The Sutton Family of Flint Hill, Virginia
Hat tip to Craig Swain at “To the Sound of the Guns” for making me aware of this story through his “Hunter Mill Road – Danger Between the Lines” blog post from Nov. 12.
Thanks also to Jim Lewis for providing the following summary regarding the Sutton Family.
This is an interesting tale of Southern Unionists, but not your conventional Southern Unionists. Much like Stonewall Jackson’s mapmaker, Jedediah Hotchkiss, the Sutton family was from New York. Yet, by the time of the Civil War, the family had made their home in Virginia for two decades. I’ll let Jim tell the rest of the story. Thanks again for the contribution, Jim. For everyone else, enjoy…
Major Events that affected this family during the Civil War
Charles and Phoebe Sutton relocation to Flint Hill (today’s Oakton, Va.): They were “Quakers” from Duchess County, N.Y. and moved to the Flint Hill area in 1841. As one of a northern settlement of some (30) families, they began their pioneer life in a log cabin on what is now Blake Lane. At the beginning of the Civil War, the Suttons had pro-gressed to a new frame house, barn, well fence fertile fields, and stock valued at $6,500. The Sutton property is located where Oakton H.S. is currently. The Millard property is over closer to behind the current Flint Hill School.
Had to leave the area after the secession vote on 5/23/1861: Both Sutton & Millard Squire left the area temporarily on 5/29 because of local threats “to get him and Millard Squire” as a result of their vote against secession and the incident involving Peyton Anderson (2) days earlier. Both came back to eventually get their families who had been subjected to undergo tribulations such as pickets, passes and searches. Few of the neighbors of either persuasion stayed away permanently. To do so was to court the total devastation of their property, which was what happened to Millard as he and his family went to Washington City for good.
Just before 1st Bull Run: Phoebe Sutton said: “The Confederate Army now came into possession of our section. Pickets guarded the roads and passes were required from all travelers. (6) weeks of suspense and danger for us, ere the Union Army advanced toward Bull Run. All the schools were closed. Mills were guarded and passes were given cautiously, often very much limited. Pickets were station about our premises, watching for father. They searched the house frequently.”
With the restriction and finally denial of Confederate passes for fear she would carry news to the nearby Federal troops, Mrs. Sutton began planning an escape for her family of (10) children. Mr. Sutton had cut and sold the season’s hay crop to Gen. McDowell’s Union forces as the Federal troops advanced from Washington to Bull Run. The forward march of the Northern Army was in a direct line of the Sutton’s premises, causing the family to fear their farm would become the battleground.
The day of the battle (7/21/61) Phoebe Sutton said: “…we heard the firing of the cannons from Bull Run Battle, all day long, like rumble of distant thunder. There was a perfect panic at the time of that battle. Many carriage loads of people went out from Washington to see the battle, including newspaper reporters and others. In the excitement some ventured so near to make confusion, and at the time of retreat, carriages and Army wagons became mixed. The Federals retreated, but those who witnessed the battle thought the two forces were about equal, and that both were badly used up. When the Federals retreated, the Confederates then pressed forward and were bound to take Washington.” When the battle was actually fought at Bull Run and the Federal Army defeated, a new problem appeared, that of being in the path of the retreating Federals and the oncoming Confederates.
The day after the battle (7/22/61), in a straw-filled hay wagon pulled by an ox team, the Sutton family left the Flint Hill area: “the boys and older girls taking turns in walking on the road to Washington through rain and mud. The roads were full of fleeing people. We wore all the clothing we could; walking in the rain and mud was terrible.” The Sutton family had gone to Georgetown and left for Duchess County, N.Y., on a 30-day trip, staying with Friends (Quakers) enroute.
Six (6) weeks before the 2nd Battle of Bull Run: After taking refuge in N.Y. State for nearly a year after the 1st Battle of Bull Run in 1861, the Suttons returned to their Va. farm on Blake Lane where they found the dwelling untenable. The doors and windows were missing, and the weatherboarding was off the barn. The tenant house became their temporary home as they harvest hay and peaches
After the 2nd Battle of Bull Run: Another Federal defeat, caused the Sutton family to flee their farm again this time, only to Georgetown, Sandy Spring, Md., and Lancaster Co., Pa. Their family remained in Pa. while Mr. Sutton rode back to Va. to protect his property. “The country was so full of soldiers that he needed to guard the home lest it be set on fire by straggling soldiers. This was done during his absence in N.Y., and put out by neighbors once, and thoughtful soldiers the second time.” Sutton’s wife and one daughter were able to join him, and the family was given a guard to protect them.
Re-establishment of the family and subsequent capture by Mosby: Gradually, though in primitive living conditions, they again established themselves, having found one of their cows, they sold surplus milk to officers, which led to the purchase of another cow in the spring of 1863. By late Sept. 1863, Sutton had (14) cows whose milk and butter, along with the foods cooked and baked by his wife and daughter, made profit enough in their sale to soldiers in camp for Sutton to be “considered rich.” Sutton’s luck did not hold out though. “At 5AM on 9/23/63, Sutton was taken by Mosby’s cavalry. He rode away on his own gray horse, which was soon taken from him.” After 7-1/2 mos. confinements in (3) southern prisons, he was exchanged for a Confederate prisoner of War valuable to the Confederacy.
Even more interesting, the community around Hunter’s Mill included a large number of unionists. The Hunter Mill Defense League has done considerable work researching and presenting the story of contention between neighbors. Starting with the secession ordnance vote, which the community voted against, force was used just as often in civilian-on-civilian affairs as it was by military personnel. What happened along Hunter Mill Road was parallel to the issues that arose in Loudoun Valley and Shenandoah Valley, were significant Unionist populations lived beside secessionists.
Thanks again, Jim!
FYI… according to Craig’s blog post, the Defense League offers the DVD on their site. A package deal includes the DVD and a guide book to the sites along the road for $25. The proceeds for the sale go to ongoing preservation and interpretation efforts in the community. Two reasons to consider the purchase. First off this is a grass roots preservation effort, by property owners and interested citizens in the community. The effort aims to preserve a section of heritage within the heavily encroached Northern Virginia-D.C. Beltway region. Second off, as mentioned, proceeds go in part to place interpretive markers at selected locations. Please help them out so Craig can have more markers to catalog!