A Trip to Mosby’s Confederacy

Last week, my friend and fellow Ranger, Shannon informed me that Carol Bundy would be speaking in nearby Aldie, Virginia. Carol Bundy is an author and historian from Boston, Massachusetts. She is known in the Civil War community for her excellent biography on Charles Russell Lowell Jr., The Nature of Sacrifice: A Biography of Charles Russell Lowell, Jr.  This Boston born horseman inspired one of the park’s most successful programs known simply as, “The Lost Generation.” In this program, Shannon examines two men whos lives experiences paralleled each other before the war. Both men were mortally wounded at the Battle of Cedar Creek. These two men, Stephen D. Ramseur and Charles Russell Lowell exemplify this “lost generation” of men who perished during the Civil War. One of Shannon’s inspirations for this program was the biography written by Carol. So after work this past Saturday, we headed into Mosby’s Confederacy to meet some friends for the event.

The organization sponsoring this event was the Mosby Heritage Area Association. This non-profit group preserves numerous acres of land in Northern Virginia as well as restoring historic properties to their 19th century appearances; all for the effort in “education through preservation.” Most recently, the MHHA implemented interpretative signage at the Mt. Zion Historic Park, a part of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority system. The program began with the unveiling of these five new sign. Two greetvisitors at the parking lot giving historical context to the site, two interpret the cavalry action that took place there in 1864 and the final is located next to the historic cemetery.

View of the historic Mt. Zion Church

View of the historic Mt. Zion Church

During the summer months of July 1864, Col. Charles Russell Lowell Jr. was given the impossible task of dealing with John S. Mosby and the 43rd Virginia Battalion. Russell’s brigade was situated between the Union capital at Washington D.C. to the east and “Mosby’s Confederacy” to the west. During the first week of July 1864, Union troopers from New Jersey and Massachusetts under Maj. Forbes clashed with Mosby’s rangers at the Mt. Zion Church. This clash was a resounding victory for Mosby’s men. To commemorate the 150th Anniverary of this event, MHHA dedicated these signs and brought Carol Bundy to Dixieland to speak.

The group then headed into the newly restored Mt. Zion Church to hear Carol Bundy’s remarks. Bundy introduced herself and began to talk about the rag-tag brigade that Lowell commanded in 1864. She mentioned that these men were from the urban areas of the northeast and even included men from California known as the “California 100”. She poetically described the men’s frustrating experiences attempting to deal with Mosby in 1864, culminating at the action occurring at Mt. Zion Church. The action was quickly described as Bundy moved to the relationship forged between Union Major Forbes and Mosby following the Civil War. This friendship born on the battlefield blossomed in the post war decades. The lecture concluded with Carol fielding questions from the crowd, who not surprisingly enough focused their questions on the Civil War military actions of Mosby and Lowell.

Carol Bundy speaks to the crowd inside the church

Carol Bundy speaks to the crowd inside the church

Following the lecture, I purchased my own copy of her biography and asked Carol one last question. After the Battle of Cedar Creek, Gen. George Custer traveled to Washington D.C. to present the thirteen captured Rebel flags from the battle to the War Department. I heard through the grapevine that Gen. Sheridan’s first choice was actually Lowell, not Custer. So I asked Carol this question. She responded stating following the Battle of Antietam some two years prior, Lowell was the man who presented Rebel flags in D.C., not Custer. Carol elaborating saying that the men of his own division loved Lowell; and there would have been no other choice if he had survived. Finally, she cited a conversation between Custer and a Massachusetts politician when Custer visits D.C. Here, she points to the fact that in this dialogue, Custer said he was the second choice and Lowell would have been the first.

I found this lecture and event highly enjoyable and added yet another book to my growing library collection. At the same time, I was tad bit disappointed. Once again, the majority of the crowd attending the event were older, white and male.  As the excitement of the Civil War Sesquicentennial comes to an end next year, what will the future of Civil War history be? That is a question for yet another day.


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