Historic Church Doubled as Hospital in Civil War Battle

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Mt. Zion Baptist Church | Loudoun County, Virginia | c. 1851

The route where Mt. Zion Baptist sits was once an important main crossroad in southeastern Loudon County, Virginia as new settlers, trappers, and tradesmen moved through the region. Communities began to emerge along the rural routes and the site where this church stands found itself at an important crossroads- both literally and figuratively.

Mt. Zion Old School Primitive Baptist Church was founded in 1851, and given its location, the church saw a lot of regional history pass just through its yard during the Civil War. In 1863, it served as a Union hospital serving soldiers following nearby military engagements at Bull Run. Interestingly, there still exists ‘graffiti’ on the interior walls of the church- where soldiers etched their names in stone over the days they spent convalescing here.

But on July 6, 1864, it would see the worst of it when a skirmish broke out on the grounds of Mt. Zion Baptist Church. Confederate Colonel John S. Mosby and his rangers attacked and routed Union troops from Massachusetts and New York under Major William H. Forbes. Of the 150 Union cavalrymen, 105 of them were either killed, wounded, or captured as prisoners by Mosby’s Rangers. Mosby reportedly only lost one man that day.

Mt. Zion (in the background) sees battle on July 6, 1864. Drawing courtesy of Visit Loudon.
The same perspective of Mt. Zion as the accompanying drawing.

Mt. Zion Church In Modern Day

Except for the years during the Civil War, the congregation continued to meet regularly until 1980. Today it is owned, managed, and maintained by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Association. Visitors are welcome to the church grounds daily from dawn until dusk. However, interior access is only available on the fourth Sunday of the month, April through October. Read more here.

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It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998.

Mt. Zion Church Graveyard

The church cemetery contains over 300 graves, although not all of them are marked. It also contains the final resting place of people who were not members of this church. As far the records show, the first known burial here took place in 1852- the grave of Thomas H.A. Lynn, who died June 11, 1852.

The stone wall was added to the perimeter of the burial ground sometime after 1855.

The graveyard has markers for 12 Union cavalrymen killed in action here; as well as 2 of Mosby Rangers and other Confederates soldiers who were casualties of other battles.

The veteran stones in the foreground with U.S. flags represent the burials of the Federal troops who were killed by Confederate rangers in the battle that occurred at the church in 1863. These were placed to mark the sacrifice they made here, however, their bodies were not interred within these walls.

Besides the Union and Confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery, there is also a veteran from the War of 1812, Robert Coe, and several from more recent wars. Today, the cemetery is owned and cared for by Mt. Zion Cemetery of Aldie, Inc. and is still in use.

Outside the walls of the graveyard is an area where it is believed that at least 60 graves exist. This section is thought to have been the section reserved for African Americans and holds the remains of enslaved people and previously-enslaved people who were later freed. Some of the graves are marked with inscribed stones, some with fieldstones, and some are only recognizable by depressions in the ground.

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    1. Then you’ll love this cemetery! Make sure you don’t miss the graves outside the stone wall too.

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