11. Farr’s Cross Roads Redoubt Site and Corduroy Road (Ox Road)
Background. Local historians have long known of the significance of the area surrounding the Ox Road (Route 123)/Braddock Road (Route 620) intersection (Farr’s Cross Roads). Several studies, including the Fairfax County Civil War Sites Inventory (prepared by John Milner Associates, Inc. in 2002), have documented the existence of Civil War-era redoubts, earthworks and camps in the areas surrounding the intersection.
Of particular interest is a redoubt and set of earthworks constructed by Col. Robert Rodes’ 5th Alabama (Ewell’s Brigade) in July 1861, prior to Battle of 1st Manassas/Bull Run, located on George Mason University (GMU) property. The site is in a small wooded area on the northeast quadrant of the Ox Road/Braddock Road intersection.
Following the publication of the Fairfax County Civil War Sites Inventory, the BRCWRT launched an initiative (led by John McAnaw) to preserve the redoubt/earthworks site. Although there was support within the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for preserving the site, at that time GMU had no interest in the discussing the preservation initiative.
While construction of the Mason Inn and parking lot and the enlargement of student parking lot K has reduced the overall size of the site and potentially obliterated some of the earthworks, the redoubt still remains and is in remarkably good condition.
The site is documented in the Fairfax County Civil War Sites Inventory completed by John Milner Associates, Inc. for the Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA) in 2002, and is included (44FX185) in the Fairfax County and Virginia historic site databases. Brian Corle, while a student at George Mason University (GMU), completed the Archeological Assessment of Site 44FX185, The Earthwork at Farrs Crossroads Fairfax County, Virginia(DHR File Number 2008-1541) in 2008.
In 2014 and 2016, remnants of the corduroy road that ran between Fairfax Court House and Fairfax Station were discovered during road construction projects along the section of Ox Road bordering the University Mall. BRCWRT supported the Friends of the Historic Courthouse in discussions to establish a site with appropriate signage describing the history and location of the Corduroy Road (Ox Road) - potential site locations included University Mall and GMU (as part of redoubt site). An initial dendrochronology assessment of logs recovered from the excavated corduroy road site indicated that the logs did not have a sufficient number of growth rings to accurately date them. While the inability to accurately date these recovered logs is unfortunate, they still present a terrific opportunity to tell and depict the history and story of the corduroying of Ox Road (before, during and after the Civil War period). There has been no progress to date on this Corduroy Road initiative.
Brian Mcenany, Blake Myers, Jim Lewis met with Brian Platt (Chair, GMU Department of History) on January 6, 2016 to present and discuss the historical significance of the redoubt at Farr’s Crossroads
Blake Myers contacted Brian Corle in February 2016 and received complete copy of Archeological Assessment of Site 44FX185, The Earthwork at Farrs Crossroads Fairfax County, Virginia Submittal Draft and Brian’s permission to use any and all information, data and photographs in his report.
25 May 2016 – Blake Myers, Jim Lewis and Brian Mcenany met with Tom Calhoun, GMU Vice President, Facilities and Cathy Pinskey, GMU Director of Campus Planning to provide and overview of the Farr’s Cross Roads site and discuss potential preservation. The meeting included an on-site tour with Tom and Cathy. Received minimal interest and no commitment from Tom regarding site preservation.
7 November 2016 - Brian Mcenany, Jim Lewis and Blake Myers conducted Farr’s Cross Roads Site tour and class for Professor Christopher Hamner’s Civil War and Reconstruction class (attendees - fourteen students, Brian Platt, Christopher Hamner).
22 September 2017 - Blake Myers, Jim Lewis and Brian Mcenany met with Frank Strike, Interim Vice President, Facilities and Doug Lipscomb, GMU Acting Director of Campus Planning to provide and overview of the Farr’s Cross Roads site and discuss potential preservation. Both Frank Strike and Doug Lipscomb were not aware of this site, and were very receptive to our interest in preserving this site. Frank stated GMU had no current plans or strategy to further develop the site/intersection. Both indicated that the more appropriate avenue to gain GMU support is for the History Department to present the site history and preservation options to GMU’s Board of Visitors.
30 October 2017 - Brian Mcenany, Jim Lewis and Blake Myers conducted Farr’s Cross Roads Site tour and class for Professor Christopher Hamner’s Civil War and Reconstruction class (attendees - twenty-four students, Alex Hughes [2016 BRCWRT Scholarship Awardee & current GMU student], Brian Platt, Christopher Hamner, and Ann Reynolds & Laura Powers from the Dean’s Office of Communications).
GMU History Department
GMU Facilities Department
Fairfax Count Park Authority (potential)
Virginia DHR (potential)
Continue and finalize research on site preservation requirements, options, associated costs, etc. with Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA), Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR), etc.
Discuss research results and data with Dr. Brian Platt, GMU History Department Chair – tentatively scheduled for 9 or 10 January 2018
Farr’s Cross Roads and Redoubt history
Specialties & Expertise
In concert with Dr. Platt, develop redoubt site presentation for GMU Board of Visitors. Two meetings of the Board of Visitors are scheduled for the Spring of 2018 - 1 March and 3 May. Dr. Platt is currently working to get presentation on the agenda for one of these two meetings.
Follow on activities / actions to be determined by Board of Visitors’ interest in this preservation project and guidance/direction for GMU
Submitted by the BRCWRT Preservation Committee:
Blake Myers (Chair)