St. John's Episcopal Church

St. John's Episcopal Church (HM12QC)

Location: Centreville, VA 20120 Fairfax County
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Country: United States of America
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N 38° 50.478', W 77° 25.584'

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Still Faithful after the Ravages of War

Passing armies occupied and fortified Centreville, positioned between Washington, D.C., and Manassas Junction, beginning in July 1861 when Confederate and Union forces met during the war's first significant campaign. As American and British journalists sought to understand the First Battle of Manassas and define the character of its combatants, the "desecration" of "the little Episcopal church on the "hill" that once stood here became newsworthy.

Days after the defeat of the Union army, correspondents for the Richmond Dispatch reported that Saint John's Church was covered with drawings and insults to the Confederacy. A British journalist wrote that he was horrified that "a building devoted to the worship of the Omnipotent had been desecrated and polluted by the enemy." The New York Times denied that Federal soldiers were responsible. In a front-page story, a Times correspondent described his visit to the church before the battle and pointed to evidence of abuse by Southern soldiers stationed in Centreville prior to the Federal advance. The church vandals, he concluded, were those who had first desecrated the "the altars of patriotism." This was not the last church that would fall victim to the vandals of one side or the other.

The little church was destroyed later in the war, as were many houses, farms, and trees around Centreville. Describing the town in his Sketchbook, Alexander Gardner wrote, "War crushed it. ? Scarcely a vestige of its former self remains." In 1872, the parishioners completed the church that stands before you. A keyhole visible in the ceiling suggests that they scavenged wood, including doors, from Centreville's many ruins.

(Sidebar): A mile southwest of here, Confederate soldiers Dennis Corcoran and Michael O'Brien were the first to be executed for mutiny. They were re-interred here in St. John's churchyard in 1979. The remains of unknown Confederate soldiers killed in the Battle of Dranesville on December 22, 1861, are also buried here.
HM NumberHM12QC
Series This marker is part of the Virginia Civil War Trails series
Year Placed2012
Placed ByVirginia Civil War Trails
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Thursday, September 11th, 2014 at 3:59pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)18S E 289411 N 4301963
Decimal Degrees38.84130000, -77.42640000
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 38° 50.478', W 77° 25.584'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds38° 50' 28.68" N, 77° 25' 35.04" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)703, 571, 202
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 5649 Mt Gilead Rd, Centreville VA 20120, US
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