Historian highlights local ties to Confederate spy
Friday, Aug. 03, 2012
Franconia farm site of Civil War gun battle
by Gregg MacDonald
A prominent Confederate spy had Fairfax County ties, according to Civil War historian Don Hakenson, who told the story at a meeting of the Burke Historical Society this past week.
Henry Thomas Harrison, a covert Confederate scout and spy, was so good at his job that much of his work continues to elude historians, Hakenson said.
According to Hakenson, where today a Sunrise Assisted Living facility now stands at Franconia Road and Frontier Drive, was formerly the 19th-century brick house occupied by the Broders family, which was built around 1825 by John H. Broders.
Broders’ son-in-law, William G. Moore, was appointed the Franconia postmaster and the office was given his name. A wing was added in 1877 for a post office.
The house was demolished in 1996 but the family cemetery remains off nearby Elder Avenue.
According to Hakenson, Harrison courted and married Laura Broders in fall 1863 and they had two daughters.
“I’m a local boy who went to Mark Twain Elementary School,” Hakenson said. “My third-grade teacher would talk about a great Virginian every day. And by great Virginian, I mean Confederates who lived and fought during the ‘War Between the States.’ The Broder family was one of the many local families she told us about.”
According to Burke Historical Society President Jon Vrana, Harrison was instrumental in the Battle of Gettysburg.
“He provided crucial intelligence to Gens. James Longstreet and Robert E. Lee during the battle,” he said.
Vrana, who is a member of the American Living History Education Society, dresses as Harrison and portrays him at re-enactments and educational functions.
“I’m going to be pretty busy next year,” he said. “It is the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.
According to Hakenson, the Broders farm might have ties to another famous Civil War event.
“On July 30, 1864, there was a firefight on the Broders farm between Confederate commander John Singleton Mosby’s 43rd Battalion of Virginia Cavalry, otherwise known as Mosby’s Rangers, and Union troops,” he said. “Another local historian, John Burfield, who used a metal detector to find bullets there, said it looked as though they had been ‘fired in anger.’”
Hakenson said Forestdale Elementary School was later built on the site of the gun battle.
Mosby, nicknamed the "Gray Ghost," was a Confederate cavalry battalion commander best known for his guerilla-like raids on Union encampments, most of which were within Fairfax County.
“He was the father of guerilla 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 guerilla fighter in the history of our country."
Hakenson has his own ties to Mosby.
“I had two great-grandfathers who served in the Confederate Cavalry of the Army of Northern Virginia and a number of relatives who served with Mosby’s Rangers,” he said.
Hakenson is the curator of the Stuart-Mosby Civil War Cavalry Museum, 13938 Braddock Road in Centrreville, which opened last October. For information on the museum, call 703-971-4984.
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