Banner.jpg (54143 bytes)


Courtesy of Judy Ware
Judy C. Ware

There is often confusion when speaking about the “burning of Springfield” because most people immediately think of the fire that occurred during the Civil War.  In fact, there were (and still are) many people who just assume that it was the fire started by the Yankees that ultimately destroyed the home.  For reasons of clarification, it’s important to stress that there were two different fires, at two different times, and with two different results.

The fire that was set by the Union army was started under the orders of General Custer.  “Mosby’s scouts, in their search for information, had attacked a picket of the 5th Michigan Cavalry near Castleman’s Ferry, killing and wounding one and taking two prisoners.  In retaliation for this, General Custer determined to burn some houses in the neighborhood.” Without warning, a troop of cavalry rode up to the side of the house.  Getting some straw they entered pell-mell, announcing that they had orders to burn the house.  The soldiers started smashing things, but Edmonia Ware spoke with the officer in charge and told him of the guarantee the family had from Gen. Merritt that Springfield would be spared from harm. (ref. 84 - See main section on Springfield for more details) 

The officer honored General Merritt’s promise & withdrew his men, but the bunches of straw in the house had already been fired & the flames were spreading.  In a stroke of pure luck, Mosby was on his way back to the command with the prisoners he had taken.  “As he passed near the house of Col. Josiah Ware, a party of Yankees saw him & immediately started in pursuit.  This accident saved that beautiful mansion, for it had been already fired by these men, who being thus diverted, the family were enabled to extinguish the flames.” (ref.  )

Although the entire incident was, obviously, a devastating memory for the entire family, the fire was quickly put out and no major damage was done.  There were other sad accounts of items being stolen and things broken, but the structure and beauty of the home were still secure.

Springfield had to be sold after the war, and it was under the ownership of the Clagetts (in 1903) that the house caught on fire and burned almost completely to the ground. (ref. 3)  (Note the attached pictures) It was rebuilt on the same foundation (using many of the old bricks), but the home never looked quite as elegant and grand as before.  If you compare pictures of Springfield before and after the fire, you will notice several obvious differences.

  1. On the original Springfield, the front pillars to the house were huge.  In the picture, you will notice a lady standing next to one of these pillars, and it doesn’t take much effort to be able to visualize how tall they actually were!  You can also see how wide the base was because it would have been impossible for her to put her arms around it.

  2. The ceilings were lowered in the new home (for energy purposes) & you can really see how noticeable this is in the entryway.  Prior to the fire, there was very intricate, ornate carving all over the archway above the door.  This is very visible in some pictures; harder to see in others.    

  3. There were cut glass panels on either side of the massive doors in the original house that were not duplicated later.

  4. If you look closely at the old pictures of Springfield, you will notice a minimum of two (and in most cases, four) chimneys extending high above the roof.

  5. The biggest difference is just in the sheer size of the home – the rooms were smaller and the ceilings lower.

 *** It is interesting to note in the original photograph of Springfield a few things that might be missed if not specifically looked for.  There are seven people sitting on or standing by the porch, with another little boy (almost hidden) standing in the shrubbery to the left.  There is also a young black boy reclining in the grass in front of the house.  If you study closely, you can also see the etched arches over the bottom two windows and the intricate work done on the copula at the peak of the house.  If you look deep within the entryway, you will notice that there are actually SEVERAL high arches that precede the actual door.  It must have been quite a house in it’s day!

Click on the photos to see the full size picture:

OriginalSpringfieldPhoto.jpg (70165 bytes)
The Original Springfield

ViewFromMorganSprings.jpg (42121 bytes)
The view from Morgan Springs (Springfield is on the horizon)

SpringfieldPainting2.jpg (44639 bytes)
Painting of Springfield

Smokehouse.jpg (41051 bytes)
The Smokehouse

SmokehouseToday.jpg (77169 bytes)
The Smokehouse today

SpringfieldAfterFire.jpg (145640 bytes)
After the Fire

SpringfieldAfterFire2.jpg (91414 bytes)
After the Fire

SpringfieldAfterRebuild.jpg (70508 bytes)
Rebuilt Springfield

SpringfieldPaintingModern.jpg (46531 bytes)
Painting of rebuilt Springfield

EntranceToSpringfield.jpg (83083 bytes)
Modern entrance to Springfield

Return to Home Page

This site maintained by John Reagan and last updated July 12, 2009