I used to always think of Woodville as only a very small hamlet along Route 522 (Sperryville Pike) marking about three-quarters of the way from Culpeper to Sperryville. The place where the speed limit drops to 35 miles per hour, and a Civil War Trails sign points to a side road and the direction of some interpretive panels. Usually, I was in a hurry, sighed at the speed limit, and thought to myself “someday, I’ll stop and read the signs.”
Well, a couple of weekends ago I was heading back from the Shenandoah Valley, and it wasn’t dark yet. Perfect time to stop and check out the history on the Civil War Trails signs. Like most lesser-known places, it turns out that Woodville has some great history!
Follow the Civil War Trails sign, and turn onto Road 618 (Hawlin Road). St. Paul’s Episcopal Cemetery is directly ahead and the interpretive signs are along the cemetery’s fenceline. There is a large parking pull off.
The three signs address different chapters of local history:
- Union General Robert Milroy’s Camp during the summer of 1862
- The beginnings of the Gettysburg Campaign in 1863
- Colonel John Mosby and artist Robert Sneden’s meeting in November 1863
Since it’s Gettysburg Campaign season, here’s a photograph of that interpretive panel… (Click to view larger)
Poking around in the Official Records turned up some mentions of the small community in the summer of 1863. For example, on June 16, 1863, General Robert E. Lee wrote to General A.P. Hill, the new commander of the new Third Corps of Army of Northern Virginia. Hill’s corps was the last to leave Central Virginia for the northward march toward Pennsylvania.
GENERAL: I have received your two dispatches of yesterday, and conclude that the enemy has entirely disappeared from your front…. I wish your corps to follow Longstreet as closely as you can, and keeping your divisions in supporting distance, your reserve artillery, heavy batteries, and reserve trains might advantageously take the Sperryville road as far as Woodville, and there turn off for Chester Gap to Front Royal, and so down the Valley….
It puts little Woodville in a new perspective to reimagine it was one of the points along the road to Gettysburg (along with the other historic events that happened here). In the future as I drive the road to the Blue Ridge and slow for the posted speed limit through Woodville, I’ll take the moment to think about the soldiers who marched through…and how many did not march back.
This summer find somewhere off the road and lesser-known to explore. You just might discover that you’re glad for those impossibly slow speed limits through historic places!