The Winery at Bull Run has long been concerned with vintage in terms of when wine is made, of course.
But owner Jon Hickox is also a history buff who has created a small Civil War museum inside the winery’s main building. His collection of artifacts draws even nondrinkers to the 225-acre property in Centreville, just over the Prince William County line and next to Manassas National Battlefield Park.
So “vintage” there can just as easily refer to a relic from the past, such as a recently added flag from the Prince William Cavalry that’s more than 150 years old.
The cavalry began as a county militia before the Civil War and transitioned into a Confederate unit after Virginia seceded from the Union, Hickox said last week. It became Company A of the 4th Virginia Cavalry.
The silk flag was converted, too, from a militia banner to one for war. It measures about 3½ feet by 5½ feet. One side has three large stripes, two red and one white, and bears a blue square in the upper-right corner with the words “Prince William Cavalry” in capital letters, with 11 white stars. That side faces up in a special airtight display case that Hickox made after he bought the flag in January.
The red and white stripes came from a repurposed U.S. flag, Hickox said. The thin alternating stripes were taken apart at the seams and then stitched back together, red with red and white with white, to create larger lines of color in the style of the first national flag of the Confederacy.
The other side of the flag, shown in a picture beside the display case, is adorned with a version of the Virginia state seal hand-painted by an artist from Baltimore.
Although Hickox owns lots of Civil War antiques, he said he usually isn’t into flags, preferring to purchase muskets or artillery shells.
“But when it came to me, I thought, you know, ‘How can I turn it down?’ ” he said of the relic, which he acquired from Howard Churchill. Churchill, who is in his early 70s, grew up in Manassas, and he was the last in his family to own the flag before selling it to Hickox.
Churchill’s great-great-grandmother Emma Williams made the flag in August 1859 with her cousin. Williams was the sister of the Prince William unit’s second captain, and she married Lucien A. Davis, Churchill’s great-great-grandfather, who was the third and last commander of Company A.
Davis took the flag home to Brentsville at the end of the Civil War, and it was hidden until the early part of the 20th century, Churchill said. Later, it was placed on loan to the Manassas Museum for 33 years.
Churchill said he didn’t intend to sell the piece, but he couldn’t come to terms on another loan agreement with anyone. He’s glad he could pass it along to Hickox, who plans to create a larger Civil War museum in the future.
“It is truly a museum-quality piece,” said Churchill, who lives in a Richmond suburb.
Hickox didn’t want to disclose what he paid Churchill, but Civil War flags can command prices that range from a few thousand dollars to more than $1 million, said Steve Sylvia, who publishes the magazine North South Trader’s Civil War and hosts shows for buyers and sellers of antique arms and other historical items.
Sylvia, who connected Hickox and Churchill, said the flag Hickox now owns is probably the only Civil War banner in existence from Prince William. Company-level flags weren’t as likely to be saved by veterans or their families as those from larger military units, he said.
“They didn’t survive to the same degree, so they are far more rare,” Sylvia said.