"This beautiful country . . . is decidedly the finest part of the Old Dominion I have yet seen, both as regards fertility of soil and beauty of scenery."
— Lt. J.C. McLure, 5th South Carolina Volunteers, October 26, 1861
Perhaps the most striking thing for the hiker, biker, or motorist in the Mosby Heritage Area is that our mid-19th century road network is largely intact, much as it was known to farmers and runaway slaves, Civil War soldiers and Mosby guerillas, still connecting historic villages and small towns. People here fight to preserve this vast network with its lovely viewscapes dotted by historic structures, even to the point of resisting paving over 330 miles of these roads. Our “dirt” roads where you encounter them are “macadamized”—in 19th-century parlance—crushed rock rolled into the dirt. Our rollers are no longer horse-drawn, but the experience of driving these historic roads should let you know what an earlier generation knew and saw. They are generally well-maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation and suggest a motoring speed of 25-30 miles per hour as they are still used by residents and businesses who have life to attend to. Do not avoid them—enjoy them!
Driving through this remarkable area—the Mosby Heritage Area—you will find a landscape that retains much of its past. The Sampler Tour follows Route 50—the John Mosby Highway—with side trips into the countryside of Loudoun, Fauquier and Clarke counties.
Although Quakers had established themselves on the eastern and western shores of Maryland as early as 1656, the first Quakers in the Northern Neck (part of which is Loudoun County today) did not arrive until the 1730s. Using this tour, explore sites such as Oakdale School, left, which was built by the Society of Friends (Quakers) in 1815 in Goose Creek, later renamed Lincoln for the 16th president. It is the oldest existing one-room school of brick construction in Loudoun today. It remained Quaker until the late 1800s when the state provided public education; it then became a public school.
This tour is designed to show you locations from a largely overlooked era of Loudoun’s past—its colonial and Revolutionary history. Though no battles were fought here, Loudoun’s Revolutionary Era sites still have important stories to tell. On this tour, you will hear how Loudoun was founded and how and why it contributed the most soldiers to the cause of American independence of any Virginia county. These sites have feel, so we hope you take your time, taking in their atmosphere, composing photos, and stopping to literally touch the past where you can.
Hunting the Gray Ghost
One hundred and fifty years ago on the winding back roads in Northern Virginia’s Mosby Heritage Area, America’s ultimate cat-and-mouse game played out between John S. Mosby, the “Gray Ghost," and Union cavalry. Explore "Mosby's Confederacy" by taking our five tours with our Mosby Motoring Guide.
- Hunting the Gray Ghost Introduction: Visiting the Battlefield of Mosby— the Mosby Heritage Area
- Tour 1: The Mosby Mystique
- Tour 2: Cat and Mouse in Mosby's Confederacy
- Tour 3: 1864-65: A Different Kind of War
- Tour 4: Mosby, the End of the War, and After
- Tour 5: The Brothers' War: Mosby and the Unionists
This tour takes the visitor through parts of "Mosby’s Confederacy" beginning at Truro Church in Fairfax where Mosby made a daring capture behind Federal lines of a Union general, Edwin Stoughton. The tour continues west along Route 50, making stops at Jermantown, Fair Oaks Memorial, Cub Run, Pleasant Valley Church, Lenah, Mt. Zion Church, Aldie Mill, Dover, Middleburg, and ends in Atoka. Approximately 25 miles, 10 stops. Written by Horace Mewborn, author of 43rd Battalion Virginia Cavalry—Mosby’s Command.
This second tour into Mosby’s Confederacy begins at Rector’s Crossroads (Atoka today) and follows Route 50 into Clarke County ending at Snickers Gap on Route 7. The tour includes the fight at Mt. Carmel Church, west of Ashby’s Gap, the surrender negotiations at Millwood, and the Berryville Wagon Train Raid. The tour is approximately 1.5 hours long.
When General Robert E. Lee moved north up the Shenandoah Valley toward Gettysburg, he ordered Maj. Gen. Jeb Stuart to screen the Confederate advance from Federal troops east of the Blue Ridge. On a hot, dusty day in June of 1863, Federal horsemen collided with Stuart's pickets at Aldie and began five days of fierce cavalry actions moving west through Middleburg and culminating in the Battle of Upperville, where 10,000 troops were engaged. Approximately 20 miles. 10 stops. Written and narrated by Robert O’Neill. Introduction by Willard Scott. CD format only. Small map included.
Sandwiched between the great battles of Antietam and Fredericksburg, three smaller, seemingly insignificant engagements took place at Philomont, Unison, and Upperville. The tour takes the listener from Lovettsville in Loudoun County to Rectortown in Fauquier County while traveling through some of the most scenic countryside of the Mosby Heritage Area. Approximately 25 miles. 10 stops. Written by Horace Mewborn. Narrated by Robert O’Neill. Introduction by Willard Scott.
In 1917, Northern Virginia's Loudoun County had just begun to emerge from the shadow of the Civil War that had devastated it a half-century earlier. It was still a rural county of some 21,000 souls, but now was plunging into a second agricultural revolution, with the latest technology being employed to raise cattle, horses, and grain. But America's entry into World War I sought to disrupt all of that. This walking tour uses Loudoun's county seat, Leesburg, and western Loudoun's Purcellville, a smaller, rural, agri-business town, to look at the First World War's impact on everyday Virginians. It will also bring you to the home of Virginia's wartime governor, Westmoreland Davis.
The four year struggle of the Civil War solved the nation's questions about slavery, but opened up many more questions about equality that Northern Virginians had to confront. This tour showcases the existing sites in Loudoun County related to the battle for Civil Rights as it played out on the historic landscapes of Leesburg, Waterford, and Purcellville before, during, and after the Civil War.