Churches and Taverns Become Military Hospitals

Churches and Taverns Become Military Hospitals

As Union casualties began pouring into Centreville the desperate nature of the conflict finally began to settle in. While most of the taverns and churches of Centreville would be pressed into service as temporary hospitals during the battle, it was the Old Stone Church (Methodist Meeting House) that would become the focal point of the conflict. One witness to the carnage described the scene around the Stone Church with a pile of amputated limbs, tossed from the lower windows into the North yard, "as being higher than a man could see over," and with the dead and wounded completely covering the other church lawns.

[Note: The Confederates used the old Stone House located in the Manassas Battlefield at the intersection of 29/234 as a hospital. Today, if you see the red flag flying from a window, it is open for tourists. Notice the dozen or so artillery shells sticking out of this structure. These were found post-war and placed in mortar joints by and for the amusement of farmers seeking to fool tourists. They did such a good job with their practical joke, that even today, the park rangers would tell you Jackson's Artillery fired them into the walls from Henry Hill. Not! An exploding shell or a 12-pound solid shot does not hit a stone wall the same way a marble drops into a bowl of pudding!]

But, we hasten back to our story. While visiting Centreville from the 18th to the 21st, our Northern guests did not behave themselves in stellar fashion. Just up Mount Gilead Road, at Centreville's other church, St. John's Episcopal, general pillaging had begun. Surgeon Thomas A. Means, of the 11th Georgia, writing to his father after the battle described what he saw:

"The vandal barbarism and blasphemy of some of the Federal troops are characterized by the following incident: While quartered but for one day on the little village of Centreville, they destroyed a magnificent Episcopal Church, desecrated the alter with profuse inscriptions, tore up the carpets from the aisles, scattered the mutilated leaves of the Holy Bible to the four corners of the building, and wrote, in large letters, just over the pulpit, the following diabolical sentence: 'Death to the d--d Rebels and Jeff Davis. So saith the Lord and Abe Lincoln.' Many scurrilous devices, obscene figures, vulgar caricatures, and profane denunciations, were scratched upon the walls of the gallery, and left as melancholy memorials of the infernal spirit which actuated them. Many similar scenes were witnessed by the citizens of the place, whose hands were motionless, and whose mouths were closed, for they dared not resist."

Across Braddock Road from the Old Stone Church sits the old Red House Tavern (Centreville's Post Office until 1921 and today's Havener House). This house was also used as a hospital, and described in 1914 by a Washington Star writer, following: "In the southwest angle of the village street stands the little brown stone church and the view there is much the same as it was during the Civil War as shown by one of Brady's photographs. Brady set up his camera on the west side of the Warrenton Pike, showed the junction of the street and pike, the little church and a very old house, frame, basement, two stories and garret, tall with an outside stone chimney, and a deep porch extending across the whole front. It was on the east side of the road opposite the church. It is standing today. Winter Marshall keeps store in this house which furnished shelter to all the wounded men it could hold after the first and second battles of Bull Run." The federals also tried to burn the Red House Tavern, but being in something of a hurry, did not do a thorough job, and the town's people were able to save it. Today, the underneath of the stair casings still bare the heavy black scars of the fire, as well as the rafters in the south end of the garret (attic). Twenty years ago, while removing a frozen radiator in the Red House Tavern, we found between the layers of old flooring a Civil War surgeon's scalpel, still open, with the initials J.C. and a very faint red cross (the Red Cross was founded during the Civil War by Clara Barton at Fairfax Station).

Years before the above described incident, a very old gentleman who was its last occupant gave this writer a top-to-bottom tour of the Red House Tavern. While in the attic, he said that the wounded Union soldiers were laid out, close by, under the eves of the roof where they convalesced from their wounds. He then said, very casually, that there was a ghost living in the attic. He explained that one of the wounded soldiers had died and decided to stay around. He said they heard him walking around from time to time, but that he "never bothered nobody" (which is really nice, as who would want to live in a house with a bothersome ghost?) Well, not believing in ghosts, this "ghost story" was filed away and forgotten about. That is, until the following incident occurred a few years later. Having purchased and restored the old Red House Tavern, we leased it to the then-new community newspaper, Centre View. In the middle of the week, on deadline, it was quite customary for their staff to work late into the evening. One such night while two reporters were working on the main floor, a third was thought to be about as they both very clearly heard someone walking around the upper floors. Later on, wanting to lock up, they went upstairs to say goodnight and "be-sure-and-lock-up" to whoever was there. But, there was no one to be found. They called the next day and asked right off "Hey, is this old house haunted?" I paused, and then asked why. Hearing their story, I then told them mine. There followed a long, loud silence.

Well, we still don't believe in ghosts around here, but we don't go up in that attic anymore either!

To see these famous places, be sure to come to the Centreville Historic District on Centreville Day! See the Old Stone Church, the Episcopal Church with all its friendly faces, and the Red House Tavern and Post Office. Who knows, while touring the Red House, maybe you'll make a new friend!