Waterford in the Civil War — 1861

By John Divine
Reprinted from the Booklet of 1961.

Wikipedia article

The story of Waterford during the Civil War is the story of many Virginia towns caught in the ebb and flow of the changing fortunes of war; only the central characters are different.

Waterford in 1860 seemed the most unlikely place for the fury and destruction of war to strike, for the community had been founded by a people whose cardinal principle was non-resistance.

Settled in 1733 (1) by a sturdy band of pioneers from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, they came to make a home, free from Old World persecutions and the increasing population of eastern Pennsylvania. These people were members of the Society of Friends (Quakers) and were led by Amos Janney(2), a man of courage and character, wise in the ways of establishing a colony in a sparsely inhabited region. Janney, his wife, Mary (Yardley), and young son were the forerunners of a large emigration of Friends who were to come between the years 1733-1750. (3)

Drawing man harvesting wheatHere in the valley, at the foot of the western slope of Catoctin Mountain intersected by South Fork of Catoctin Creek, they found the fertile land and water power they had been seeking. These Friends were not typical of early pioneers; their simple dress replaced the buckskin shirt; their Bibles supplanted the long rifles; their Meeting House took the place of tavern or ordinary as a focal point for community gatherings.

Within the first year of his arrival, Janney “obtained leave to hold a Meeting for worship on first days."(4) Until 1741, these meetings were held in the newly built homes of members. In that year (1741) land was purchased, and "a rude place worship of  logs was built.(5) This place of worship was designated "Fairfax Meeting" after the proprietor of the Northern Neck, Lord Thomas Fairfax. By that time a village had been started on the banks of Catoctin Creek; it consisted of a mill, black smith shop, tan yard and four or five houses.(6) This early hamlet was called Milltown and continued under that name until the coming of Thomas Moore in 1750, when he suggested that the "rising community" be named Waterford for his ancestral home, Waterford, Ireland. (7)

These new settlers were to find that they were wedged between two vastly different forms of society. To the north, the "German Settlement" had begun its development some eight years earlier on lands immediately south of the Potomac River. These people had come to Pennsylvania from the lower Palatinate(8) in search of relief from the oppressions there. Being basically agriculturalists, they had moved west from the Philadelphia area before turning south through Maryland - always following fertile lands – until finally they reached the northern area of Loudoun County. The farms taken up by these people were small in comparison with the Virginia estates or plantations of that period, but, they tilled their own land and improved its fertility with the less soil-depleting crops of small grains.

In contrast to these frugal people, eastern and southern Loudoun was settled by English Cavaliers from Tidewater.(9) Here, to this section, came families of the great Virginia names - Carter, Noland, Lee and Mason - to establish great estates with large mansion houses. With them from Tidewater they brought tobacco, the crop that had been the greatest economic factor in Virginia; and with them, to work their large holdings, came their slaves.

There is no indication that social intercourse with either neighboring group was carried on by the Quakers, but a common love for soil improvement bound them closer to the Germans. The un-pretentious, but solid homes they built, and the gentle care they showed the land, indicated that this settling was not an interlude in a passing migration - they had come to stay.

Also from Pennsylvania close in the wake of the Friends came another group into Waterford, which has left an indelible mark on the community. These were the Scottish-Irish, who, being skilled craftsmen, did the lasting work of construction that we still see around us today.

Thus, long before the events of the 1860's, which erupted into civil strife, there were drawn the lines that marked a clear division of sentiment concerning slavery. These small land owners had never needed slaves to till their small farms; had they been so inclined, the rules of their Meeting prohibited owning slaves. Consequently, on the great issues of the day their sympathies were with the Union rather than with the rest of Virginia.

It would be erroneous to give the impression that the entire community was Unionist in its views; there were those who shared the political views of their brothers to the south, and, although in the minority, supported the cause until the end of the war. Fire-brand oratory shook the walls of the Nation's capitol, and the State capitol at Richmond, with Unionists and Secessionists debating the issue; but it does not appear that it excited the town that was founded by a people seeking peace.

The War Starts

Suddenly there was an awakening to the fact that not all men were living in this same harmony. Seven hundred miles away, in the early morning of April 12, 1861, a shell sputtered in lazy flight across Charleston Harbor to crash into Fort Sumter, and precipitate a bloody struggle that caught a hundred gentle towns in a hundred fertile valleys in the deadly grip of war.

On April I 7, 1861, the convention then assembled in Richmond, passed an Ordinance of Secession subject to ratification by the people, and set May 23rd as the date for this referendum.

What would be the position of these staunch Union people of Waterford now that they were faced with the issue of a divided country?

Loudoun County was beginning to prepare for war before the referendum was held, as evidenced by two notices in a local paper: (10)

General Orders
Headquarters, 6th Brigade, V.M
Leesburg, May 7, 1861
To Col. Wm. Giddings, 56th Reg., Col. S. L. Ramey, 57th Reg., and Col. L. Chancellor, of the 132d Reg.:
You will immediately collect all the arms belonging to the State within the bounds of your Regiments, and not in the hands of Volunteer Companies, and have them delivered to me in Leesburg.
All private citizens who may be in possession of such arms, are requested to deliver them to Colonels of the Regiments.
R L. Wright
Brig. Gen'l. 6th Brigade, V.M.

And the following which appeared at the top of the editorial column: (11)

"At a meeting of citizens of the county of Loudoun, held in the Mayor's Office, Leesburg, on Wednesday, May 8, 1861, to take into consideration the best mode of assisting in the support of the families of the soldiers called into service of the State, William H. Gray, Esq., was called to the chair, and William Beverly, Esq. appointed Secretary. On motion of L. W. S. Hough, Dr. T. H. Clagett, T. W. Edwards and Wm. V. Casey were appointed a committee to receive contributions.

The committee can be seen at the Washingtonian Office any hour in the day, and will thankfully receive, and faithfully distribute, all contributions sent to them.

We want money, wood, bacon, flour, meal, candles, butter, eggs, lard, &c. The women and children MUST be cared for -and those that don't fight, should care for the families of our brave volunteers.

Mr. Wm. Cline will receive at his store near the railroad, any or all of the above named articles."

Would the Quakers Fight

What would the men of the "Quaker Settlement" do when the militia companies were called into State service? Many young men of the Society of Friends had been "disowned" by their Meeting for bearing arms in the Revolutionary War; would they fight in this impending war, or would they run the risk of being termed traitors to the State?

All of these questions were soon to be answered.

Throughout the County large majorities followed the action taken by the State Convention, and supported the Ordinance of Secession.(12) In Waterford, however, the Pennsylvania back-ground was quite apparent, as the vote was 221 to 30 against secession. Few eligible voters stayed away from the polls that day, for the 1860 census had shown but 822 whites and 177 colored as the entire population for the Waterford District (those receiving their mail from the Post Office).

When the Waterford company of the 56th Virginia Militia was called up, less than half of its members responded to the call(13) - this was the first outright indication that the majority of the citizens would not support the Confederate cause.

War fever was running high in Loudoun County, and the local press added to the tumult with an editorial; "Liberty or Death":(14)

"This was the cry of Patrick Henry in the great struggle for out national independence. We believe, at this moment, it animates the hearts of all true Virginians. Indeed, we have never seen nor imagined anything comparable to the feeling which pervades this Commonwealth at this time. Since the foul invaders have polluted our soil with their footsteps, an irrepressible eagerness to give them bloody graves pervades all classes. Old and young, women and children all share in the exciting and universal motion. Death to the tyrants is not only on the lips, but in the hearts of our whole population. The restraints of military discipline are scarcely thought of in the intense and restless anxiety to rush on the foe and avenge in blood the outrage on her honor and freedom." ...

The war was young, and excitement was great, but the impetuous would have done well to heed the advertisement of two Quaker businessmen of Waterford:(15)

"To the People of Virginia"
The unfortunate state of affairs that now exists in the country demanded the serious consideration of the people of Virginia how they can best restore peace to the country, and stay the effusion of
blood - the crisis has come, how shall we meet it, by division and contention in our midst? Certainly not. Let us – not only maintain the honor, but the industrial pursuits of Virginia.
We have determined to do so, to prosecute our business with the same vigor as formerly - agricultural pursuits must go on.
We much desire that agriculturists may not let the excitement that now prevails deter them from having their implements of husbandry put in order for service. We are prepared and will do it, so long as the people of Virginia will sustain us. (providence permitting. )
That peace and prosperity may speedily be restored, to our
now distracted country, is our most ardent desire.


Virginia had seceded to join the Southern Confederacy, thus leaving an isolated area north and west of the Catoctin Mountains as a virtual no-mans land. So close to the border that neither Union nor Confederate could effectively control the region for any length of time, it was subject to constant raids and skirmishes throughout the war.

While the vote had been predominantly in favor of remaining with the Union, the majority of the citizens were Quakers who attempted to maintain a strict neutrality despite this strong sentiment. Considered disloyal by the Confederates, and situated geographically so that Union troops could give but little protection, they were to suffer much during the four years of conflict. Burned out by their friends and robbed by their enemies, would be an appropriate description of what happened.

On May 27, 1861, the Post Master General of the United States issued an order suspending all postal service in the Seceded States; this order to become effective May 31, 1861.(16)

The Confederate Government established a postal system, and the following "Postal Information" was given:(17)

"On and after the first of June (Saturday) the Southern Confederacy assumed the entire control of the postal service within its limits. Some changes then took place which it will be well for the public to remember, otherwise there will be many letters delayed in the offices where they are deposited, among these may be mentioned the following:

1. All letters of single rate must be paid five cents in money, or Confederate stamps, and where the distance is over five hundred miles, they must be paid ten cents. Persons therefore, should be
careful to count distances.

2d. United States postage stamps cannot be used in this Confederacy and consequently will be of no use, unless it be to send letters North, with an additional five cents added.

3d. All the newspapers and circulars must be paid at the rates of about two cents each, instead of only one as formerly."

There is no evidence that the Confederate Postal System ever operated a Post Office in Waterford, and with the United States System suspended for the duration, the effects of war were felt by June 1st.

The Confederate Government realized that Loudoun County was vulnerable to invasion, and immediately started building fortifications against this threat. Impressment for work on these fortifications, near Leesburg, proved distasteful, and caused many of the Unionists to flee into nearby Maryland. This was not confined alone to the younger men, but threats of conscription forced many of the prominent business men of the town to seek refuge north of the Potomac. A particular target of the Confederates was Samuel C. Means, prosperous Waterford mill operator. After repeated refusals to cooperate and support the Confederacy, Means was forced to flee to Point of Rocks, Maryland, where he also had business interests. Immediately, much of his personal property was seized, including large quantities of meal and flour, more than twenty horses, two wagons, and about forty hogs. Being more or less of Quaker lineage it is doubtful if Means would have taken an active part in the war he not been driven from his home and had seen his property confiscated.

Loudoun Rangers reunion at Waterford Virginia in 1910

Loudoun Rangers reunion at Waterford in 1910

He later came back to Virginia to organize the Independent Loudoun Virginia Rangers under direct commission from Secretary of War Stanton; the only organized body from Virginia to fight for the Union. The Loudoun Cavalry, under Capt. W. W. Meade, came into the area confiscating horses and wagons for the Confederate Army;(l8) this seriously curtailed the operations of the farmers, and had its effect on the town which was supported by agriculture.

Former friends now became enemies as opinions were voiced, and the town founded in peace became a community of recrimination and bitterness. Word of the struggle within the community reached the outside world and caused the Baltimore Sun to print the following article in its issue of July 16, 1861:

Reign of Terror in Loudoun County
Washington, July 15 - The reign of terror in Loudoun County
is at its height. Notices of a militia muster for to-day were given
on Saturday when citizens were told to be ready to be drafted into
the militia for an immediate march to Manassas Junction, to fill
up the ranks of Gen. Beauregard's forces. All the Union men of
Waterford determined to escape. Twelve fled from their homes night before last, and evaded the Confederate pickets for nine miles, arriving at the ford at Point of Rocks, which they crossed, and soon got inside the lines of the First New Hampshire regiment, stationed at the Point of Rocks. They were kindly cared for by the New Hampshire boys, and came to Washington to-day, arriving here this evening.
Forty more Union men were to run away yesterday and try to cross the above mentioned ford last night. During yesterday evening the Confederate pickets on the other side were seen to stop and drive back several squads of men who were coming in the direction of the ford, who are supposed to have been some of the escaping party to which allusion is above made.


With the delivery of the mails suspended, and Confederate picket lines along the Potomac River, those citizens of Waterford, whose sympathies were with the Union, were prevented from carrying on their usual intercourses with Maryland, and the rest of the United States. An underground was established with Thomas Fouch, a citizen of the outskirts of Waterford, as the hero.(19) Fouch, of strong Union proclivities, would slip through the Confederate picket line, and cross the river into Maryland, carrying information and letters. His route across the fields avoided the usual paths of travel, and with a boat to cross the Potomac at a little suspected crossing, he was never detected. [Trade at Point of Rocks]

Fouch did odd jobs around the town, and in this way he was able to contact the Union people who were interested in sending and receiving messages. In returning from his nocturnal visits he feigned drunkenness although seldom under the influence. He also guided many men from the town to safe refuge in Maryland, who would otherwise have been conscripted into the Confederate Army. When the Confederate forces had retreated south, and Union troops entered the town, his usefulness in this capacity had ended. He joined the local company of Union troops on July 27, 1863, the same organization that his two sons had joined the previous year.(20)

Samuel M. Janney of Waterford Virginia in Loudoun County

Samuel M. Janney

Conditions in Waterford during the latter half of the year 1861 are best described by Samuel M. Janney, prominent member of Goose Creek Friends Meeting:

"During the autumn and early winter of 1861 the Southern troops remained in possession of our county. Their camps were mostly near Leesburg, but a company or two of cavalry were kept at Waterford and occupied one-half of Friends' Meeting- House for their barrack. When they first came to Waterford they seemed to entertain a strong prejudice and animosity against the Friends, having been informed that they were Union men and abolitionists: but on becoming better acquainted, some of the soldiers acknowledged that the storekeepers who were Friends, dealt with them more fairly than any they had met with on their march from the South, and their prejudices were removed. When it was observed that they intended to occupy the Meeting- House, some· of· the Friends called on the Captain and informed him. that meetings had been held in that house regularly twice a week for more than one hundred years, and they were loath to give it up. He agreed to occupy one end of the house, leaving the other part for the use of the meeting. The Captain and some of the men often sat in the meeting, behaving with much decorum, and our beloved friend Miriam Gover was favored to preach the Gospel to them in the authority of Truth, which some of them freely acknowledged. I sometimes visited that meeting when the soldiers were in attendance, and had to admire the condescending goodness of the Heavenly Shepherd”… (21)

Roads radiating from the town to the principal river crossings made it a key point of Confederate defense. In addition to cavalry, Southern infantry was stationed in the town during the fall months, as a safeguard against Union patrols from points in Maryland and Harpers Ferry.

The Mutual Fire Insurance Company of Loudoun County, which had been organized in 1849 by local citizens, as a protection against the high rates then charged on rural property, suspended operations on December 31, 1861; "In consideration of the many and great difficulties by which the communication between the various members of this Company and the Executive Officers thereof is at present surrounded.(22)

Thus, as the year ended, the Insurance Company and the mill were closed, postal operations suspended, the merchant's stocks were depleted, and soldiers occupied the town – a few months of war had brought many changes to a once prosperous community.

(1) Samuel M. Janney - History of the Religious Society of Friends, Pages 248-9 William Wade Hingham - Genealogy of Quaker Families, Vol. VI, Pages 515-6.
(2) Janney, page 248; Hingham, page 515: some sources, quoting tradition, state that the town was founded by Asa Moore in 1732, but lack of evidence would tend to discount this in favor of the reliable sources quoted here. Evidence indicates that Amos Janney was in the area in 1732, for the date of his request for a Certificate of Transfer from Falls Monthly Meeting (Pa.) to Fairfax Meeting was dated 3rd month 1733, although this certificate was not issued until 6th month 1734.
(3) Janney, page 249; William Williams' Papers; Notebook of the late Mary Phillips Stabler
4) Hinshaw. page 516; Chalkely Matlack. Extracts From His Notebook
(5) Janney. page 249; Edward Hale Brush. Notes on Quakers of Loudoun
(6) William Williams - An Old Account of Waterford. 1860
(7) Mary F. Steer - "Old Memories"; Rev. Herbert Turner _ A History of the Philips Family
(8) Harrison Williams - Legends of Loudoun. page 45
(9) Harrison Williams. pages 37-38
(10) The Washingtonian (a newspaper published at Leesburg. Va.). June 7, 1861 28
(11) The Washingtonian
(12) The vote in Loudoun was 1626 for secession, and 726 against
(13) Briscoe Goodhart - History of the Independent Loudoun Virginia Rangers, page 20
(14) The Washingtonian - June 7, 1861
(15) The Washingtonian - June 7, 1861
James M. Steer, a wheelwright, and Reuben Schooley, a blacksmith, operated a manufacturing plant on Factory Street near the comer of 2nd St. There they not only repaired all types of farm implements, but manufactured one of the earliest grain drills.
(16) National Archives - Postal Records Branch
(17) The Washingtonian
(18) Goodhart. pages 21 and 25
(19) This is a story told by several Waterford families: in every case their account agreed in all major aspects.
(20) Goodhart – page 229.
(21) Samuel M. Janney - Memoirs of Samuel M. Janney, pages 193·4
(22) Minute Book" A" of the Mutual Fire Insurance Company of Loudoun County.