Church Remembers Fallen Civil War Soldiers - Dranesville Church of the Brethren commemorates 150 years since Battle of Dranesville.
Church Remembers Fallen Civil War Soldiers
Dranesville Church of the Brethren commemorates 150 years since Battle of Dranesville.
By Alex McVeigh
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
One hundred and fifty years ago, Confederate forces coming from Centreville encountered Union troops coming from Langley, and the resulting Battle of Dranesville took place near the intersection of Leesburg Pike and Georgetown Pike. The battle, which took place Dec. 20, 1861, resulted in a Union victory, as well as the deaths of 300 soldiers.
It was with those soldiers in mind that the Dranesville Church of the Brethren, which was built in 1912 on part of the battlefield, held their annual remembrance ceremony. The church, known for its pacifist stance, paid tribute to the victims from both sides in the battle.
"There are many stories of riders going to both the Union and Confederate side, and it was understood that these people were not combatants, but they were pacifists, they were going to help whoever was in need," said Pastor Glenn Young. "When they saw the carnage of war, and what it did to others, they became even more convinced that this was something that they did not want to be a part of. Rather, they chose to be angels of peace and angels of healing on the battlefield."
THE CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN was founded during the days of the Holy Roman Empire, and when they came to America, they continued their pacifist ways throughout the country’s early conflicts, Young said.
"They did not want to participate in any kind of war. But what their response would be, was to help those who were wounded in battle," he said. "During the Revolutionary War, when their farms were overrun with soldiers from the British and American armies, there are many stories of people from the church going out and picking up people from both sides and nursing them back to health."
Members of the church read letters and journal entries from Civil War soldiers, which started off enthusiastic and boasted of victories, but the tone soon shifted as the horrors of war become more apparent to all involved.
"The units that fought at Dranesville would meet again and again over the next four years as the pace of the war picked up," said John Waggoner, a church member and local historian. "For those who fought at Dranesville, the war had just begun."
As Waggoner read about the battle, the names of many of the deceased were read. As each name came out, one of the dozens of candles were blown out, until the name of Alexander Smith was read, and the final candle was blown out, sending the church into darkness.
"I thought it was very powerful ceremony, really moving as they read the names," said Kathleen Murphy of Great Falls.
Members of the Dixie Rose Relief Society appeared at the ceremony, dressed as mourners from the era of the battle.
"You see a lot of battles in Hollywood, but not often what the females and children would go through while their family members were away at war," said Carol Polkinghorne, one of the re-enactors. "The more research you do by reading their letters, you really connect and can identify with what they were going through."
Denise Winter, who also dressed in a black hoop skirt and bonnet to represent mourning, said the group came from a performance at Gettysburg earlier that morning.
"These costumes were made for us to represent people in the mourning period," she said. "We try and do as many of these type of events we have, they’re always very touching."