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Style · September 17, 2012

Civil War commemoration in Warrenton this weekend

Photo/David Lyne
The Liberty Heritage Society museum on Warrenton's Main Street will display some of Don Tharpe's artificats, including swords that belonged to Confederate and Union generals.
Published Nov. 29, 1862, this Harper's Weekly illustration depicts Union George McClellan saying farewell to his troops at the Warren Green Hotel in Warrenton.
Warrenton and Fauquier County this weekend will flip back the calendar 150 years to the most tumultuous times in the nation’s history — the Civil War.

Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 22-23, will be packed with commemoration of events from the fall of 1862, including the Sept. 22 congressional passage of the Proclamation of Emancipation and the Union Army of the Potomac’s activities in and near Warrenton just before the siege of Fredericksburg.

“Everyone involved really enjoys bringing history back to life,” said Paula Johnson, who chairs Warrenton-Fauquier Heritage Day and is one of its founders. “I’ll be here, there and everywhere, checking to see if everything is going as planned.”

The family-oriented events, open to the public at no charge, should attract a crowd of 1,000 to 1,500, Mrs. Johnson predicted.

Other key players in Heritage Day are Donald R. Tharpe of Midland, a historian, author and archaeologist, and James Flanagan of Sumerduck, an adjunct professor at Lord Fairfax Community College who also is steeped in the history of Fauquier County and the Civil War.

Mr. Tharpe, an avid collector of Civil War memorabilia, founded the Liberty Heritage Society, which has a museum at 26 Main St. in Warrenton. Mr. Flanagan serves as its education coordinator.

The museum, normally accessible only by appointment, will be open Saturday so visitors can view the collection assembled by Mr. Tharpe, who says some items belong to the society and some are on loan.

On public display only for Heritage Day will be Civil War artist Isaac Eaton’s oil painting of the 1st Maine Cavalry charging Confederate forces at Brandy Station on June 9, 1863.

“It’s a remarkable scene,” said Mr. Tharpe, pointing out that the 5-by-10-foot painting depicts Confederate officers riding alongside Maine cavalrymen in the confusion of the attack.

Other artifacts on display include an early Confederate flag with seven stars that was made “before Virginia had (seceded and) joined,” says Mr. Flanagan.

The collection also includes:

  • Sabers that belonged to Union Major Gens. George McClellan and Ambrose Burnside.
  • The sword of Confederate Brig. Gen. Turner Ashby of Fauquier County.
  • Memorabilia from the battles of Brandy Station, Kelly’s Ford and Rappahannock Station.
  • Artifacts from archaeological digs along the Rappahannock River near Remington.
  • Old maps and much more.

Mr. Tharpe also has begun renovating the building at 45 Main St., next to the Warrenton post office, to house “the largest single collection” of President Abraham Lincoln portraits and sculptures. Known as The Robert Lang collection from Wisconsin, the works also include a bust of Gen. U.S. Grant, a portrait of Gen. Robert E. Lee, plus items from Lee’s surrender on April 10, 1865, at Appomattox. The collection will be in Warrenton for “two or three years,” said Mr. Tharpe.

Although the renovation and exhibit will not be complete for Heritage Day, Mr. Tharpe said several painting will be displayed in the storefront window.

The theme of Heritage Day is “The Eve of Fredericksburg: The Federal Army in and around Warrenton, Fall 1862.” Speakers will lecture throughout the day at the Warrenton Visitor Center, behind the Mosby house on Main Street, on events leading up to the December 1862 attack by Union forces on Fredericksburg.

In the fall of 1862, Fauquier County was occupied by the Union Army of the Potomac under the command of Maj. Gen. McClellan, who was headquartered in Rectortown. Lincoln, however, relieved McClellan of his command, turning to Burnside to lead the attack on Fredericksburg. McClellan bade farewell to his troops from the balcony of the Warren Green Hotel on Nov. 11, 1862, a month before the battle.

“A lot of the planning for the attack on Fredericksburg was being done right here in Fauquier County,” Mr. Flanagan said.

Saturday, Sept. 22


  • 8 a.m. — Warrenton Cemetery Tour led by Gar Schulin, a Fauquier County resident and expert on Robert E. Lee. Gen. John S. Mosby, “The Grey Ghost,” and members of his family are among the many Confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery.
  • 9 a.m. — A Walking Tour of Historic Warrenton led by Richard Deardoff. The 45-minute tour begins at the Old Courthouse steps on Main Street, at the junction with Alexandria Pike.
  • 10 a.m. — Fauquier Heritage Day Parade, including re-enactors of the famed Black Horse Brigade. Immediately after the parade, re-enactor Roy Kennedy will portray McClellan delivering his farewell speech at the Warren Green Hotel. Next, the restored Mosby statue, toppled during June’s violent storm, will be rededicated.
    12:3O p.m. — Historic Mosby Walking Tour, led by Mosby player and historian Gary Carroll begins at the Mosby House.


James Flanagan has arranged the following presentations at the Warrenton Visitor Center, 33 N. Calhoun St., behind the Mosby House:

  • 8:30 a.m. — The Union Occupation of Fauquier County by John Toler, a life-long county resident, historian and author.
  • 11:30 a.m. — The Planning and Preparation of the Battle of Fredericksburg by Frank O’Reilly of the National Park Service. His latest book, “The Fredericksburg Campaign: Winter War on the Rappahannock”, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
  • 1 p.m. — The Civil War in Fauquier County by Donald R. Tharpe of Midland, a noted historian and lecturer who is founder and owner of the Liberty Heritage Society Museum at 26 Main Street.
  • 2 p.m. — Robert E. Lee’s Strategy and Defensive Plan in the Battle of Fredericksburg by Mr. Schulin.
  • 3 p.m. — The Confederate Artillery Star at Hamilton’s Crossing, John Pelham by Mr. Flanagan, education coordinator for the Fauquier Heritage Society and founder of the Fauquier Civil War Roundtable.
  • 3-6 p.m. — Black Horse Cavalry re-enactment at Buckland Farm, 6342 Pleasant Colony Lane, historic farm straddling the Fauquier-Prince William county line. Tours will highlight 18th and 19th Century early America. The farm also is the site of a clash between Union forces led by Brig. Gens. Judson Kilpatrick and George Armstrong Custer, who were routed by Confederate Major Gens. J.E.B. Stuart and Fitzhugh Lee.

Other events

  • Replicas of a Civil War field hospital, plus Confederate and Union bivouac tents.
  • Period music with Evergreen Shade and South Fork.
  • Encampments on the grounds of the Mosby House.
  • Performances by the Fredericksburg Colonial Dancers, with the public encouraged to join.
  • Living historians available to answer questions.
  • An author’s area and children’s corner.
  • Fauquier Food Bank and Thrift Store information table. Public asked to donate canned and non-perishable goods.
  • The Piedmont Railroaders will display model train sets from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the John Barton Payne Building, 2 Courthouse Square, next to The Fauquier Bank.

Nearby event

  • 9 a.m.-Noon: — The 150th Anniversary of the 1862 “Crossing to Freedom,” an act
    of self-emancipation by slave refugees at Cow’s Ford on the Rappahannock River, will be re-enacted. The event also commemorates the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. The program includes speeches on the Civil War in the area, hymns by a combined choir and a reading of the names of slaves from Culpeper County. Directional signs will be posted on U.S. 29. For more information, call Zann Nelson at 540-547-2395 or email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). (This event is not connected with Warrenton-Fauquier Heritage Day.)

Sunday, Sept. 23

These sites will be open to the public:

  • Afro-American Historical Association of Fauquier County museum , 4243 Loudoun Ave., The Plains. 2 p.m.-4 p.m. For information, call 540-253-7488
  • Oak Hill, home of U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall, 3623 Grove Lane, Delaplane, off U.S. 55. For information, call 540-364-6402.
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