Chartered in 1749, Culpeper County was named for Lord Thomas Culpeper, Colonial Governor of Virginia, 1680-1683. That year, at the age of 17, George Washington was commissioned to survey and plot the Town and the County of Culpeper. The Town of Culpeper was chartered in 1759 by an Act of the General Assembly as the Town of Fairfax and it was recorded that the Town occupied a “high and pleasant situation.” It was named after Lord Culpeper’s grandson, Lord Fairfax the sixth. The early 27-acre courthouse village was developed on land included in a 1754 purchase by Robert Coleman. Coleman purchased the land from the eldest son of Virginia Governor Alexander Spotswood, who had received the land in a grant from the British Crown.
During the American Revolution, a group of local residents from Culpeper and the surrounding counties of Fauquier and Orange, organized themselves as the Culpeper Minute Men Battalion. Evoking the stirring words of Patrick Henry, the group rallied under a flag which depicts a rattlesnake with 13 rattles and the motto, “Liberty or Death – Don’t Tread on Me.”
A heroic Culpeper resident named John Jameson was instrumental in exposing one of our country’s worst traitors, Benedict Arnold. He served as the Culpeper County court clerk from 1772 – 1810, and was a captain and company commander in the original Culpeper Minute Men Battalion when it was formed in September 1775. Together, he and the Minute Men fought in the first Revolutionary War battle on Virginia soil at Great Bridge.
In 1780, General George Washington placed key commanders in strategic areas around West Point, New York, and Colonel Jameson was placed in Tarrytown under the supervision of General Benedict Arnold. A gentlemen calling himself John Anderson was intercepted and found to be in possession of documents that included information regarding the defenses of West Point and the movements of the American army. Since the papers were found in an odd place, “under the feet of his stockings”, Colonel Jameson became alarmed, arrested Anderson, and alerted General Arnold, though he had suspicions about Arnold as well. Anderson was carrying a pass signed by the General, and Arnold was noted to be “very desirous of the Papers and everything being sent with him.” Because of the serious nature of the papers and his distrust of Arnold, Jameson wrote to General George Washington, enclosing the papers taken from Anderson. Upon examining the papers, Washington called for Anderson, who then confessed that he was British major John AndrÃ©, envoy to the British commander in chief, Sir Henry Clinton. The investigation further revealed that Benedict Arnold, as commandant of West Point, agreed in 1780 to surrender the fort to the enemy in return for a royal commission in the British army and a large sum of money. Because of Jameson’s intuition and cunning, Arnold’s treasonous plot was foiled, and the attempt to pass control of West Point and New England to the British was thwarted.
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