Dumfries, an important Potomac River port chartered in 1749, became strategically significant in the autumn of 1861 when Confederate forces built batteries along the Potomac River nearby to blockade Washington, D.C. Gen. William H.C. Whiting, commanding Confederate forces, established his headquarters here at Love's Tavern (Williams's Ordinary) while winter camps were erected around Dumfries. After the Confederates evacuated the town in March 1862, Col. Charles Candy's Federal troops moved in.
On December 27, 1862, Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart and 1,800 cavalry troopers attacked the Federal garrisons at Dumfries and Occoquan. Part of Stuart's command, led by Gens. Fitzhugh Lee and W.H.F. Rooney Lee, assaulted Dumfries from the north and south. Stuart's Horse Artillery bombarded the town, destroying many buildings, but Candy's Federals repulsed numerous attacks. The losses on both sides were relatively light.
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McDowell Map of Northern Virginia, 1862Courtesy Library of Congress
The Confederates shelled the town until dark and the next morning moved north to join their comrades then riding into Fairfax County, where Stuart engaged the Union garrison at Occoquan and captured supplies at Burke Station. Dumfries remained under Federal control for the rest of the war, but various Confederate partisan bands launched attacks periodically until the close of the war.
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Civil War Dumfries, Harper's Weekly sketch by A.R. Waud - Courtesy George Mason University
"Gen. Johnston arrived here [Dumfries] this evening, and is now staying at Gen. Whiting's head quarters. He will remain here a day or two inspecting the army and then return to Centreville. His arrival has been a course of much rejoicing, and hundreds have been in town today, to get a glimpse of their Chief. They will have an opportunity tomorrow." - Times dispatch, November 27, 1861
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Gen. W.H.C. Whiting · Col Charles Candy · Gen. Fitzhugh Lee · Gen. W.H.F. Rooney Lee
All courtesy of Library of Congress