Friday, October 23, 2015

Civil War History & Wine -- a Great Combination!

Living in Northern Virginia has its perks. After all, Civil War history surrounds us everywhere. As a added bonus, wineries dot the rolling countryside just beyond the inner suburbs. On Father's Day, my wife and children took me to The Winery at Bull Run, which offers the best of both worlds. Opened in 2012 by Jon and Kim Hickox. the winery sits on land adjacent to the Manassas National Battlefield Park and the famous Stone Bridge.

During the Civil War, the property was the site of Hillwood. The Weir family, who owned the estate at the time, lived at their nearby plantation known as Liberia and left the property in the hands of a tenant or caretaker. (Liberia served as Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard's headquarters around the time of First Manassas.  Gen. Irvin McDowell also did a stint there in 1862.) On July 21, 1861, soldiers under then-Colonels William T. Sherman and Erasmus Keyes marched across Hillwood on their way to ford Bull Run and join the Union attack. Capt. James Carlisle's battery of U.S. artillery also took position on the ridge line at Hillwood. During Second Manassas in August 1862, Confederate troops under A.P. Hill crossed the property en route to link up with the remainder of Stonewall Jackson's wing of the Army of Northern Virginia. As the Union forces retreated across the Stone Bridge following their defeat on August 30, they too passed by Hillwood. In other words, this land is an important piece of the story of both battles.

Following the devastation of the Civil War, the property was returned to family farming and other economic activities. The Hickox family purchased the land in 2008 and set to work on establishing their winery. Today, the winery's two vineyards are planted with Norton and Traminette varieties. The Winery at Bull Run also farms grapes on 115-acres in Rappahannock County, Virginia.

The remains of the Hillwood house (c. 1840s/50s) on the winery grounds. A fire nearly destroyed the historic structure in 1990. In 2008, Jon Hickox took down the damaged walls but preserved the foundation.

The Tasting Room represents two styles of Virginia barns. The darker wood structure built of reclaimed stone and wood is about the same size as the 19th century barn that stood at Hillwood. The white structure is typical of the 1920s dairy barns that were seen across Northern Virginia until the 1950s. 

The Tasting Room at the winery features display cases filled with relics that were found on the property and at other places nearby. Pictured above is a variety of artifacts from a field hospital that was located in front of the Hillwood house.

Additional artifacts in the Tasting Room, including artillery shells, Minie balls, and a State of New York belt buckle.

A view over the vineyard. Both Union and Confederate troops crossed this property at the time of the fighting at Manassas in July 1861 and August 1862. US-29, the Warrenton Turnpike during the war, is beyond the distant treeline.

What I believe to be a reconstructed winter cabin, similar to those used by Confederates in Centreville during the winter of 1861-62. 

One of several historical markers placed on the grounds at the winery. This one has a rather fanciful depiction of Hillwood, the Stone Bridge, and environs, during First Manassas.

The Winery at Bull Run represents a successful marriage of preservation and agricultural tourism. Large swaths of commercial and residential development have largely spoiled this part of Northern Virginia; the Hickoxes ensured that the pastoral and historic landscape of Hillwood would be preserved for generations to come. An outing to the winery is a must for any Civil War enthusiast. And the allure of wine tasting will make it easy for other family members to indulge in your love of history.

Sources & More Information
Local historian Chuck Mauro has written an interesting history of the Hillwood property and winery. The booklet is available for purchase at the winery's Tasting Room.

For more information on visiting The Winery at Bull Run, go to the vineyard's website here.


Debbie D. said...

What a lovely, historic area. Something to add to the travel wish list. Thanks for the tour! (I followed the link from Ramblin' with AM.)

Ron Baumgarten said...

You are welcome, and thanks for stopping by! I hope you get to check out Northern Virginia. Don't miss the Mosby Heritage Area, as well as the wine country, along with Manassas and other Civil War battlefields.