It’s been a few years, but I used to do a lot of book signings in the beautiful Virginia town of Warrenton. Luckily I have pictures of some of the interesting historic sites. Many of these are ordinary-looking houses that people pass by every day, but never stop to think about their historical significance…or their connection to Col. John S. Mosby. (Mosby is the real-life officer upon which the main character in my historical fiction novel Shades of Gray is based).
For those of you who aren’t familiar, Warrenton is the county seat of Fauquier County, Va., and was the site of many skirmishes and battles during the War Between the States. It was also the object of many raids by Col. Mosby, also known as the “Gray Ghost.” After the war, Mosby settled in Warrenton and practiced law.
This photo is of the Beckham house on Culpeper Street. Mosby took Gen. Stoughton to this house on the morning of March 9, 1863, after capturing him from his bed during the famous Fairfax Courthouse Raid. (If you don’t know this story, look it up. You’ll see why I love Mosby so much).
Even though he was an enemy officer, Gen. Stoughton was welcomed by the Beckham family because the owner’s son was a graduate of West Point and Stoughton was a classmate. From this house in Warrenton, Mosby took Stoughton to Culpeper, where he was turned over to another friend, General Fitzhugh Lee.
As a sidenote, Robert F. Beckham, the son who knew Stoughton, assumed command of the Stuart Horse Artillery following the death of the gallant John Pelham at Kelly’s Ford. He was later transferred and died in the Battle of Franklin, Tenn.
Just a few doors up from the Beckham house is another historic house that was a barbershop during the Civil War. In the book Ranger Mosby, Virgil Carrington Jones describes an incident in which Mosby was being shaved while Union troops occupied the town.
Actually, they were not only occupying the town, they were turning it upside down searching for him. As the story goes, a Union officer came into the barbershop and questioned Mosby while he was sitting in the barber’s chair. He acted unconcerned, made up a fictitious name and story, and escaped capture once again.
Located on Main Street is the iconic old Warrenton Courthouse where Mosby argued many of his cases in the courtroom after The War Between the States. During a special event in Warrenton, I was able to go into that courtroom! What a special treat to be able to see where Mosby spent so much time after the war.
Mosby’s house is located right down the street from the courthouse. “Brentmoor,” also known as the Spilman-Mosby House, was built in 1859 as the residence of Judge Edward M. Spilman and his family.
It had been turned into a museum for a short time, but is now a private residence again.
This next picture is of the Old Gaol Museum, which dates to 1808, and the Mosby Monument, which stands in the yard of the courthouse. The old jail is now a museum that houses several items relating to Colonel Mosby and his Rangers.
The monument to Mosby states: “He has left a name that will live till honor, virtue, courage all shall cease to claim the homage of the heart. John Singleton Mosby, lawyer, soldier, patriot.”
The monument was dedicated on June 26, 1920. Hopefully it will not be torn down by history revisionists.
The Courthouse is a beautiful building and it is very noticeable when you drive into Warrenton. There have actually been seven courthouses in Warrenton. Since 1795, four have stood on the same site on Main Street as the existing Old Courthouse, which was built in 1890. Fire destroyed some of the earlier structures.
Warrenton has so much history, including Mosby’s gravesite and the Warren Green Hotel where he stopped to eat with 15 of his men on Jan. 18, 1863. He also frequently ate there when he was a practicing attorney in Warrenton.
It’s a large, L-shaped stone with a plaque that reads: “Early 20th century photographs show a large, angular stone lying at the corner of Main Street and Alexandria Pike, Warrenton. According to local legend, the naturally formed ancient stone was found in Carter’s Run and served as a mounting block for carriages and horses and as a slave auction block in the days before The War Between the States. More recently, it was used as a corner curbstone, until it was removed in the late 1960s.”
If you ever have the opportunity to visit Warrenton, I highly recommend it. This quaint, historic town still has within it the tradition and charm of a bygone era.