Living just across Route 28 from Washington Dulles International Airport, this location was centralized around some of the most intense fighting in the area (see Image 1). To the south we had the Battle of Bull Run and the Route 50 corridor, a corridor hotly contested by John Mosby and his infantry of rangers. Mosby also made his presence known to the north of my location at the Herndon Station Raid in an effort to push the Union forces back to Alexandria and gain control of the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad (Prats).
With such commotion, I would imagine that my current location is quite different from what it was during the heat of the Civil War in 1864. Based on the pictures from the Herndon Historical Society, downtown Herndon seemed to be flourishing with both people and buildings (Historical Pictures). Although very close to my location, downtown Herndon is much different from my area even today, and I would expect the same in 1864. What I would expect however, is a vast area built up mainly with sparse housing and pastures similar to the nearby Frying Pan Park. On these pastures I would expect to see a mix of horse (see Horsepen Run in Image 2) and cattle as well as adequate hay and grass to tend to such livestock.
Although the majority of the area is relatively flat and good for farmland, there are a few hilly areas as well as streams and ponds which would not be suitable. Just north and south of Frying Pan Road you can see a small area with 50 foot elevation changes (see Image 2). Those areas are still wooded today and would have been managed as woodlots in order to generate firewood and provide fence posts to control the nearby livestock. Also north and south of Frying Pan Road you can see a series of ponds and streams (see Image 2 and 3). These areas would not have been farmed due to flooding, but they were more than likely used as watering holes for the livestock in the area.
Moving to the buildings and infrastructure in 1864, this area would have been immensely different. For the roads, I would imagine that at least the biggest roads would have been around: Route 28 and Centreville Road. Route 28 would have been there as an easy route for travelers moving up from Manassas, Centreville, and Fairfax. Centreville Road would have been needed in order to get into downtown Herndon, so I feel this road would also have been necessary at that time. As for the buildings in the area, I would expect to see various homes and stables, but I doubt there were any slave quarters in the area since livestock seemed to win out over the more labor-intensive cash crops. The houses would have been typical 1800’s farm and homestead houses stationed at the edge of the farms or on hills. The stables would have been stationed in the middle of the pastures away from any hills or streams and closer to the main source of food for the livestock.
If Mosby decided to ride into my neighborhood with 20 of his finest rangers looking to quickly attack a Union camp, he probably would have arrived from the south or southwest (This probably resembles what happened at the Herndon Station Raid). Route 50 is definitely known to be “Mosby Country,” so coming from the south should be expected (Mosby Country). When making a getaway, Mosby more than likely choose a southerly route for the same reason. He seemed to have mostly dominating control over the Route 50 corridor, so I’m sure that he would have felt safe moving back to his “country.”
If Union reinforcements were to be sent to the scene of this skirmish, they probably would have arrived from the east on the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad and then traveled southwest from Herndon Station. The Union had control over this railroad until Mosby truncated the railroad at Vienna, so I’m sure this railroad would have been used to haul cavalry much like the Manassas Gap Railroad (Mosteller). The reinforcements would more than likely have come blazing from the north, bracing for a fight with Mosby. They would only be in that situation if the location of the skirmish with Mosby was confirmed, so they would have no need to carefully scout the area before rushing to the battle zone to save their comrades.
“Historical Pictures.” Herndon Historical Society. Herndon Historical Society. Web. 21 Oct. 2011. <http://www.herndonhistoricalsociety.org/historicalpictures.html>.
“Mosby Country.” Civil War Traveler: Northern Virginia. Web. 21 Oct. 2011. <http://www.civilwar-va.com/EAST/VA/va-north/no-mosby.html>.
Mosteller, William. “A Short History of the Washington and Old Dominion.” Great Decals! Web. 21 Oct. 2011. <http://www.greatdecals.com/WNOD.htm>.
Prats, J. J. “Mosby’s Herndon Station Raid.” The Historical Marker Database. 10 Mar. 2006. Web. 21 Oct. 2011. <http://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=151>.
- Mount Zion Historic Park (aaronfoltz.com)
- The last word belongs to Lee, who always admired dash and daring. ‘Hurrah for Mosby! I wish I had a hundred like him.’ Ramage’s Gray Ghost shows us why. (oldsaltbooks.wordpress.com)
- Found!(?) Union soldiers hung by Mosby’s command (cenantua.wordpress.com)
- Jersey City library returns Va. records book taken during Civil War (nj.com)
- Loudoun County Civil War Sequicentennial Website (markerhunter.wordpress.com)
- Difficult Run Made More Difficult (markerhunter.wordpress.com)
- Identifying more unknowns: Blazer’s Scouts killed in the fight against Mosby’s Rangers (cenantua.wordpress.com)
- Jersey City library returns spoils of Civil War, a 320-year-old book of court records, to Virginia county (nj.com)