People Laid to Rest»

Daniel, James and Silas Corban

The tilted, moss-covered markers in Waterford’s Union of Churches Cemetery stand as a stone index to two centuries of stories and secrets. Near the south fence, a cluster of “Corbin” monuments hints at a family riven by war and reunited in death.

When Virginia seceded from the Union in 1861, three local brothers were forced to make a decision. For Silas Corbin, the oldest at 29, his choice was straightforward. He had married the daughter of Waterford miller John Schooley and had four young children. His wife was a Quaker, and he shared the Quakers’ strong opposition to disunion. So he tried to keep his head down and stick to his blacksmith shop near Goresville [now Lucketts]. “I carried on my business when I could but frequently went across the river to get away from the rebel soldiers.”

Brother James was, at 20, too young to vote against the Ordinance of Secession, but he shared Silas’s pro-Union sentiments, and a year later signed up with Sam Means’s fledgling Loudoun Rangers, a local cavalry company raised as a loyalist home guard.

Daniel, the youngest at 17, was evidently drawn to the secessionists’ fiery rhetoric and promises of glory. And his father owned slaves, after all. In June 1861 he joined the 8th Virginia Infantry Regiment. The unit would become “The Bloody 8th”; for Daniel, though, his first battle, the following winter, was with typhoid fever. He survived and soldiered on, at least until August 1864 when he was captured at Halltown, West Virginia. He sat out the rest of the war as a POW.

James fared worse. He lacked brother Silas’s maturity, and within a month of his enlistment he got into a dispute with a Hillsboro shopkeeper over a prewar transaction and killed the man. The following month rebels under Elijah White captured James and many of his fellow Rangers at the Baptist church in Waterford. They held him at Culpeper for the merchant’s death until a local Unionist helped him escape. His reprieve was short-lived. Six months later he was shot from ambush two miles north of Waterford and died at a nearby house.

Silas, meanwhile, had been arrested early in the war as “dangerous to the Confederacy.” Held at Leesburg and ailing, he was released only after taking an oath not to do any harm to the Commonwealth of Virginia. He also spent a brief stint in Union detention—it was a tough time, even for noncombatants. In his absence, his wife packed up the kids and left Goresville for the friendlier surroundings of her native Waterford. There Silas rejoined them and took over an old blacksmith shop at the southern end of town. He was finally reunited with brother James in Union Cemetery in 1905; Daniel followed in 1912—his headstone bears the insignia of the “Improved Order of Red Men,” a fraternal group (that, despite the tomahawk insignia, included no Native Americans). James’s stone marks his service with the Loudoun Rangers. As for Silas, perhaps his most lasting monument was his large family, one that continued to play a role in Waterford for much of the 20th century.