Kelly's Ford Battlefield
Kelly’s Ford was the site of skirmish during the United States Civil War. This skirmish occurred in what was then nothing more than a small village with a wooden church. This skirmish was part of a plan by Union forces to take the Rappahannock station on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad from the Confederacy in order to secure a railroad line to control to areas around Richmond. The site is named after John Kelly, a late 18th century business immigrant from Ireland who had built a stone bridge over the Rappahannock River between Fauquier and Culpeper counties. Prior to the Civil War the collection of homes and businesses was called Kellysville. The town was effectively shut down when the war came to the area. Most of the periods structures have been restored for use today.
Backstory and Context
The strategic importance of the location by the Orange and Alexandria Railroad would put it at the center of many events of the Civil War. It would become the crossing ground for many of the troops that would encounter the area and see it as an area where they could cross into between in order to get to between Richmond and Washington, DC. It would also be of strategic importance during several major battles would occur during this time period. Battles including Brandy Station would be effected by such movements of troops.
One of the first events that occurred at Kelly’s Ford was the general Joseph Johnston’s use of the bridge. In order to defend the South Bank of the Rappahannock, Johnston would use it in July of 1862. Right around the same time, Union General John Pope also used it when he came to invade Culpeper County. A skirmish first occurred at Kelly’s Ford the following August between Union troops under General Pope and Confederate troops under James Longstreet. The so-called “Stone man’s raid” occurred in February of that year and resulted in a Confederate troops pursuing Union troops under Joseph Hooker.
In March of 1863, the battle of Kelly’s Ford, for which the site has been known, would take place. Calvary union troops under General William Averall clashed with a Confederate Artillery unit. The day long battle, in-addition to the Stoneman’s raid, would become the precursors of the battle of Brandy Station. Although Union forces out numbered the Confederate forces in the area by more than 2-1, the skirmish was inconclusive. At Brandy Station, Kelly’s Ford would be a major command post that both sides would seek to occupy for a clear victory in the battle. After Brandy Station, Kelly’s Ford would continue to be used until the following year when Union troops began to close in on Central Virginia.