Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Historic road trip down the John Mosby Highway



Today's post is taken from the Mosby Heritage Area Association newsletter concerning sites located along or near the John Mosby Highway - Route 50. This is a beautiful corridor that looks much the same as it did during the Civil War. It makes a great day trip, and this post points out just four of the many historic treasures found there.

Old Goose Creek Bridge

Old Goose Creek Bridge
 The Old Goose Creek Bridge sits as a monument to the past and is designated a National Register and Virginia Historic Landmark.

Now bypassed by Route 50, the Old Goose Creek Bridge was built in 1802 as part of Ashby's Gap Turnpike. It is 212 feet long and 23 feet wide and carried traffic until 1957 when Route 50 was straightened and the bridge was abandoned. It is one of the last four- arch stone bridges in Virginia.

The bridge became a major choke point during the opening phase of the Battle of Upperville fought on June 21, 1863. Union General Alfred Pleasonton had been assigned the task of taking his 7,000 cavalrymen west along the Ashby Gap Turnpike to the Shenandoah Valley to report on the whereabouts of the Army of Northern Virginia, which was advancing northward towards Gettysburg.

Facing Pleasonton was the cavalry force of Confederate General J. E. B. Stuart. Stuart's mission was to delay the enemy and prevent him from crossing into the Shenandoah Valley. Stuart's cavalrymen and two batteries of artillery held the hill to the west of the bridge while two Union artillery batteries, cavalry and infantry held the high ground to the east.

An artillery duel raged for over an hour. Near the end, Federal forces attacked down the steep embankment to cross Goose Creek and forced the Confederates to retire to the next high ground to the west. General Stuart's stand held the Federals at bay for over two hours and gave him the time to consolidate his cavalry just east of Upperville.

After the war, Loudoun and Fauquier Counties repaired the bridge to a functional state.

This site is extremely popular with hundreds of visitors from all part of the world signing the guest book each year. As part of the Mosby Heritage Area, the bridge is a frequent stop on the Virginia Civil War Trails, as well as a featured stop on MHAA's Prelude to Gettysburg audiotape tour and the Upperville Trinity Church Hunt Country Stable Tour.

Senator John Warner donated the twelve-acre meadow along the creek to the members of the Fauquier and Loudoun Garden Club, who are the bridge's caretakers. The property has been placed into scenic easement, which means it can never be subdivided or developed

Atoka and the Caleb Rector House

Caleb Rector House
Those familiar with the Mosby Heritage Area Association are well acquainted with the Caleb Rector House in Atoka. Most notably, this was where Col. John Singleton Mosby formally established his Rangers as Company A, 43rd Virginia Battalion of Cavalry, in the parlor on June 10, 1863.

Today the house serves as the headquarters for the Mosby Heritage Area Association. Please feel free to stop in and say hello.

The historic home at Rector's Crossroads (now Atoka) was a popular rendezvous site for Mosby's Rangers prior to their raids. Barely two weeks after the Rangers were formally organized, the Rector House served as J.E.B. Stuart's headquarters on June 13, 1863 as he coordinated his cavalry actions in preparation for the Gettysburg campaign. Three days later came the first of the Great Cavalry Battles of Aldie, Middleburg, and Upperville.

Crednal

Crednal
Along the north side of Welbourne Road (Route 743) stands Crednal, a private residence. It is one of the finest examples of an early 19th-century federal-style estate in the area. Unique to the house is the incorporation of an earlier half-story stone structure, possibly a dwelling and probably a patent house, into the brick house. A stone wall of the earlier structure is at the rear of the present brick house. Dolley Madison once owned the granite steps, which now grace the entrance to Crednal.

Parts of the now 70-acre property date to 1785, and as is the case with many homes of notable Virginians, it has seen its share of history. Crednal had its beginnings as part of a 5,000- acre parcel owned by Landon Carter, the son of the wealthy businessman and politician Robert "King" Carter. Legend holds that the name "Crednal" derives from "Credenhill," a parish in Herefordshire, England, and the ancestral home of Landon's mother, Betty Landon Carter.

John Armistead Carter, a great-great grandson of Robert Carter, acquired the estate from his wife's mother, Louisa Dulany DeButts Hall. Armistead, as he was known to family, became a lawyer and practiced in Leesburg, later serving in the state legislature from 1842 to 1877.

With tension between the North and South at a peak in 1861, Carter, along with John Janney of Leesburg, represented Loudoun County at Virginia's Succession Convention. Though Virginia ultimately joined the Confederacy, Carter voted against succession., even though hew as a slaveholder. Loudoun County held a strong anti-succession sentiment, partly due to its many Quaker families.

The war served as a major event at Crednal. Crednal's fields were a focus of the Battle of Unison in 1862, where, according to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, J.E.B. Stuart and his staff camped . The plantation was also the site of troop maneuvers associated with the Battle of Upperville in 1863. The historic markers along Route 50 near Paris are worth a visit and detail the battle.

Growing up at Crednal, Armistead's son, Col. Richard Welby Carter, established his reputation as a fine horseman before the war. He later raised a militia that would become the 1st Virginia Calvary. Incidentally, in 1853, Welby and his friend, Col. Richard Henry Dulany of nearby Welbourne, had established the Upperville Horse and Colt Show.

Welbourne

Welbourne
Across the lane from Crednal stands Welbourne, today a bed and breakfast owned by Col. Richard Henry Dulany's great-great grandson, Nat Morison. Both General Stuart and Col. Mosby visited the home. In addition, the inn was host to F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe in the 1930s. Both authors used the house as a setting in their works.

For travelers, Welbourne offers a step back in time. The grand foyer and library reflect the home's history and care by eight generations of the Dulany family. The house dates from 1700 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, it serves as a window into mid 19th century plantation life in Virginia.

Note: I have stayed at Welbourne and it is like taking a step back in time! Absolutely wonderful historic getaway.

In addition to these well-known landmarks along the John S Mosby Highway, a noteworthy stop is just west of Atoka Road in the east-bound direction. Here sits the final resting place of John T. Edmundson, marked by a simple headstone and bronze marker, both now shaded by a large, magnificently gnarled tree.

Edmundson apparently died five days after being wounded in the Battle of Aldie. His headstone stood alone along the road for 145 years before MHAA President Childs Burden discovered the grave's inhabitant in 2008. Not much else is known about this Confederate soldier, who died and then was buried by Union troops.

Thanks again to the Mosby Heritage Area Association for collecting this information. Please visit their website - they have much to offer!

Jessica James

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And I quote...

"[L]et us make a vow to our dead. Let us show them by our actions that we understand what they died for. Strengthened by their courage, heartened by their valor, and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died."
--Ronald Reagan at Pointe du Hoc, 1984