On August 22, 1862, while Pope's Union Army retreated across the Rappahannock with Confederates Longstreet and Stuart in pursuit, enslaved men, women and children escaped to freedom crossing the Rappahannock at Cow Ford on horseback and on foot, their few belongings piled high onto ox-drawn wagons. As many as 10,000 enslaved men, women and children escaped to freedom during the Civil War by crossing the Rappahannock River to the Union side. Civil War photographer Timothy O'Sullivan preserved such a crossing in a series of rare photographs that captured the escape of enslaved people under the watchful eye of the Union army.

The First Battle of Rappahannock Station was actually a series of skirmishes that occurred over several days along the Rappahannock River in Culpeper and Fauquier Counties near the present day village of Remington (known during the Civil War as Rappahannock Station). Union Gen. Pope's Army of Virginia retreated to a new defensive line above the Rappahannock after the battle of Cedar Mountain. Skirmishes at Waterloo Bridge, Lee Springs, Freeman’s Ford, and Sulphur Springs diverted the Federals' attention while Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart raided Pope's headquarters at Catlett Station and Stonewall Jackson's men captured federal supplies at Manassas Junction.

Visiting the Rappahannock Station I Battlefield

Your best bet to tour Rappahannock Station is to download the Mountain View Bicycle Route published by the village of Remington, Virginia. If you don't have a bike, you can easily follow the scenic 23.2-mile loop in your car. The tour begins near downtown Remington and includes a stop at Freeman's Ford, the site of one of the skirmishes that occurred during this battle, and passes through a portion of the Brandy Station battlefield. Remington also publishes an Interactive Civil War Map that locates points of interest. If you need provisions, this early 20th century railway town has a couple of gas stations and convenience stores as well as a deli, barbeque, drug and hardware stores and a vintage shop. Remington publishes several other scenic historic Bicycle Trails that can be enjoyed as both bike and auto tours.

Visit Remington Virginia for battle details and information the preservation of this battlefield.

Pictured at the top: Enslaved people escaped to freedom at Cow Ford just beyond this railroad bridge in present-day Remington.

Remington Depot Remington Embrey Building

Remington was a 19th century transportation hub as a stop on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad called Rappahannock Station. The Remington Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, contains many well-preserved late-19th and early-20th century residential and commercial buildings including the 1902 cast-iron facade Embrey Building pictured here.

Historical Photo

timothy o'sullivan escapte to freedom at cow ford

[Rappahannock River, Va. Fugitive African Americans fording the Rappahannock] Timothy O'Sullivan, 1862 (Library of Congress)