Richard Dodson pt1
I moved into this area roughly 40 years ago. My father, grandfather and myself used to take walks together on Saturday and Sunday afternoon. We would go down what they now call North Kings Highway where Mount Eagle was located and there were four forts down there. They were associated with the Civil War: Ft. Lyon, Ft. O'Roarke, Ft. Weed, and Ft. Farnsworth. When I was a kid, Telegraph Hill was called Ft. Lyon Hill after the fort. Since then they have built Fairhaven, and Fort Drive came through where Ft. O'Roarke was located.
These forts were in the Defensive District of Washington and they were primarily to defend the railroads from the Confederates. The forts also gave them protection of Telegraph Road and the Gravel Road, as it was called. Ft. Lyon was constructed by the sixteenth New York infantry after the battle of Bull Run. The troops were quartered at Spring Bank Manor, where the K-Mart is located today. Spring Bank Manor was the property of George Mason, who was a relative of the prominent George Mason in Virginia history. That was the only place where the troops could get water and supplies. The entire area was wooded.
Being a student of the Civil War and also a relic hunter, I've hunted the areas where the forts are and I've recovered Civil War related artifacts. Some of them were definitely tied to New York, some to the Massachusetts units that were stationed there and some from Rhode Island. The guns were manned by the Rhode Island light artillery unit.
There's still earthworks at Mt. Eagle, which is Doc Fifer's old homestead. The latest big discovery was during the construction of Hayfield High School where they unearthed two Union soldiers.
One point that a lot of people don't know is that Telegraph Road was the main road in this area. It ran from Alexandria to Richmond, The road was patrolled daily by the Federals and they would camp along Telegraph Road, a lot of times at Pohick Church itself. If you visit Pohick Church today look in the brickwork and the concrete, because there's a lot of names and units carved in there which date back to the Civil War era.
The artifacts I find range anywhere from the common three ring Union bullet, which many people call the minnie ball, to haversack hooks, bayonets, scabard tips, and belt buckles. I recovered belt buckles out of the yard next door. I guess in this yard and the yard next door, I've taken in over 200 bullets.
The topographical maps made during the Civil War show the entrenchments and they also show the picket outposts that were located in this particular area. When I was a kid, when the back was plowed up,you'd walk along and you'd find maybe one or two bullets.
As far as actual combat in this area locally, there was none.
Fort Willard was in the defense of Washington. Of course it's located over in Willard's Circle in Belle Haven. When I was a kid we used to cut across in what was Dripping Springs in order to get to Belle Haven. It was a natural spring used by the men stationed at Fort Willard plus O'Roarke which was up on the hillside about where the Holiday Inn is located today. Ft. Lyon was the biggest of the three forts. Its primary purpose was to protect Telegraph Road and the Orange and Alexandria railroad which was your main line west at that line and also Duke Street which was your main East-West road in and out of Alexandria.
It's (the Groveton area) come a long way. Among the most renowned landmarks used to be the Penn Daw Motel. It was run by Cooper Dawson Sr., then by Cooper Dawson, Jr. I guess the thing that made me remember it the most was their great grandfather was General Sam Cooper of the Confederate Army and that sort of tied it in a little more than others. At the present time there's a man across the street, Tom Rodes. He was telling me that his great, great uncle was General Emmett Rodes who was also in the Confederate Army. He fought in the battle of Winchester in 1864. The area is very historic.
When they went to tear down Spring Bank Manor, when they built K-Mart, it was said that the steps were from the old capitol that was burned by the British in 1812. The steps were saved and brought down here. The local residents were trying to save Spring Bank Manor as an historic place.