‘Little Washington’ found on the map

It’s been nearly four years that Art Candenquist wrote the intriguing piece in the Rappahannock News, “Is it Washington — or Little Washington?”

The long-time historian, researcher, lecturer and author, who has served as secretary-treasurer of the Rappahannock County Sesquicentennial Committee, observed “there are those who believe that ‘Little’ Washington is of relatively recent vintage, perhaps spurred by the establishment . . . of The Inn at Little Washington.”

Candenquist came to the conclusion, though, that the name Little Washington probably goes back at least 170 years. Mary Ann Kuhn, proprietor of the Middleton Inn in Washington (and a former editor of this newspaper), told him that she discovered an envelope postmarked 1840 and addressed to “Middleton Miller, Little Washington, Va.”

Furthermore, he wrote, “The Official Records of the Union & Confederate Armies in the War of The Rebellion,” a 128-volume set of books published by the U.S. government between 1881-1901 and containing every piece of military correspondence, dispatches, battle reports and maps of both armies during the conflict, hold numerous dispatches and reports referring to “Little Washington.”

Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Banks, for instance, who camped troops of his command — the Second Corps de Armeé — in and around Washington, “used both Little Washington, Va., and Washington, Va. as datelines for many of his dispatches.”

Maj. Gen. John Pope, who organized the Army of Virginia near Sperryville, issued orders datelined “HQ., Army of Virginia, Little Washington, Va.”

“It makes sense that the name of Little Washington would be used by Union officers and commanders in communications to differentiate from the seat of the national government and the Union War Department,” Candenquist observed.

Courtesy image
An 1863 map

Additional troop leaders from both sides dated their dispatches “Little Washington,” including Gen. Robert E. Lee and Brig. Gen. George Custer.

Candenquist similarly drew attention to a map of Rappahannock County drawn in 1862 by Maj. Jedediah Hotchkiss, cartographer on the staff of Confederate Gen. Thomas J. ‘Stonewall’ Jackson, and later reissued by the U.S. War Department in 1866.

“Maj. Hotchkiss referenced the county seat of Rappahannock County on his map as Washington C.H. This appellation (which stands for ‘Court House’) was commonly used to designate the county seat of counties in Virginia: Orange C.H.; Culpeper C.H.; Spotsylvania C.H.; Madison C.H. and so on.”

Now, Nick Smith, who lives off Fodderstack Road, directs this newspaper’s attention to a map, dated 1863, that actually identifies “Little Washington.”

Drawn by J. Schedler of “N. York,” and titled a map of Culpeper County, with parts of Rappahannock, Madison and Fauquier counties, its repository is the Library of Congress Geography and Map Division in Washington, D.C., numbered 20540-4650.

— John McCaslin

About John McCaslin 340 Articles
John McCaslin is the editor of the Rappahannock News. Email him at editor@rappnews.com.