|Mt. Zion Church|
On January 26, 1863, sixteen gray-clad riders gathered at the small brick church located at the intersection of the Old Carolina Road and Little River Turnpike near Aldie, Va.
The group was a very special detail of the 1st Virginia Cavalry under former adjutant John Singleton Mosby, detached from their unit for “special service.” They were converging with their leader for the First Rendezvous, which marked the beginning of something legendary. They were about to become Mosby’s Rangers.
As most of you know, Colonel Mosby was the inspiration for the main character in my historical fiction novels Shades of Gray and Noble Cause, so I thought it important to point out this important 150th anniversary.
It’s interesting to note that the historic Mt. Zion Church still stands, and is a great place to visit if you’re in Northern Virginia. It’s not far from the historic village of Aldie, (home to the historic Aldie Mill), and the beautiful Goose Creek Bridge.
The church was used as a military rendezvous site, prison, barracks, battleground, and hospital. Union troops used the church as a field hospital after the cavalry engagements of Aldie, Middleburg, and Upperville in June of 1863, and graffiti on the church’s walls are remnants of the soldier’s days spent in recuperation. July of 1864 saw military action close to the church, when Mosby and his men met the Union forces from Massachusetts and New York under Major William H. Forbes. It was an overwhelming victory for Mosby and his men.
The cemetery adjacent to the church contains over 240 marked graves and additional unmarked graves within its old stone wall, and at least 64 African American unmarked graves outside the wall. Among those buried here are veterans of the Civil War and one War of 1812 veteran.
After a number of successful raids, Mosby’s 43rd Battalion was officially formed on June 10, 1863, at Rector’s Cross Roads. By the summer of 1864, Mosby’s battalion had grown to six cavalry companies and one artillery company, comprising about 400 men. After February 1864, the Confederate Congress revoked the authority of all partisan units, except for two, one of which was Mosby’s 43rd Battalion. The battalion never formally surrendered, but was disbanded on April 21, 1865, after General Lee surrendered.
In honor of the anniversary of the First Rendezvous, the Mosby Heritage Area Association will be offering a program on Saturday, Jan. 26, at 11 a.m. at Mt Zion Church, 40309 John Mosby Hwy, Aldie, VA 20105. The topic will be “The First Rendezvous: Mosby at Mt. Zion.”