t. elizabeth renich

author of historical fiction

The 146th Anniversary


Gunnell House at Truro Church in Fairfax, Virginia

Gunnell House at Truro Church in Fairfax, Virginia

March 9, 2009The Capital Christian Writers (CCW) group gathered for the second time this year. The guest speaker, author Elizabeth Moll Stalcup, did a presentation on “Ghostwriting Life Stories” that was very informative and prompted some ideas for me. I lingered for awhile afterwards, chatting with a few of the other authors in attendance, and met a lady who’s written a book called The Spy in Crinoline — a fictionalized account of Antonia Ford who, at the beginning of the Civil War, lived in Fairfax Court House. (Antonia was acquainted with Laura Ratcliffe from over in Herndon.) 

          Dr. Susan brought me to the Gunnell House once upon a time, but the property was closed and we didn’t get to see inside. Since this is where the CCW meets, I’ve now been inside twice. And today just happened to be the anniversary of a Mosby event that happened at this house 146 years ago.

March 9, 1863:   John Singleton Mosby, with twenty-nine men, slipped through a break in the Union picket lines between Chantilly and Centreville.  Their objective was to try to capture a British officer named Percy Wyndham who was serving with the Federal army.  Wyndham had labeled Mosby a “horse thief” – an accusation which Mosby refuted by saying that all the horses he’d taken had had riders, who were unlucky enough to become his prisoners.  Wyndham, however, was not in Fairfax Court House on the night of March 9, 1863.  Brigadier General Edwin Stoughton had headquarters at the home of Dr. Gunnell, and after a lengthy celebration at a well-attended soiree, the general retired for the evening.  Sometime around two o’clock in the morning, he was rudely awakened by the invasion of uninvited guests in his bed chamber.  Mosby had gotten his attention with a slap to the backside and asked the general if he had ever heard of Mosby.  The general had, and wanted to know if he had been captured.  No, Mosby had replied, but Mosby has captured you!

          Mosby’s men made off with General Stoughton, more than eighty prisoners and as many horses without suffering a single casualty.  The Union pursuit didn’t last long.  Upon hearing of the Confederate’s raid, President Lincoln is said to have remarked, with his own brand of wit, that he didn’t mind losing a general so much — as he could appoint a new one in a matter of moments — but the loss of the horses was indeed regrettable.  For his brash and daring, Mosby was later promoted to Captain of Partisan Rangers.

(If you are interested in the entire account of the Raid on Fairfax, please read Mosby’s Memoirs by Colonel J.S. Mosby, pages 168-184)

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Author of the Shadowcreek Chronicles


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