In Front Royal, a grim reminder

By Joe Beck

The deaths of six men by shooting and hanging without trials amid a group of terrified civilians might sound like the latest news bulletin from the Middle East, but the violence is an all too real part of Front Royal’s Civil War history from 150 years ago.

The dead were members of Lt. Col. John Mosby’s Rangers, a unit of Confederate partisan fighters marked for death under orders from Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant that were passed down the chain of command to rank and file Union soldiers.

The victims included a 17-year-old boy, Henry Rhodes, who was shot before his horrified mother. Rhodes was not an official member of the rangers, but rode off with them the same morning he and the other detainees were captured and executed.

Patrick Farris, the executive director of the Warren Heritage Society, called the executions of Mosby’s Rangers an example of how the “war truly hit home in Front Royal.”

“As you can imagine, this was a day when the civilian population was exposed quite directly to the brutality of war in its most lawless forms,” Farris said.

The anniversary of the executions Tuesday will be marked at 6:30 p.m. by a commemorative wreath laying ceremony at the Mosby monument in Prospect Hill Cemetery off of Prospect Street. The event, conducted by the John Singleton Mosby Chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, is free and open to the public.

The wreath laying will be followed by a lecture by historian Eric Buckland at 7:30 p.m. at the Williams Chapel CME Church at 231 Chester St., Front Royal.

Farris said the goal of the ceremony and lecture is to educate the public about some of the horrors that played out 150 years ago within sight of today’s gas stations and other places where people perform the mundane tasks of everyday living.

“The Civil War did not happen in our area in the middle of a farm field,” Farris said. “It happened among our residents, our town and our major thoroughfares.”

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com