Hunter Mill Road and the AL&H Railroad
At the beginning of the American Civil War in mid-1861, Union General Irvin McDowell, Commander, Army of Northeastern Virginia, knew that his army lacked an adequate supply of wagons. The Alexandria, Loudoun, and Hampshire Railroad (today's W&OD Trail) was recognized as the primary means in Northern Virginia for transporting mass amounts of troops and supplies westwards to engage the Confederate Army.
Confederate General Robert E. Lee, Commander, VA Volunteers, recognizing the importance of the railroad and understanding it would be impossible for him to defend, ordered the destruction of the tracks on June 10, 1861. Even after the tracks were torn up west of Vienna it continued to be used as a foot and cavalry path by both Union and Confederate forces.
Hunter Mill Road was considered the "main road" northwards from Fairfax Court House, an important depot for the Confederates early in the war and the Union later on. Significant troop and cavalry movement took place past this spot throughout the war including to the great battles of Antietam and Gettysburg.
So important was this junction that Union Colonel Charles Lowell, Commander, 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry at Camp Vienna, set up an observation post overlooking the junction in 1863-1864. Colonel John S. Mosby's Partisan Rangers also recognized its significance. They conducted several successful raids against the post.
Crossroads Time LineJune 10, 1861
Gen. Robert E. Lee orders the destruction of the AL&H tracks to inhibit the advance of Union forces by rail from Alexandria. Train tracks are subsequently torn up and bridges burned west of Vienna.
June 17, 1861
George Washington Hunter, Jr., operator of Hunter's Mill, guides Confederate Col. Maxcy Gregg's regiment of 1st South Carolina Volunteers down the Alexandria Loudoun & Hampshire Railroad (AL&H) - today's W&OD Trail - to Vienna resulting in the well-known Railroad Ambush. It was the first tactical use of railroad in the war.
October 20, 1861
First military action in the Hunter Mill area occurs here as the Pennsylvania Reserve Corp's 1st Brigade called "Bucktails" engage Confederates fatally wounding a cavalryman.
November 26, 1861
Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart's first engagement against Union cavalry occurs near the intersection of Lawyers and Hunter Mill Rds. This engagement is reported as the "Skirmish near Hunter's Mill" in "Harper's Weekly," December 21, 1861. Stuart's 1st N.C. Cavalry inflicts a 35 percent casualty rate on the 3rd Pa. Cavalry killing one lieutenant, wounding six men and capturing 26.
The New Miller's House serves as a hospital for the "Bucktails" after the Battle of Dranesville.
Approximately 15,000 men from Union Gen. George McCall's Pennsylvania Reserve Corps encamp and prepare for the upcoming Peninsula Campaign in the Hunter Mill Rd. corridor. With McCall are Gen. John Reynolds, 1st Brigade commander, who was the first general to perish at the Battle of Gettysburg; Gen. George Meade, 2nd Brigade commander, who was later given command of the Army of the Potomac just three days before Gettysburg; and Gen. Edward Ord, 3rd Brigade commander, who had defeated Stuart earlier at Dranesville.
September 3, 1862
Confederate Gen. Wade Hampton and his cavalry pass here protecting the right flank of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia on the way to the Battle of Sharpsburg (Antietam).
December 29, 1862
Stuart, along with then 1st Lt. John S. Mosby as scout, uses the railroad bed from Vienna to pass through here with forty prisoners on the well-known Christmas Raid. This raid also proves to be the genesis of Mosby's Partisan Rangers as Mosby and nine men were left behind to continue harassing Union forces.
June 17, 1863
The Union's 12th Corps eats breakfast here and receives orders to encamp 2-1/2 miles up Hunter Mill Rd., near the Colvin Run bridge while heading north towards Gettysburg.
June 26, 1863
Union Commander of the Army of the Potomac, Gen. Joseph "Fighting Joe" Hooker, and his staff pass here on the way to Gettysburg. An ongoing feud with army HQ's leads Hooker to resign the following day.
1863 to 1864
The Union picket post overlooking this junction suffers multiple successful attacks by Mosby's rangers. Most notably, on April 23, 1864, Mosby and 50 of his men cross Difficult Run, dismount and attack the pickets at 4 AM. One Union soldier is wounded; three men and nine horses are captured.
April 18, 1864
Herman Melville, author of "Moby Dick," accompanies Col. Charles Lowell's 2nd Mass. Cavalry out of Camp Vienna scouting for Lt. Col. Mosby. This mission results in Melville's poem "The Scout Toward Aldie."
October 18, 1864
Reverend John Read of Falls Church, is executed one mile east of here near mile marker 13.5 on the W&OD Trail.