War History Hidden in Mills

The Arlington Mill of northern Virginia is finally on the map, thanks to a group of Civil War enthusiasts who convinced the county board to erect a trail sign commemorating a June 1861 skirmish. Although this early engagement was short-lived, it proved to the Federal government how vulnerable the U.S. Capital was, and Union forts were constructed all around Washington City as a result.

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On Veteran’s Day 2017, a Civil War Trails sign unveiling ceremony began with a presentation of colors by members of the Army of the Potomac Living History Society, accompanied by fife and drummers from the Union Army Honor Guard. In attendance were Virginia State Delegate Alfonso Lopez, County Board Member John Vihstadt, local historian Beth DeFrancis Sun, and keynote speaker Peter Vaselopulos, who helped spearhead the project and produced a short companion film titled Skirmish at Arlington Mills.

During times of war, the mills of the Mid-Atlantic took on special significance. They either helped or hindered armies and often played a role in battle strategy. Many mills served as military staging grounds, hosted hungry troops, or/and served as post-battle hospitals. Millers in southern Pennsylvania helped feed General Braddock’s army during the French Indian Wars, while others sustained George Washington’s troops throughout the American Revolution. During the Civil War, southern mills that were believed to be assisting rebel forces were often wrecked. Many were burned, others taken apart plank by plank. The recycled wood was used to kindle warmth, stoke bonfires, or create make-shift shelters.


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