Revolution and Civil War in Middleburg
Although Middleburg and the surrounding countryside are usually associated with the Civil War, it also played a large role in the Revolutionary War. In fact, Loudoun County sent almost 2,000 of its young men to join General Washington in that heroic fight – more than any other county in Virginia.
Two men of Middleburg left an indelible mark on those perilous times. As cries for independence from England resounded through the Colonies, a wealthy young landowner of Loudoun wrote a series of Resolutions protesting the “intolerable acts” of King George, demanding that Americans be either granted representation in Parliament – or join in a fight for freedom.
His name was Leven Powell, scion of a prominent Virginia family, husband of Sarah Harrison, father of six children, and owner of the local ‘Sally Mill.” When the colonies declared their independence in 1775, Colonel Powell immediately joined the Continental Army and served for three years with General Washington, even during the brutal winter of 1777-78 at Valley Forge. It was Powell who formally founded the town of “Middleburgh.”
The second hero of Revolutionary Middleburg was a young backwoodsman turned soldier. As General Washington began to have grave suspicions about the loyalty of General Benedict Arnold, commander of the crucial fort at West Point, he asked General Henry Lighthorse Lee to recommend a brave soldier to undertake a dangerous mission.
That mission was to pretend desertion from his own men, join up with British forces, somehow make his way to West Point, and then determine the role Benedict Arnold was playing.
General Lee Sargeant John Champe, who was, Lee wrote, “mightly of bone and sinew, stout-hearted and of boundless devotion and loyalty to his country.” Champe took off immediately. Closely pursued by his own fellow soldiers, who thought he had deserted, he headed for a British ship off the coast near Bergen, New Jersey, ditched his horse and swam toward the ship. “A more convincing ‘desertion’ could not have been staged,” wrote General Lee.
Welcomed by the British, Champe got himself assigned to West Point and was able to secure documents proving that General Arnold was indeed in league with English Major John Andre, and planned to turn over West Point to the British for 20,000 pounds.
So pleased was General Washington with his young spy that he appointed him Sargeant-at-Arms to the Continental Congress. At war’s end, John Champe returned and lived with his family in a small house just a few miles east of Middleburg, where an obelisk now stands in his honor.
No story of Middleburg or the Civil War could be told without relating the exploits of Colonel John Singleton Mosby, the Gray Ghost of the Confederacy.
A dashing young man in a swirling cape and plumed hat, Mosby was an attorney and graduate of the University of Virginia. His love of the south, however, drove him to defend its way of life. In 1862, at a beautiful plantation called “Oakham” near Middleburg, he secured permission from General J.E.B. Stuart to form a band of Rangers to conduct guerrilla raids against the Yankees. This is believed to be the first time in military history that guerrilla tactics were endorsed by a standing army.
Riding fast in the dark of night, Mosby and his men appeared seemingly out of nowhere, and by using the element of surprise, captured hundreds of enemy horses and cattle; diverted huge shipments of Union supplies, guns and gold; blew up bridges, wounded or captured some 1,200 Union troops; and even captured Union General Edwin Stoughton from his own bed at Fairfax Court House. This action led General Robert E. Lee to explain, “I just wish I had a hundred like him.”
Sheltered in barns, schools, homes and forests around Middleburg, despite his daring escapades, Mosby was only shot once, at the Lake House on the Atoka Road, but he was never captured, nor even at war’s end did he ever surrender. Indeed, although there was a price on his head, he survived and was later appointed by President Ulysses S. Grant as the U.S. Consul to Hong Kong.
His exploits as a beloved hero of the Confederacy live on through the efforts of the Mosby Heritage Area Association, and, as most people notice, he his honored by the name of the road on which most people travel to Middleburg: The John Singleton Mosby Highway (51).
Source: The Visitor’s Guide to Middleburg, Virginia