battle of Ball's Bluff took place not more than 20 minutes from our doorstep. Armies also marched through the county before Antietam and Gettysburg. And don't forget that Loudoun was part of Mosby's Confederacy. In other words, Civil War buffs would find a lot to like about calling the county home. (If you enjoy wineries, there are plenty of those to explore as well!)

I hope to get more involved with the Loudoun County Civil War Roundtable. After all, I won't have to drive nearly as far to attend their monthly meetings. They tend to have a really strong line-up. I also look forward to living closer to a few of my friends with an interest in the war, including fellow blogger Craig Swain and Army of the Potomac expert extraordinaire Todd Berkoff. I trust that both will help me learn more about the area during the war! (Craig, I am counting on you to bring me up to speed on that Civil War-era road network. . . .)

As much as I am looking forward to a new home, I will also miss McLean (Lewinsville and Langley during the war). I've lived here for over five years now, and as readers know, I have spent a lot of time peeling back the layers of McLean's Civil War history. I've written and lectured about Camp Griffin and Camp Pierpont, which served as 1861-62 winter quarters for two Union divisions. I've taken a look at the "Battle of Lewinsville," a fascinating little fight that involved the likes of Isaac Stevens, J.E.B. Stuart, and John Mosby. I also got to know my Civil War-era neighbors, families such as the Mackalls, Means, and Johnstons. More recently, I've become obsessed with the contraband camps that were located in the McLean area from 1863 onward.  

Looking down from the crest of Johnston's Hill, right around the corner from my former home in McLean. Union Army units, including the Pennsylvania Reserves, held parades at the base of Johnston's Hill during the first winter of the Civil War. (See this post, where I discuss the location.)

The surviving landmarks are everywhere around me. I drive past Salona (Baldy Smith's HQ) and the Langley Ordinary (George A. McCall's HQ) on my daily commute. Benvenue, the location of Winfield Scott Hancock's brigade hospital, is an everyday sight on my early morning walks.  Although not as well known as other places like Henry Hill or Dunker Church, all of these landmarks represent a very real tie that my former community has across time to the Civil War.

You may be wondering what this all means for the future direction of the blog, if anything. I still have many stories about McLean in the pipeline and don't plan on giving them up, just because I am moving to another part of Northern Virginia. The same goes for other sites in Fairfax. The endless array of topics accumulating on my to-do list long ago outpaced my ability to keep up. Apparently four years wasn't enough time to cover it all! At the same time, I am looking forward to exploring some hidden corners of Civil War history in my new "neighborhood." So I suppose that what it comes down to is that this is a blog covering all of Northern Virginia (and sometimes DC) and will remain that way.

In the end, I will miss my former community, and my involvement with the history scene here. A special thanks goes out to the McLean Historical Society, which invited me to give lectures and to serve on the board. I've enjoyed living in McLean and learning about what our ancestors did here. Now I turn to a new chapter as I head west down State Route 267 and establish a home in another location so important to Northern Virginia's Civil War history.

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