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Free Lecture : Jonathan Roberts, The Civil War’s Quaker Scout and Sheriff | News Release | City of Alexandria


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Date & Time: Saturday, December 12 from 10 a.m. – noon

Location: Alexandria Archaeology Museum, 105 North Union Street, #327

Contact Phone No.: 703.746.4399

Fees: The free lecture is sponsored by the Friends of Alexandria Archaeology (FOAA) and light refreshments will be served.


When people think of peace-loving Quakers, Civil War army scouts and county sheriffs rarely come to mind, but nineteenth century Quaker Jonathan Roberts of Fairfax County, Virginia, managed to reconcile his religion with his sense of moral and patriotic duty. This extraordinary and fascinating biography paints a larger picture of life in the Quaker community during the Civil War.

While researching his family history, Gregory P. Wilson never expected to uncover an ancestor as unique and fascinating as Jonathan Roberts. A devout Quaker, Roberts wore many hats throughout his life. He was a farmer, surveyor, husband, and father. He also was a firm abolitionist, the Civil War’s Quaker scout and sheriff in northern Virginia. Roberts’s noncombatant military service began shortly after his secessionist neighbors tried to kill him for his political and antislavery views. Fleeing his Fairfax County home after Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard ordered his arrest, Roberts volunteered his surveying experience to the Union’s Army of the Potomac, guiding troops to and from First Manassas (Bull Run). Over the course of the war, he was injured twice, once seriously while chasing John Singleton Mosby, the “Gray Ghost” of the Confederacy. Wilson, like all who experience Roberts’s story, can only marvel at his formidable ancestor’s adventures and wonder if the outspoken Quaker appreciated the many ironies and contradictions of his remarkable life.

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