Loudoun’s Revolutionary Spirit Memorialized At Courthouse

The solitary Confederate soldier statue in Loudoun’s courthouse square now has some company.

Several hundred people—including excited third-graders from Frances Hazel Reid Elementary—gathered there Wednesday to witness the formal unveiling of the “Spirit of Loudoun” statue, the result of an almost two decades-long effort to pay tribute to the sacrifices of Loudoun families who joined America’s fight for independence 239 years ago.

The highlight of the colorful Veterans Day ceremony came as the red, white and blue cover was pulled away. The crowd gasped, cheered and clapped a the figure emerged of a farmer, flanked by his wife and son, as he prepared to leave them to go to war on behalf of liberty and nationhood.

The planning for the newest war memorial started 16 years ago with the vision of the late Larry
Moison and was completed by sculptor Jay Hall Carpenter.

In 1776, the Declaration of Independence was read to the public very near the spot where the statue was erected. The county’s population then was 18,000. The farmer depicted by Carpenter was one of 2,000 Loudoun men to enlist in the militia, more than any other Virginia county.

Clerk of the Loudoun Circuit Court Gary Clemens led the program. Moison recruited him in 2012 to help with fundraising, which previously had proved a daunting task. But Clemens and his committee ultimately surpassed the $420,000 target needed to complete the project.

Speakers included the Rev. Elijah B. White III, retired Loudoun Circuit Court Judge Thomas D. Horne, former state Del. Joe T. May, Carpenter and Jim Christian, president of The Patriot Project.

In giving the invocation, White noted he had ancestors who fought both in the Revolutionary War and in the War of 1812. He prayed that those present “remember the men of Loudoun who honored the cause of freedom and their families who supported them,” and asked God to “strengthen and protect
American forces in battle and peace.”

Clemens introduced Horne as a key supporter of the project. While Horne said he could not claim personal ancestors who fought in 1776, his great-great-grandfather was Lafayette’s interpreter during the French hero’s return visit to Loudoun in the 1820s.

A noted guardian of the courthouse and its grounds, Horne called attention to a stone from the county’s first courthouse, built in 1757, that was uncovered during excavation of the former
Leesburg Hotel. He also pointed out that the bell that rang as the Declaration of Independence was read in Leesburg in 1776 is still in the courthouse.

Expressing his gratitude to members of the Ketoctin Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Sons of the American Revolution and to Moison, Horne said, raising his hand, “Larry, this is your day, if you’re looking down on us.” Moison’s daughter Beth, her husband and brother, were present.

Horne was an early supporter of Moison’s vision.

“He said, ‘could we ever get a statue of the Revolutionary War at the courthouse?’
I said, ‘sure.’” Horne recalled going to Moison’s home to view the clay maquettes of various
designs. “Without question, this was the unanimous selection.”

“It tells us of a time in the nation’s history when men were willing to leave their home and family to pursue nationhood and ideas of liberty,” he said. “It brings the concept of family, the heartache for a family, willing to sacrifice for a cause.”

Introducing May as “a true community leader,” Clemens said the project could not have succeeded without him.

In a wry comment, May said he was grateful for the forbearance of Londoners. He said his Loudoun ancestor was a Hessian mercenary who fought for the British crown, was captured and spent three years in Winchester, before settling in the Lovettsville area.

“This statue is different—it’s not just those who fought, it’s about the people left at home,” May said. He contrasted the experiences of two Londoners he had researched—both well-known names at different ends of the social spectrum.

The first was Sgt. John Champe, of Aldie. “He was a tough dude,” May said, brave and resourceful. He was supposed to infiltrate British lines to capture the renegade Benedict Arnold, but that didn’t happen. Champe left his wife and six kids behind—she died, and Champe himself died at age 48.

The second figure was Champe’s social superior, Col. Leven Powell, the founder of Middleburg.

“He left a comfortable life, and his wife and four kids,” May said. He joined then-Gen. Washington during that terrible winter at Valley Forge when 3,000 out of 4,000 died. Powell himself fell ill, struck with the “flux, jaundice and St. Anthony’s Fire.”

Carpenter described his inspiration for what became a 7-foot-tall statue atop a 3-foot granite base—weighing five tons together. Carpenter said he envisioned Virginia patriots answering the call to leave security, property and wives behind. He imagined the farm family depicted in the statue walking into Leesburg, which was a staging ground for enlistment, “experiencing their last few yards they would walk together.”

The farmer shows resolve, pride in Virginia and determination, Carpenter said; his son is beside him, carrying his father’s equipment, as he shows a mix of pride in his father and excitement. But his wife shows her worry. “She leans into him, but bravely supports him, as she holds his gift to her—a sprig of dogwood.”

Christian, who took over the committee after Moison’s death, said it was hard to believe it was 16 years since the Patriot Committee’s work began.

Like Carpenter, he imagined what it would have been like in Leesburg during those heady times just before the outbreak of war. Imagine standing on the steps of the courthouse and hearing on July 4, 1776, the unforgettable words of Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, Christian said.

The crowd listened intently as Jefferson’s account of Britain’s tyranny was read aloud.
As the cover was removed, unveiling “The Spirit of Loudoun” statue, the
crowd softly began to sing “God Bless America.”

Contact Margaret Morton at mmorton@loudounnow.com

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