American Civil War In My Backyard

Most residents of USA have current or past family members, neighbors, classmates, and friends who served in the military and fought in wars. Today, November 11, we honor American military veterans on Veteran’s Day. There are other observances around the world. It is Remembrance Day in Australia, Canada, and United Kingdom. It is Armistice Day in New Zealand and some European countries.

This is a repost of an article from 2012. Having ancestors who served in the American Civil War, it is fascinating to have learned that my backyard was the scene of Civil War skirmishes or at least a support area for Civil War skirmishes. It is my wee salute to US veterans, past and present.

There is a very large hole on my property. It is probably 15 feet deep, 30 feet across, and 100 feet wide.

Civil War trench?

There are also several smaller trenches in my back yard. Upon request by two neighbors, historians, archaeologists, and architects studied these trenches and determined they were engineered and built specifically for the American Civil War in the 1860s.

Civil War trench

That’s right, I have Civil War history in my backyard!

Civil War trench

Why are there Civil War trenches on my property?

The Washington & Old Dominion trail is nearby. The W&OD (pronounced “wad” by us locals) is a Rails-to-Trails conversion, a bike/horse/foot trail converted from a railroad. During the Civil War, a train line ran next to my property!

The researchers determined that the series of rifle pits were designed and dug to disrupt train service. Soldiers would hide in the trenches and ambush the train. Apparently, the railroad line changed hands (from Confederate to Union and back. Repeat.) several times during the Civil War.

A couple of Civil War trenches are on my property while other trenches are perpendicular to the W&OD in other neighbor’s back yards.

Civil War trenches: View Toward W&OD

A recent revelation is that one Civil War trench likely served as living quarters. My neighbors determined this while visiting a recreated Civil War site. One of the park’s trenches has a stone wall with a wooden hut built over it. Sure enough, one of “our” trenches has a stone wall.

Civil War Trench: Possible Living Quarters

The soldiers probably picked this spot because it was on a hill and close to a natural water source. In the next picture, the fresh water spring is at the bottom of the green grass in the distance.

Civil War trench: View toward water spring

In the next picture (and the second one from the top) is what remains from a mighty oak that fell on my property a few years ago. For a sense of how large the tree was, note my size 13 shoe inside the hollow trunk.

Civil War trench

While I do not expect that our properties will become a National Park, one neighbor does lead historical tours. His tours visit many sites in the Hunter Mill corridor with a favorite stop being our Civil War trenches.

But you can have your own private tour on your next visit to the area. I will be happy to show you around!

As for the giant hole, no one knows why it is here. The researchers said it was not constructed along with the rifle trenches. In fact, no one thinks it is manmade.

Found Any Relics?

A few years after we moved in, I invited a relic-hunting coworker to scour my property. He found nothing. My neighbors said the area was picked over before the houses were built (in the 1970s). One neighbor (the tour guide) did find a cannon ball. I have found a suspicious metal object that may be a shattered bullet. That’s about it.

How’s that for nearby history? What is in your backyard?

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