The Union Cavalry Leader

The Loudoun Union Cavalry Leader: Samuel C. Means

In 1861, Samuel C. Means owned the largest mill in Loudoun County, just across the road from his home in Waterford. When the vote on secession was taken that May, Means was one of 221 predominantly Quaker Waterford residents to vote to keep the state in the Union (only 31 men in that precinct voted in favor of leaving it). Statewide, however, the vote was overwhelmingly in favor of secession, and Virginia officially left the Union on May 23rd. Almost immediately, Virginia authorities began pressuring Means to raise a company for the state’s militia. When he refused, and guided a Union raid on the Loudoun Cavalry camp, they issued a warrant for his arrest. Leaving his family behind, Means fled across the Potomac to Point of Rocks, where he had business interests and his brother was stationmaster for the B&O Railroad.

When Col. John White Geary led the 28th Pennsylvania Infantry and a detachment of artillery from Harpers Ferry into Loudoun County in February 1862, Means rode along as a scout and guide. He then began to recruit a cavalry company for service on the border between Virginia and Maryland. The new unit, the independent Loudoun Rangers, was destined to be the only Federal cavalry raised in Confederate Virginia that did not later become part of the new state of West Virginia.

Means never managed to recruit a full-strength company because the people in Loudoun most loyal to the Union tended to be Quakers and other religious pacifists, but did recruit two full companies of cavalry. Although they were never properly trained and poorly equipped, the Rangers were said to have had an uncanny knack for finding stills and distilleries, the products of which they imbibed freely.

Means was also his own worst enemy when it came to working with his senior officers in the Union army. Because he had been commissioned by the Secretary of War, he felt that he had to answer to no one else and often refused to obey the commands of his superiors. He made many enemies by insisting his was an independent command that only had to serve Virginia and Maryland territory bordering the Potomac River. He resigned his commission in a dispute over orders making the Rangers a part of the 3rd West Virginia Cavalry. Eventually, Stanton ruled in his favor and the Rangers, now commanded by Capt. Daniel Keyes, remained an independent unit, but Means was already gone. After the war, Sam Means returned to Waterford and operated the Bush Creek Mill about a mile north of town for over a decade. He and his wife later operated a boarding house near Lincoln, before moving to Washington in the early 1880s to run a similar establishment. He died in 1884 and is buried with his wife and one daughter in Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, DC.