The Fight at Waterford, 1862
Loudoun County and the Civil War. A History and Guide
In 1861, the Catoctin Mountains of northern Loudoun separated the areas of sentiment just as sharply as it divided the freestone soil of the Catoctin Valley from the limestone region of the valley adjoining the Potomac River. This low mountain range also separated the homes of two men who would contribute much to the history of a divided County: Elijah V. White, successful farmer of the eastern side, and Samuel Means, prosperous miller, from the western slope.
White, whose sympathies lay with the South, distinguished himself in a volunteer capacity at the battle of Ball's Bluff. For his conduct there he was granted a commission as captain in the Provisional Army with authority to raise a company of cavalry. At Leesburg in December, 1861, he recruited a company which became the nucleus of the 35th Battalion, Virginia Cavalry. This battalion was destined to have a distinguished career throughout the war.
Means, a Union supporter, had been forced 'to flee into Maryland in July, 1861, and his property confiscated by the Confederates. In March, 1862, he acted as civilian guide for Colonel John W. Geary when the first Federal troops came in to take possession of the County. Unable to return to his home and business, he accepted a commission as captain, with authority to raise a company of cavalry to be known as Independent Loudoun Guards (the name was later changed to Loudoun Rangers). In June, he began recruiting a company from the Lovettsville-Waterford area where pro-Union feeling was the greatest. This company, later augmented by a second, remained in an independent status until 1864 when Captain Means resigned, and the two companies were placed in the Union Eighth Corps.
With this background it was inevitable that these two companies would meet in armed conflict.
By August 26, 1862, Captain Means had moved his company to Waterford for operations against the Confederates in the County.
Twenty-four men were sent to picket the six public roads leading into the town, and the remaining twenty-eight were sheltered in the Baptist Meeting House. Captain Means retired to his home in the town leaving Lieutenant Luther Slater in command.
Before daylight on the 27th, Captain White with about fifty men evaded the pickets by crossing fields and approached the church undetected. Dividing his forces, White sent one part down the road to draw the Rangers from the building, thus offering a target for his main body stationed in a cornfield opposite the church. Hearing the noise, the Rangers rushed out to be met by a volley from the cornfield which killed one man and seriously wounded Lieutenant Slater and several of his men. After firing one volley in return, the Rangers sought safety within the brick walled church.
A siege then began which lasted for more than two hours, during which time two demands for surrender were carried into the church by Mrs. Henry Virts whose home stood opposite the Church in the edge of the cornfield. Each time the demand for surrender was rejected by the besieged men. At about 7 a.m. Mrs. Virts made her third trip into the building with Captain White's demand for surrender. Their ammunition exhausted, the Rangers finally agreed to hear Captain White's terms. The conditions agreed upon by both Captain White and Lieutenant Slater were that all in the church should be paroled and released on the spot, the officers to retain their side arms. Several men had escaped during the firing, and two men captured outside of the church were not included in the terms, so nineteen were paroled.
The Union losses were one killed, one who died five days later, and nine others wounded. The Confederates had two men killed and an undetermined number wounded. Being the victors they carried off their wounded without making a report.
After the surrender, one of White's men attempted to kill his brother, a member of Means' force, but cooler heads prevailed to disarm the man.
This engagement rated only one brief dispatch in the Official Records, and had no effect on the operation of either army, but it was unusual in the fact that the opposing forces came from the same County, and in one instance even from the same household.