The historic house called Farley
where we ate lunch after our ride.

Note: This is Part 2 of my experiences on June 4 as part of the Mosby Heritage Area Association Brandy Station Battlefield ride.

After a morning of horseback riding across the beautiful rolling hills on the Brandy Station Battlefield on Saturday, we retired to the historic Farley plantation for lunch. (My second most favorite thing — next to horses — is old houses).

Built in the 1790s, Farley boasts one of the grandest and most historic reputations in all of Culpeper County and perhaps Virginia.

William Champe Carter bought the former Sans Souci Plantation in 1801 and renamed it Farley, in honor of his bride, Maria Byrd Farley Carter. The house is one hundred feet long, and about 7,000 square feet. Champe and Maria Carter oversaw countless scenes of social gaiety held in Farley’s formal parlor.

Upon the death of Champe Carter in 1843, Dr. William Wellford of Fredericksburg bought Farley and lived there until the Civil War. Little did he know that Farley would lie squarely within the crosshairs of the four-year conflict.

Looking toward Fleetwood Hill from
the yard of Farley.

During the Civil War, both armies used “Wellford’s Ford” on the Hazel River to anchor their right or left flank, depending on their objective. Farley sits only a half mile from the ford, and was therefore highly suitable for a commanding general to use as headquarters. It also sits a mere quarter mile away from the northern terminus of Fleetwood Hill, the most fought over piece of real estate in American military history.

Walking through the large halls of the house it was hard to imagine all of those who had walked there before me. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart used the house as a headquarters, and wounded and dying men took refuge there following the Battle of Brandy Station.

In late 1863, General John Sedgwick, 6th Corps Commander, Army of the Potomac, moved into Farley for nearly six months as the 120,000-strong Federal army wintered in Culpeper County. According to records, Sedgwick hosted many memorable parties at Farley for visiting dignitaries. Walking around the grounds, we saw stone foundations and partial walls of former slave quarters, as well as the original house built in 1790.

Large, wide hallways run
the length of Farley.

The inside of the house was simply spectacular, with two long halls running the length of both floors. I lost count of the number of rooms, but could understand why it made the perfect headquarters. I’ve been in a lot of old homes and have never seen a layout quite like it (but plan to use it in a future book)!

On the first floor there was a beautiful library with floor-to-ceiling built-in bookshelves, a music room, the dining room and kitchen. Our guide told us the story of Frank Stringfellow, a Confederate spy, who dressed as a Union officer while Sedgwick was camped there and ate dinner with the Union officers. Stringfellow was very bold, and often walked straight into Union camps and towns in order to gather information. He was so scrawny and small physically that he was turned down by the regular army numerous times before coming a scout.

Union officers sitting on the
porch at the Farley plantation.

Another interesting aspect of this historic home involves this photo of Union officers sitting on the front porch of Farley. When you look closely at the original, you can see two boot scrapers at the bottom of the steps. One of those remains today.

I wish I had room for all of the photos I took, and I wish I could remember half of the information I was given on Saturday. I can’t thank the Mosby Heritage Area Association enough for organizing the ride and lunch, and I can’t imagine a better guide than Clark “Bud” Hall. Many thanks to all who made this day one of the most memorable of my lifetime.

Jessica James


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