The final seven days of the VV rides are here, and it is time to put all our conditioning ..for both equines and human...to the test in our very own multiday -- a week long series of LD rides through the Loudoun, Clarke and Fauquier countryside Civil War haunts of the famous (and local!) Confederate hero Col. John Singleton Mosby and his Rangers.
John Singleton Mosby and his Rangers - 1864
Born in Powhatan County, Virginia and raised within view of Jefferson’s Monticello, John Singleton Mosby was the ultimate citizen soldier. University of Virginia-trained, he was a small town Virginia lawyer opposed to secession when the War broke out in 1861. Mosby started with 9 cavalrymen from the Confederate Cavalry command of J.E.B. Stuart on detached duty in Loudoun and Fauquier counties in early January 1863. Stuart supplied several more two weeks later. Mosby had immediate success with surprise attacks against the Union cavalry screen and its many small outposts on the Loudoun-Fairfax county line. This led men home on leave, boys ages 16 and 17, infantry convalescent’s, and a limited number of transfers from Stuart’s command to join the Rangers. The force grew in size, until some 1,911 men had served under Mosby.
Like land privateers, these “partisan” Rangers were allowed to keep what they took from Yankees. Mostly they took pistols, carbines (short repeating cavalry rifles), and horses. Most of the Rangers possessed 4 pistols and 4 horses to be always ready and well-armed for a raid with a fresh horse. Other materiel was sold to the Confederate Army or given to homeowners who took the risk of boarding rangers locally.
Mosby’s unit was formalized as the 43rd Battalion (later it was a Regiment) of Virginia Cavalry on June 10, 1863 in the parlor of the Rector House at Rector’s Crossroads (today’s Atoka). While one of only two units allowed to remain partisans in the Confederate Army, they took orders directly from President Davis, General Robert E. Lee, and Stuart. Raids were coordinated with other Confederate military activity. Usually, their goals were to demoralize the Union cavalry screen west of Washington, to attack supply trains, wagon trains, and outposts. In 1864-65, many of the Rangers’ raids focused on the northern Shenandoah Valley, aimed at Sheridan’s invading Union army.
Day 1 - Bloomfield & Cannon Hill
Both the small hamlet of Bloomfield and Cannon Hill, a privately owned stunningly beautiful estate of several hundred acres, played a pivitol role during the Civil War in Loudoun County as Confederate staging, sentry and cannon sites. Boomfield sits on the main north-south road (now paved) coming from Upperville (5 miles to the south), while Cannon Hill sat on a high point of land overlooking another of the old main north-south roads (still gravel) through western Loudoun County. Both were strategic sites that saw the marching of many soldiers from both North and South on roads that have remained little changed since Yardley published his "Map of Loudoun County" in 1850. It was over the surrounding fields that once housed tents of Civil War soldiers, and over the ageless gravel roads that once brought supplies and warfare to this pristine countryside, that Day 1 of the Mosby Hertitage Multiday Ride will traverse.
Loop 1 - Bloomfield - 6.04 miles.
Carriages coming up the road near Cannon Hill Farm. This road is little changed from the road that existed in the 1860's as a route used by Civil War troops making their way from Upperville to Bloomfield.
The town of Bloomfield was founded by the Virginia General Assembly on January 13, 1816 and was named for fields of wildflowers along the Blue Ridge near the town. The land around the town is low with many boggy areas, and was often called "Frogtown" for the noise of the spring peepers and tree frogs that populated the woods and swamps and streams. During the Civil War, Confederate forces under Maj. Gen J.E.B. Stuart biouvacked in Bloomfield during the Battle of Unison. Later in the war Col. Mosby and his Rangers visited the town to divide up $173,000 they had robbed from a Union payroll train in West Virginia during the Greenback Raid. In the prior century Bloomfield was a thriving hamlet with a school, post office, churches, and a hosts of various businesses.
Time has gently erased most of the industry and many of the homes to leave behind a sleepy crossroads of wide fields and woodlands that still echo with the cry of foxhounds in the fall/winter as the Piedmont Fox Hounds still holds claim from the 1870s to the surrounding farmlands as part of its Tuesday territory. In the 1950s much of the extensive network of public gravel roads were abandoned and returned to the adjoining lands. These abandoned byways still exist in several forms -- some being carefully maintained and kept open by the landowners; others allowed to fall into unpassable jumbles of fallen trees and thickly grown undergrowth. The town of Bloomfield lost its post office designation many years ago and now is known principally by the many lovely horse estates and hundreds of acres of open hay fields with beautiful horse paths following the edges of the fields for several miles of soft, easy riding, just perfect for the opening loop.
Loop 2 - Cannon Hill - 10.65 miles
Owned originally in the 1930's by the DuPont Family as part of their three "Hill" farms, it was later purchased Donnan Monk, formerly Donnan Plumb, an Olympic silver medal winner in Dressage, and the wife of Michael Plumb who was himself an Olympic gold medal winner in 3 day Eventing. A number of years ago she sold the property to Cricket (Firestone) and David McDonald who subsequently added several more hundred acres to the property to create an estate of incredible beauty. This loop included many of the beautifully groomed and mowed paths that wind and dance their way around acres and acres of open hay fields and through deep, old growth woods. Several old road beds intersect the estate, most of which have been cleaned and resurfaced in soft wood chips, carefully maintained with beautiful footing and wide enough for 3 horses to ride abreast. As part of this loop the byways were delightful to ride, shaded overhead by the budding branches of many old growth oaks already turning red in anticipation of Spring.
Loop 3 - Foxlease back woods - 9.57 miles
. The 936 acre Foxlease estate borders Cannon Hill, both estates sharing over a mile of property line via one of the old roads, now abandoned, but still known as "Randolph's Lane" or "Randolph's Corner".
One of the many beautiful horse trails through Foxlease's back woods
The Randolph family was one of the icons of early Virginia history whose members contributed to the politics of Colonial Virginia and Virginia after it gained its statehood. They are descended from the Randolphs of Morton Moreton, Warwickshire, England. The first Randolph to come to America was Henry Randolph in 1643. His nephew, William Randolph later came to Virginia as an orphan in 1669.Randolph family of Virginia married with members of the Lee, Washington, and Harrison families, and included notable members such as Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, United States Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall, First Continental Congress president Peyton Randolph, Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens, Secretary of War George Randolph, and Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
Foxlease was originally built as a "hunting box" (residence during the foxhunt season). In later years it gained fame as one of the top dairy farms in Virginia, and the main residence of Dr. Archbold Cary Randolph, Master of the Piedmont Fox Hounds in the 30's and 40's. Upon his death in the late 1980's, the farm was purchased by Jeffrey J. Steiner, Chairman of Fairchild Corporation, who transformed the decaying dairy pastures and barns into a stunningly beautiful polo place. The old woods surrounding the estate are filled with gentle winding pathways and meandering streams which comprised the final loop as it finally traverses "Randolph's Lane" which spans Rt. 719 to the west and Willisville Rd to the east, coming out directly below the main entrance to the estate of Old Welbourne, which was once the home of Col. Dulany, and a haunt of "The Grey Ghost" aka John Singleton Mosby.
The loop finishes the final 2 miles as it exits at Randolph's Corner and turns left going past the estate of Old Welbourne.
The original tract of Old Welbourne consisted of more than 620 acres. The land came into the Dulany family in the first part of the 19th century when they arrived in America from Queen’s County, Ireland. It was the seventh child of Miss Elizabeth French, ward of George Washington, and Benjamin Tasker Dulany of Annapolis, Maryland, who in 1811 inherited over 500 hundred of these same acres. Daniel Peyton Dulany and his new bride Mary Ann deButts built a modest stone and log four room cabin which they aptly named ‘Welbourne’ to honor her birthplace ‘Welbourne Hall’ in Lincolnshire, England.Sometime between 1820 and 1840 this small cabin was abandoned, possibly due to fire, and the Dulanys moved with their four children five miles away to a late 18th century stone house named ‘Welbourne’ and is still owned by descendants of the Dulany family.
Records from 1852 indicate that the original ‘Welbourne’ cabin was renovated and that a large 14 room Georgian style brick residence was built nearby to house Daniel P. Dulany’s daughter, Julia who called the new manor house “Old Welbourne.” The ruins of this historic first Dulany home place, along with the Dulany family cemetery, remain on the property today. The cemetery was built in 1878 of thick fieldstone walls capped with limestone and dotted with hemlocks to shade the many tombstones.Buried in the graveyard is Colonel Richard Hunter Dulany who in 1853 founded the Upperville Colt & Horse Show, a thriving local event, noted as the ‘…oldest horse show in the United States.’ His son, Richard Hunter Dulany founded the Piedmont Fox Hounds in 1840, which continues to hunt hounds three days a week from August through March in this territory.
Total miles - 26.02 miles.