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Civil War Weekend to Celebrate History

Sixth annual event to feature reenacted battles, food, live period music, activities for children.

Steve Wolfsberger will be a man without a country during the upcoming Sixth Annual Fairfax Civil War Weekend scheduled for Saturday, June 1 and Sunday, June 2.

During the demonstrated skirmish between Union and Confederate troops, Wolfsberger, a 17-year City of Fairfax resident, will portray a lower-ranked Confederate soldier. However, during the reenactment of Mosby’s Raid on Fairfax, Wolfsberger will be outfitted in Union garb portraying Brig. Gen. Edwin Stoughton.

"Stoughton, from Vermont, was 25-years-old and very ambitious," said Wolfsberger, a board member of Historic Fairfax City, Inc. (HFCI) "He was sleeping off a champagne drunk after a party for his visiting sister and mother. Mosby captured the general March 9, 1863 at 2 a.m.," said Wolfsberger.

Mosby’s Raid on Fairfax was successfully led by Capt. John Singleton Mosby at 2 a.m. without firing a single shot, said Wolfsberger. "We’ll do it in the middle of the afternoon and pretend it’s the middle of the night," he said.

Also captured by Mosby during his raid were two other officers, 30 enlisted men and 58 horses. President Abraham Lincoln was quoted as saying, "I can make another general, but I can’t make horses," said Wolfsberger of the Commander in Chief’s disappointment in losing the animals in the raid.

Eventually, Stoughton was used in a prisoner exchange, resigned his commission and "he slinked back to Vermont," said Wolfsberger.

This event is important for the children "as an educational tool, for them to ask questions of the re-enactors – they will learn more from living history than from reading it in a book. The re-enactors have a good knowledge of the person they represent," said Wolfsberger.

FOR THE SECOND YEAR in a row, the Civil War Weekend has been broadened to appeal to a greater audience, said Chris Martin, director of historic resources for the City of Fairfax. One of the more noticeable amendments to the event is the expansion to a two-day affair, from its former one-day.

Family-based activities such as twilight wagon rides, pony rides for children and period music are covered with the price of admission. Blacksmithing and living history demonstrations will take place each day as well. Live music will performed by the Libby Prison Minstrels, from Berlin, N.J. on Saturday, June 1 and by Douglas Jimerson and Gilmore’s Light Ensemble, from Hagerstown, Md. on Sunday, June 2. Cost for the Civil War event is $3 per person and $1 per child, said Martin, adding that food and beverages sold by vendors cost extra.

One of the food vendors to participate in the Civil War Weekend for the second year in a row is Red Hot & Blue of Fairfax City. In addition to selling food to event attendees, "we’re helping feed the volunteers," said Red Hot & Blue owner Barry Thompson. "I like to be involved. We’re involved in a lot of the city’s functions; the city has been good to us and we like to give back. A lot of people are out there dressed in Civil War regalia; it’s great to see. It’s like a camp," he said.

THE CAMP Thompson referred to is located at the Blenheim Estate at 3610 Old Lee Highway in the City of Fairfax. The Blenheim Estate is the last 12 acres of the 1,000-acre Willcoxon Farm, said Wolfsberger.

Rezin Willcoxon was a War of 1812 veteran. He is buried with his wife and his mother in the family cemetery at the Blenheim Estate. Willcoxon’s son Albert Willcoxon built the existing home in 1857 after the original home burned to the ground. "We know when it was built because it was insured," said Wolfsberger of the existing insurance records.

Part of the Civil War Weekend includes a tour of the Blenheim attic, for $5 per person. The proceeds are to benefit the restoration of the Blenheim Estate, which in 2001 was added to the National Register of Historic Homes, said Martin.

It is widely believed that the attic, which contains the signatures and graffiti of about 100 Union soldiers, is the largest collection of such signatures, said Martin. "Union soldiers passing through in 1862 and 1863 left signatures and various sayings and vagaries on the walls — a diary on the walls," said Martin. He said that 87 of the 100 signatures "have been positively identified as Union soldiers from Pennsylvania, New York, Wisconsin and Michigan representing 16 regiments."

Had it not been for a coalition formed in 1998, the Willcoxon property and Blenheim Estate might not have been saved, said 37-year Fairfax City resident Hildie Carney, a volunteer during the Civil War Weekend and part of the coalition that saved the estate.

"I live right behind the property," said Carney, chairman of the house tour and a member of HFCI. Barbara Scott, a fifth generation Willcoxon died 12 years ago. Her husband, William Scott died in 1998 leaving no heirs. The property was willed to William Scott’s brother in Arlington, Thomas Scott, said Carney.

A COALITION was formed and it took about 18 months, "but the city purchased the property for $2.1 million in December 1999. The property probably would have been sold to developers," said Carney.

"This is the house with the graffiti of Civil War soldiers – only a handful existing anywhere in the United States. It’s just awesome to think these men signed their names and they’re still there," said Carney.

Part of the tour includes the house that once belonged to Willcoxon’s grandmother, whose last name was Farr – as in Farrcroft, a housing development that sits where the grandmother’s house was located. The house was moved to the Willcoxon property last year to make way for the roughly 87-acre housing development, said Carney.

Martin noted that this year’s Civil War Weekend is being held earlier than last year’s in order to coincide with a June 1, 1861 event. On that date, Capt. John Quincy Marr of the Warrenton Rifles became the first Confederate officer to die in the Civil War. "He died in a nighttime skirmish on the lawn of the Fairfax Courthouse," said Martin. A Marr monument was erected in 1904 on the lawn of the courthouse. "The courthouse was a pivotal area occupied by both sides — a transitional zone between the forts surrounding Washington and the battlefields," he said.

For more information about the City of Fairfax Sixth Annual Civil War Weekend, visit www.ci.fairfax.va.us or call 703-385-8414.