Curators of Fairfax County’s newest Civil War museum say initial attendance has surpassed their wildest dreams.
The Stuart-Mosby Civil War Cavalry Museum, 13938 Braddock Rd. in Centreville, opened in late October and is operated by a nonprofit group hoping to make it a sought-after destination.
The museum has had a steady flow of visitors from day one, said historian, author and assistant museum curator Don Hakenson.
“We opened during the annual Centreville Days celebration and had nearly 130 people come through opening day,” he said. “Since then, we have averaged about 10 people a day, which doesn’t sound like much, but it is more than we ever dreamt we could achieve. We have had people show up from as far away as Winchester, and even had one man come through from San Diego.”
The museum is housed in a former commercial property owned by real estate agent Dennis Hogge that has its own historical connection to the two Confederate Virginia soldiers for which it is now named.
John Singleton Mosby, nicknamed the “Gray Ghost,” was a Confederate cavalry battalion commander probably best known for his guerrilla-like raids on Union encampments, most of which were within Fairfax County, Hakenson said.
“Mosby was the father of guerrilla warfare,” Hakenson said. “His tactics are still studied today by the U.S. Army and Marine Corps. He had no military background, but was probably the most successful guerrilla fighter in the history of our country.”
Col. J.E.B. Stuart is well known for his actions at the Battle of First Manassas in July 1861, leading a charge aiding in the victory for the Confederacy. Stuart was promoted to brigadier general two months later and eventually was the one who gave Mosby a small group of rangers to conduct independent partisan operations into Northern Virginia, Hakenson said. Those rangers eventually became the 43rd Battalion, Virginia Cavalry, and would grow from nine to as many as 2,000 men.
“The museum is housed in a former commercial building constructed with stones from Centreville’s historical Grigsby House, otherwise known as the four-chimney-house,” Hakenson said. “That is significant because it was this house which once served as Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston’s headquarters, where Mosby met Stuart for the very first time.”
Today, it houses the free 24-foot-by-30-foot museum operated by the Stuart-Mosby Historical Society, a nonprofit organization with about 200 members. The museum also serves as the society’s headquarters, Hakenson said.
“We hope to make Centreville a tourist destination for those interested in Civil War history,” he said. “Our primary goal is to educate.”
The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays and Saturdays. It houses Civil War cavalry artifacts such as pistols, swords, saddles, artillery shells, clothing, and a variety of items that were owned by both Stuart and Mosby, museum curator Howard Crouch said.
“Some items came from the Virginia Historical Society,” Crouch said. “Others came from the Fairfax City Museum and both the Mosby and Stuart families.”
Hakenson said that since discovering the museum, many patrons have offered to donate their Stuart- and Mosby-related items to display there.
“There is a lower floor in the museum that we are currently not yet using,” he said, “but I have no problem expanding our exhibit area and using it to display more items.”
Hakenson said the museum houses at least three very personal items of Stuart’s.
“We actually have a lock of his hair on display,” he said, “as well as a spoon that is reported to have fallen out of his pocket the day before he died and a saber he used that the society paid $20,000 for.”
Hakenson said the society was able to use proceeds from the sale of a book about Mosby that it published, based on letters that Mosby wrote, to purchase the sword.
Fairfax County Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully) said the museum is a welcome addition to Centreville’s historic district. “The Civil War was one of the most important periods in Centreville history,” he said. “This museum is a great addition, and I am just thrilled that it is here. I hope that the schools will take advantage of it to help educate children about both the Civil War and Centreville’s history during that period.”
For information about the Stuart-Mosby Civil War Cavalry Museum, call 703-971-4984.