The Last Days of the Confederacy

It was 150 years ago to this day (April 2, 1865), when the Union Army broke through the Confederate lines at Petersburg and began the campaign to end the Civil War.   Within hours, the Union Army had marched on to Richmond and sent the Confederate government packing.

After winning countless battles over four years, the Army of Northern Virginia collapsed suddenly in April 1865, primarily because its soldiers realized they could no longer win — and their best hope was simply to survive.  Thousands of Johnny Rebs dropped out of ranks on that final desperate march across Southside (today’s Rte 460).  Only about 10,000 made it to the final denouement at Appomattox.

One of them was Thomas Moore of Fairfax Courthouse, a survivor.  Even before the Civil War, Moore was an army veteran.  As an adventurous teenager, he joined the Mississippi Rifles and fought in the Mexican War  under the leadership of its commander, Jefferson Davis.  He remained friends with Davis after that war — a relationship which undoubtedly influenced his future decisions.

In 1861, Virginia was split by the issue of secession.  Most residents of Fairfax County started out unionist (due in no small part to their fear of occupation).  Moore, the clerk of court, was an ardent secessionist who urged his neighbors to leave the union.

When the war started and the Army of Potomac occupied Fairfax County courthouse, Moore took his revenge — hiding the court’s law books in a farmhouse in Manassas and thus bringing the circuit court to a screeching half.

Moore joined the Army of Northern Virginia and stayed in for all four years.  Unlike others, he didn’t serve in the front lines but held a critical role as a quartermaster, keeping Lee’s army provisioned as they marched across Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania.  Moore was there at Appomattox and received a parole “pass” signed by a Union officer, which allowed him to walk home to Fairfax and not be picked up by Union patrols (we found the parole slip in 1984 when we cleaned out my Great-Grandmother’s house).

You would think that a hardened Rebel like Moore would have stayed bitter to the end.  Instead, he walked to the courthouse and took a loyalty oath to the Union, just days after returning home from the War.  Was it a change of heart — or the realization that he needed to restore his pension as a Mexican War vet?

Moore’s family also returned home from living with relatives in Culpeper during the War.  Moore’s son Walton went on to UVA a few years later, started a law practice in Fairfax and was elected to the State Senate in 1882.   During that time, his father was also an active lawyer, a member of the Town Council, and a Vestry member at Truro Church.

After a long career as a lawyer, son Walton went on to serve in the U.S. Congress and (in the 1930′s) as an advisor  to FDR.   He had no children of his own, which meant that the “Moore” name didn’t survive in Fairfax but his sister Susan Lindsey married Roszel Donohoe of Loudoun and beget a daughter, Mary LeGrand (or “Bam”), who became a matriarch to the 20th century tribe of McCandlishes, Livingston, Prichards and Petersens.

The bottom line is that the Confederacy died 150 years ago, but Thomas Moore survived.  And we’re all around today thanks to both facts.

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