Think you know the town of Brentsville? The historic town is more than just the Courthouse Historic Centre. On Saturday, April 25th from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., you can join local historians on a walking tour as you explore the rich heritage of Brentsville at sites outside of the Historic Centre. For just $35 per person, you will discover cemeteries, historic buildings and sites of buildings that have disappeared long ago. Lunch is included in the cost of admission.
The Town of Brentsville was established in 1820 and became the county seat for Prince William County. When the town was established, many residents moved west for better farmland, making the former county seat of Dumfries too inconveniently located. In 1894 the county seat moved to Manassas, leaving Brentsville a rural community and allowing it to retain its 19th century character.
Brentsville was the Prince William County seat during the Civil War. In response to John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry in 1859, the Prince William Cavalry (Co. A Virginia Cavalry) was formed here on the courthouse lawn in January 1860. The ladies of Brentsville made a flag and presented it to the company. Other Confederate units from Prince William County such as Ewell Guards (Co. A. 49th Virginia Infantry) were organized and drilled here.
The Battle of Bristoe Station fought three miles west on Oct. 14 1863 brought combat to Brentsville’s doorstep. During the battle, Federal General John Buford’s cavalry was posted here to protect the Federal supply train. Confederate partisan units operate in Brentsville until the end of the war.Prince William County researchers report that like many Virginian towns, Brentsville suffered heavily at the hands of both armies during the Civil War. Confederate General Eppa Hunton, a Brentsville resident and lawyer, had his house and other buildings destroyed. The Hampton Legion, among other units, was posted here on scouting missions. Several homes and churches served as hospitals. The county clerk’s office was torn down and its bricks used for camp chimneys. Part of the ca. 1822 courthouse roof was torn off and many county records were either destroyed or taken by soldiers as souvenirs. Capt. Andrew McHenry of the 13th Pennsylvania Infantry wrote of Brentsville in 1864 “the houses generally are in ruin.”
The Brentsville Courthouse Historic Centre spans 28 acres with five historic buildings and various archaeological sites, including the 1822 Courthouse, the 1822 Jail, Haislip-Hall House, Union Church, the 1928 One Room Schoolhouse and the Brentsville Tavern archaeological site. For more information on the history of Brentsville and the historical preservation happening here, check out the Prince William County website.
If you choose the walking tour, because spring weather is so unpredictable, make sure you check the forecast and dress appropriately. And while Courthouse staff loves your four-footed friends as much as you do, they do ask that you please leave pets at home during the tour.
For more information, contact Brentsville Courthouse Historic Centre at 703-365-7895. You can also visit Prince William County Department of Public Works, Historic Preservation Division online or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.