When it comes to Civil War history, Haymarket is often overshadowed by the more prominent Manassas.
But the town has its own colorful past, and Civil War enthusiasts, as well as town residents and officials, hope two new signs marking Virginia Civil War Trails will help remind others of that past.
Decorated in patriotic colors and placed next to Haymarket Museum in late October, the signs pay tribute to the hardships Haymarket residents endured during the Civil War and the pivotal role the town played in Maj. J.E.B. Stuart's controversial ride to Gettysburg.
Town officials planned to dedicate Haymarket's signs in a ceremony yesterday. Organizers said the event would honor fallen soldiers from both sides of the war with the playing of taps.
"Prince William County [was] the front lines," said Mark Trbovich, a Civil War enthusiast from Manassas whose idea it was to install the signs. Most people "know about the Manassas battlefield and Old Town Manassas, but Thoroughfare Gap all the way down to the Potomac River saw action -- cavalry engagements, troop movements and camps all during the war."
Haymarket's signs are the newest addition to Virginia's growing collection. Mitch Bowman, executive director of the Richmond-based Virginia Civil War Trails nonprofit organization, said that 351 trails signs are sprinkled across the state.
The mission of the project is to explain Civil War-related events at the sites where they occurred, creating a sort of outdoor museum for "normal people who know absolutely nothing about the Civil War," Bowman said.
"We want to cast a much wider net and engage those who know nothing or care nothing about the Civil War and show them that the war affected normal people in a small little crossroads towns such as Haymarket," he said.
The new signs detail the events in Haymarket during the war, from the Nov. 5, 1862, burning of the town by federal troops to Stuart's chance encounter with U.S. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock's II Corps in 1863. Historians are still debating today how much Stuart's exchange in Haymarket affected the outcome of the Battle of Gettysburg, Trbovich said.
There are at least 15 Virginia Civil War Trails signs in Prince William County, Trbovich said. Similar signs are being installed in Maryland and North Carolina.