VIRTUAL MUSEUM An online collection of Stafford history and artifacts

George Brent joins his Stafford Family

George Brent, nephew of Giles (I), Margaret, and Mary Brent, joined them in Stafford in 1673.  As a young man he was sent from England to reside with them “to learn how to live.”  He certainly accomplished this; he later became captain of the Militia, lawyer, attorney general of the Colony, and Stafford representative to the House of Burgesses in Williamsburg .  

Ax Head

Between 5,000 and 1,000 years ago, native-people tribal groups occupied the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Chesapeake Bay including the Stafford area. Subsisting primarily on small game and nuts, they migrated from hunting camp to camp. About 3,200 years ago the Woodland-period began.


Tracks of huge herbivore dinosaurs, such as this 60-foot long Astrodon, have been found in local rivers and streams. Not only was the Astrodon long, but it was as tall as a three story building.

Succeeding in Georgetown, D.C.

Immediately, the Gwinns and the rest of the former Conway slaves established two businesses, a laundry and a bakery in Georgetown.  By July, they were making a profit when Moncure Conway found them.  He then realized that African Americans, if free, could make a living for themselves.  

Stars and Stripes

John Washington observed the continuing stream of other escaped slaves, dubbed “contrabands,” (based on liberal interpretation of orders allowing “contraband of war” to be “confiscated”) into the Stafford camps. He wrote, “Day after day the slaves came into camp and every where that the ‘Stars and Stripes’ waved they seemed to know freedom had dawned to the slave.”

12,000 escape to Freedom

Estimates were that 10,000 slaves escaped to freedom after they realized that Union forces were in Stafford. Later, Confederate newspapers said that 12,000 slaves had left their masters.  This greater number is probably more accurate, as Southerners considered slaves their property and were very much aware of their loss.

Model 1850 Foot Officer’s Sword

Many of the infantry and engineer officers carried this Model 1850 Foot Officer’s Sword. This was a fully-capable fighting weapon. This artifact was one of only 500 produced in an 1861 contract by the famed Ames Sword Company. Unusually, this lot was stamped by Federal inspectors and dated “U.S./J.H./1861”.

Model 1850 Field and Staff Officer’s Sword


This Model 1850 Field and Staff Officer’s Sword was the type carried in Stafford by some majors and higher in line and staff positions. This sword, although decorative, was a fully-capable fighting weapon preferred by senior officers at risk of actually engaging the enemy.  


The guard-mount photo, in front of the O’Bannon house on slide #14, is one of the very few taken of the Sharpshooters in their green frock coats while in the field.  This photo is a studio image of a Sharpshooter in full regalia, including leather leggings, a fur covered knapsack, and a special hat.  

Sharps Rifle

The Sharpshooters’ unhappiness with their Colt Revolving Rifle was due to its tendency to accidentally fire from several chambers.  They finally received their Sharp’s breech-loading rifle while they were in Falmouth.

Colt Revolving Rifle


The men were probably unhappy about their weapons. They were still armed with the Colt revolving rifle .

Letter to Lt. Morton’s father about Falmouth Skirmish

Lt. Charles E. Morton, 2nd New York (“Harris Light”) Cavalry, described his regiment’s arrival in Falmouth in a letter to his father. His letter (full text below) was published in the Newburgh Journal and pasted in a scrapbook by his brother, an officer in the 5th New York (“Ira Harris Guard”) Cavalry.