Thursday, October 8, 2015

Joel Walker Sweeney's Grave

Appomattox National Historical Park is a wonderful place that I have visited several times. However, I had not taken the time to locate the grave of banjo man Joel Walker Sweeney's grave, which is on the park grounds. This past Tuesday, I enjoyed yet another visit to Appomattox and determined to find it. 

Sweeney's grave is quite near where Gen. Robert E. Lee made his last official army headquarters and where he met Gen. Grant the day after the surrender at the McLean House. There are only a handful of marked graves among the simple rail-fenced cemetery. It appears that Sweeney's grave marker is a rather recent placement.

The beginnings of the Appomattox River runs near Sweeney's grave as well. It is difficult to believe that this small stream turns into the broad river it ends up being at Petersburg, and a little further downstream, where it merges into the James River.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

An Unwilling Slave Patroller's Account

Reading through American Slavery As It Is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses, published in 1839, by abolitionist Theodore Dwight Weld, I came across the account of Hiram White, who had lived in North Carolina for over thirty years, but moved to Illinois, presumably to get away from slavery's influence.

Slavery as an institution of racial control is sometimes overlooked in favor of the economic interests that owners invested in the practice. The amount to which slaves lives were controlled was almost unfathomable to us today living in a era of almost unlimited rights and liberties. Slaves were often required to carry passes when away of their home plantations and were likely to be subjected to random searches both in their quarters and when found out and about at night by patrollers.

But back to our account:
"About the 20th, December, 1830, a report was raised that the slaves of Chatham county, North Carolina, were going to rise on Christmas Day, in consequence of which a considerable commotion ensued among the inhabitants; orders were given by the Governor to the militia captains, to appoint patrolling captains in each district, and orders were given for every man subject to military duty to patrol as their captains should direct. I went two nights in succession, and after that refused to patrol at all. The reason why I refused was this, orders were given to search every negro house for books or prints of any kind, and Bibles and Hymn books were particularly mentioned. And should we find any, our orders were to inflict punishment by whipping the slave until he informed who gave them to him, or how they came by them."

Later in his testimony, White provided a view of the results of the searches:
"At the time of the rumored insurrection above named, the Chatham jail was filled with slaves who were said to be confined in the plot. Without the least evidence of it they were punished in divers [sic] ways; some were whipped, some had their thumbs screwed in a vice to make them confess, but no proof satisfactory was ever obtained that the negroes had ever thought of an insurrection, nor did any so far as I could learn, acknowledge that an insurrection has ever been projected. From this time forth, the slaves were prohibited from assembling together for the worship of God, and many of those who had previously been authorized to preach the Gospel were prohibited."    

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

One Pinch of Owl Dung?

Students of the Civil War are often armed with a plethora of quotes. Some are even familiar to the most casual of enthusiasts. Who can forget, "There stands Jackson like a stone wall;" or "War means fighting, and fighting means killing;" or "May God have mercy on Bobby Lee, for I shall have none;" or "It is well that war is so terrible, or we should grow too fond of it." They go on and on. But one that always makes me chuckle is Samuel D. Sturgis' (pictured above) thoughts of fellow Union general John Pope.

During the Second Manassas Campaign Pope had earned the enmity of not only Confederates such as normally mild-mannered Robert E. Lee, who labeled Pope a "miscreant," the bombastic Kentucky native also riled his fellow officers. At one point in the maneuvering of troops during the campaign Sturgis commandeered a train to move his troops instead of men intended for Pope's forces. When reprimanded by Union railroad man Gen. Herman Haupt for his actions, Sturgis exclaimed "I don't care for John Pope one pinch of owl dung."

So, was this a common phrase of the time (I've never heard it in any other instance)? Or did Sturgis just bring it off the cuff? I'm guessing the derogatory phrase probably just came to Sturgis, but I think it's about time we make it mainstream. I can hear it now, "I don't care for (insert your least favorite political candidate or opposing football coach here) one pinch of owl dung!" Still makes me chuckle.

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Ready to March

I never get tired of looking at images from the Liljenquist Family Collection on the Library of Congress website. Of the many many photographs, few of them show soldiers in full marching gear.

This unidentified Union soldier carries a knapsack with rolled blanket. Other equipment shown includes his waist belt, tarred haversack, bayonet scabbard, and cartridge box and sling. I don't see his canteen, but it likely is hidden by his arm resting over his haversack. Tucked in his waist belt looks to be a Smith and Wesson revolver, as well as a knife of some type. His coat is an enlisted man's frock. His headgear is a common Union forage cap.

Just your average common soldier fighting an uncommon war.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The William Gaines Family and their Slaves

Today, I was searching for some images for a project I am working on at work. I found the above picture while searching and thought I'd share it on here since it was new to me. 

The Library of Congress website description states that this was taken in Hanover County, Virginia, in 1862 on the plantation of Dr.William Gaines. The photographer was George Harper Houghton. 

Being curious, I thought I'd look up Gaines in the 1860 census. Interestingly there were two William Gaines listed--both on the same page, so I am guessing they were father and son. 

The first "Wm. Gaines" was indeed listed as "Dr. & farmer." He was only twenty-five years old. Only initials are given for this Mrs. Gaines, who was twenty-seven, and their daughter, who was three. Either Gaines accrued a sizable fortune early, or more likely, was provided a good start by his father as he is listed as owning $29,300 in real estate and $11,970 in personal property. 

The other Gaines, "Wm. F. Gaines," was fifty-six years old and was a "M.D. & farmer." Mr. Gaines, Sr. had $56,000 in real estate and $54,475 in personal property. His wife "J.G." was forty-seven. The next listed household is that of W.H. Wood, an overseer; presumably the elder Gaines's plantation manager. 

William Gaines is shown as owning fifteen slaves in the 1860 slave schedules, living in what looks to be seven slave dwellings. I assume this is Gaines the younger. William F. Gaines owned seventy-four slaves and their twelve slave quarters. I am guessing that those enslaved individuals shown in the photograph above are those of Gaines, the older, but that is purely speculation on my part.

I found that William Gaines, who's date of birth makes it the son, fought in Company I, Fifteenth Virginia Infantry. He enlisted less than a week after Virginia seceded.

Photographer George Harper Houghton apparently took the above image while accompanying soldiers on the Peninsula Campaign from his home state of Vermont. Some of Houghton's amazing work can be seen here.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Lexington, Virginia's Antebellum Black Barbers

Since I am searching census records online, it seems best to focus on those of towns and cities, where black barbers are most likely to work. I don't want to totally ignore rural county records, as barbers may live out of town limits and come to those more populated areas to do their work, but at present it makes sense to seek those in urban areas first.

I reported on 1860 census finds in Goodson (Bristol) and Abingdon in Washington County, Virginia in my last post. My next location to search was Lexington in Rockbridge County. I have a soft spot in my heart for Lexington as I completed a graduate fellowship there at the Stonewall Jackson House in the summer of 2004, the wonderful memories of those three months remain with me to the present. Interestingly, while there, I went several times to have hair cut by an elderly African American man. Unfortunately, I cannot remember his name, but I do remember him telling me stories of his service in World War II driving a deuce and a half.

The 1850 Lexington census only consisted of twenty-seven pages, so I worked my way through them rather quickly and found two barbers. They both resided in the household of Edward J. McCampbell, a twenty-five year old lawyer. I assume the men were boarders. One, Thomas Campbell, was listed as a twenty-one year old black man, who was a native of Virginia. The other, Joseph Cooper, was a twenty-five year old mulatto, who was also a native of the Old Dominion. Neither are shown as owning real estate. The 1850 census did not record personal property worth. It is speculation on my part, but perhaps these men rented a shop together and roomed together.

The 1860 census included what appeared to be a set of brothers; or perhaps cousins. Robert Bibey was a twenty-five year old mulatto, who owned $30 in personal property and is listed as not able to read or write. Sauney Bibey was twenty-two years old and was described as mulatto and illiterate as well. Also in the household was Julia Bibey, who was twenty-three years old. Was Julia Bibey Robert and Sauney's sister, or one of the men's wife? She is listed as mulatto like the men, but that is certainly not conclusive either way.

The other 1860 Lexington black barber was Charles Evans. This young man was only fourteen, and is listed as a mulatto. He is not shown with any wealth. However, his is in the household of Hariet Mays or Mayo, a forty-five year old washer woman, who had $30 in personal property. Perhaps Hariet was Charles's mother. Regardless, they lived next door to the Bibeys and Charles likely worked shaving and cutting hair with Roberty and Sauney Bibey.

Image courtesy of the Virginia Military Institute Archives.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Virginia Antebellum Black Barbers

I'm not sure where I'm going to find the time and energy to do the research and writing, but some preliminary searching in the 1860 Virginia census is turning up a significant amount of promising information on the state's antebellum black barbers. I had made some limited searches as evidenced from previous posts about some mentions of barbers in Richmond newspaper stories and advertisements,but had not started a thorough search of any county until this past week. We'll see if I can keep up the hunt and what comes out of it.

I thought I'd take a start with the Washington County census. Washington County is located in the southwest part of the state and has historic towns in Bristol and Abingdon. I figured that if the Old Dominion is anything like Kentucky, those towns would have a black barber or two. They did. I fact, I located three.

A few other reasons I chose Washington County as a starting place is that I have ancestral connections to the area, and having lived and worked nearby, I thought it would be a interesting point of entry. But, the main reason is that while looking up some information on famed Confederate guerrilla leader John S. Mosby after having visited Warrenton, I came across the listing of barber Christopher Martin (above) on the same census page as Mosby.  

Before the war, Mosby worked as an attorney in Goodson (present day Bristol) and covered cases in both Washington County, Virginia, and Sullivan County, Tennessee. In fact, Mosby joined a local regiment called the Washington (County) Rifles before ending up in the cavalry, and then forming his own famous guerrilla battalion.

Martin, like many of the barbers in Kentucky, had accumulated a significant amount of wealth for a free man of color. He is listed with $1000 in real estate and $200 in personal property. Martin's large family included six children. Although teenage sons Albert and Frank do not have occupations listed, I would not be surprised if they served as barber apprentices in their father's shop.

Also in Goodson (Bristol) was William Rucker, who is noted as owning the same amount of wealth as competitor Christopher Martin. Rucker, too, has a teenage son, William Jr., who may have assisted in his father's barber shop. The census indicated that Rucker had been born in North Carolina.

The final barber located in Washington County was in Abingdon. Thadeus A. Harris, although a few years younger than Martin and Rucker, was significantly more wealthy. Harris is shown with $3000 in real estate and $1000 in personal property. Harris apparently was married to housekeeper Mary, who was about twelve years his junior. The couple had a one year old daughter named Sarah. Also in the household was a twenty-one year old barber Samuel Sheffy.

This limited sample group fits many of the same patterns that I had found in my Kentucky research. All of these Washington County barbers were in their thirties, and were all listed as mulatto. I will be interested to see if the number of black and mulatto barbers even out as I increase my findings. Also, all of these men held solid amounts of wealth for the time period.

I'll keep you all posted on what I find as more counties get perused.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Ubiquitous Edmund Ruffin

On our trip Isle of Wight County, and while driving down Highway 10 through Prince George County, I spotted a sign indicating the birthplace of Edmund Ruffin. In my latest post on Ruffin, I mentioned that he seemed to be present a many historic events, such as John Brown's hanging and Fort Sumter. After doing a little more reading, I was reminded that the old "hot spur" was at the Battle of First Manassas, too.

Ruffin wrote about his experience in the war's first big battle in his extensive diary: "I was overtaken by one of Kemper's field pieces, which I was sure was on the route to the battle-field, or to wherever it could do the best service. . . . The officer in command, Sergeant Stewart, knew me, & as passing, invited me to take a seat, the only one vacant, on the cannon, which invitation I gladly accepted." After traveling a short distance on the cannon, the crew stopped. "I most gladly took the opportunity to dismount from my very uneasy & also precarious seat on the cannon & with leave, asked & was granted, seated myself on the gun carriage. My previous ride had been disagreeable to me, as my position must have been ludicrous to anyone enough unoccupied to be an observer." A bumpy ride across a cornfield brought the gun to a halt and Ruffin observed the Union army retreating and the Confederates cheering. Ruffin later learned that Kemper's artillery had been ordered out of the battle due to it hard service during the fight.

However, with the Yankees on the run, the Confederate artillerymen thought it a perfect chance to cause some additional pandemonium. "By order two of Kemper's guns were unlimbered, & quickly ready for firing. I, having before obtained the captain's permission, fired the first of these guns--either 10 or 12 being thus directed, & rapidly fired off. We could not see the effect from our position--but soon some of the enemy were seen escaping by a lateral road to our left, from the first position fired at." Ruffin later learned from battle reports that the shot he fired hit on a stone bridge over Cub Run and forced a wagon to overturn, which clogged the route of Union retreat.

I'm sure the old man couldn't have been happier to see the Yankees fleeing back toward Centreville and Washington D.C. beyond.  Ruffin went on to see the fighting at Seven Pines, but he probably never felt quite the same exhilaration as that day at Manassas.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Suffering for the Cause

While at Bacon's Castle this past weekend we picked up several brochures they had displayed that highlighted other local historic sites. After driving on to Isle of Wight County and having lunch in the great "Main Street" town of Smithfield, we drove a few more miles to see St. Luke's Church (above). St. Luke's is the oldest church in Virginia. Services began here according to some sources as early 1632.

Taking a leisurely stroll through the cemetery that surrounds the old brick church, I spotted a "Southern Cross" beside one of the graves. Curiosity got the better of me so I walked over to see who was buried there. When I read the name "Emmett M. Morrison," and that he was colonel of the 15th Virginia Infantry Regiment, it didn't help ring any bells in my memory. While there though, I thought I would go ahead a snap a shot his headstone just in case I decided to look him up and to help me remember his name.  

Well, what I found in Morrison's service records, and with some online research, provided yet another example of the extent some Confederate soldiers went to in attempt to realize their new nation.

Morrison's grave being located in Isle of Wight is no surprise. He was born there, grew up there, and after the war, he worked and died there.

The 1850 census shows Morrison as a nine year old in his father, Edwin's, household. Edwin Morrison was a hotel keeper and along with his family of six, there were ten other individuals living in what I assume was their hotel. Interestingly, one of the occupants was an eighty year old free black woman named  Sabina West. Edwin owned eleven slaves.

I was unable to locate Edwin Morrison in the 1860 census, but he does show up in that year's slave schedules as the owner of fifteen slaves. By that time his son Emmett was attending Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia.

When Virginia seceded in April of 1861, Edwin was among a number of the cadets sent to Richmond to train the Confederate recruits arriving from across the South. It didn't take long for young Emmett to land in a permanent regiment. With his military skills and knowledge on full display he was elected as the captain of Company C of the 15th Virginia Infantry. He was promoted to major on August 19, 1862, and lieutenant colonel on April 22, 1864, but with the rank dating back to January 24, 1863.

Between young Morrison's promotions from major to lieutenant colonel, the 15th Virginia fought at the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862. During the engagement Morrison took a severe slug wound to his right shoulder. After being attended to at a field hospital he was captured and sent to Fort Henry and then Fort Delaware before he was finally exchanged.  

Morrison fought on the Bermuda Hundred line in Pickett's division in the fall and winter of 1864. He reported sick and was admitted to a hospital in Petersburg in January 1865, but soon returned to duty. After resuming his duties, Morrison was captured at Sailor's Creek on April 6, and was sent to Old Capitol Prison and then to Johnson's Island prison. He was released in the summer of 1865 after taking the oath of allegiance.

After the war Morrison returned to his native Isle of Wight County. He married Sarah Wilson in 1872, and became a teacher at Smithfield Academy (which still stands). He later held positions as a surveyor, superintendent of schools, and postmaster. He lived to the old age of ninety, dying in 1932.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

More Virginia Slave Dwellings

Yesterday, Michele and I took a drive down to Surry County to visit Bacon's Castle. It was a wonderful trip fill with lots of great history. Bacon's Castle is the oldest brick house in Virginia and is the only example of Jacobean architecture in the United States. It was built by Arthur Allen in the mid-1600s. The house stayed in the Arthur family for many years before it devolved to the Hankins family, who operated the plantation during the Civil War years. 

On the property are a number of out buildings, including a mid-19th century slave dwelling and smokehouse. The slave quarter is a typical two story duplex frame and clapboard design. 

However, instead of central chimney shared by the two apartments, each gabled end had its own chimney. Each apartment has its own door entrance.  

An interesting feature were the small upper-level two-over-two windows. The building was not guest accessible, so I was unable to inspect the upper story to see if they included a fireplace as did the ground floor.

On our drive back to Petersburg we stopped at the City Point Unit of Petersburg National Battlefield in Hopewell. Here the National Park Service interprets the Union army's supply base during the Petersburg Campaign, as well as Appomattox Manor, the Eppes family plantation. On its grounds are several period outbuildings. Shown above is the laundry (left) and kitchen (right) building. Similar to the structure at Bacon's Castle, it had two sections. The laundry side had a stairway to the upper-level, although it was also inaccessible. A smokehouse stands to the building's left.

The story of the Richard Eppes family and his scores of slaves was fascinatingly told to us by park ranger Emmanuel Dabney. Eppes owned land on several non-contiguous plantations, but lived at Appomattox Manor until the summer of 1862, when he and his family fled to the safety of Petersburg as the Union army made its toward Richmond during the Peninsula Campaign. Many of Eppes' slaves used the opportunity to grasp their freedom.

The final slave dwelling I photographed this weekend is located in Sutherland, which is just southwest of Petersburg. Once known as Sutherland Station, it was on the Southside Railroad. Fighting occurred here during the April 2, 1865 Union army breakthrough as they neared their goal of capturing the rail line. The slave dwelling rests behind the Fork Inn, also known as the Sutherland Tavern, once a stagecoach rest stop, hotel, and tavern built in 1803. The property was owned by Elizabeth Sutherland during the Civil War.

Ms. Sutherland appears in the 1860 census as seventy-five years old. She is listed as being involved with "Farming and Private Inn and Tavern" business.She owned $9,000 in real estate and $21,300 in personal property. She owned twenty slaves, ranging in age from seventy-five to ten months, who lived in three slave dwellings.

Although often overlooked in favor of their more impressive "big houses," these structures are important pieces of Virginia history that all appear to be safe at present. Hopefully these buildings will continue to be preserved and interpreted so we can better understand and appreciate the lives of those who lived and toiled long hours at these sites.  

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Sketches of Union Army Mules

"A Tough Customer. Army Mule," by Edwin Forbes. Rappahanock Station, Virginia, February 5, 1864.

"An Army Mule." Culpeper Courthouse, Virginia, September 28, 1863.

"The Meditative Mule." Culpeper Courthouse, Virginia, September 28, 1863.

"A Played-Out Mule in Hospital." Rappahannock Station, February 5, 1864.

Images courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Mule Driver

"The Mule Driver," by Edwin Forbes, November 23, 1863 at Kelly's Ford, Virginia.

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Edmund Ruffin's Losses

Few men wanted Southern secession, or did more to try to make it happen, than Virginian Edmund Ruffin. The long-haired old man's appearance at Harpers Ferry shortly after John Brown's raid and his reappearance at the abolitionist's hanging were not by coincidence. He wanted to witness history in the making. Later, he was at Fort Sumter's bombardment as well. Some claimed he pulled the lanyard to fire the first shot.

During the war, Ruffin lost one of his plantation homes to Yankee arsons and his slaves absconded. But if Edmund Ruffin knew anything (and he knew plenty) he knew loss. Two of his children had died as mere babies, his wife had died, and three grandchildren had died. Three of his adult daughters died, and one of his daughter-in-laws, who he considered a daughter, had died.

However, the death of Ruffin's second son, Julian, was especially hard on the old fire-eater. Julian was born in 1821 in Prince George County. As a young man he had helped his father establish the Southern Magazine and Monthly Review. Julian was obviously proud of his father's influence and contributions to Southern nationalism, for in 1861, Julian named a newborn son, after grandpa and his adventures; Edmund Sumter Ruffin.

Julian was a sergeant in Company B, 12th Battalion of Virginia Light Artillery when the end came. His service records indicate he enlisted  the unit in Petersburg on August 10, 1863 for the duration of the war. Apparently Julian had served in a different unit previously. Julian's service did not last for the duration of the war though. He was killed in the fighting at Drewry's Bluff on May 16, 1864. With a broken heart and seemingly in denial Edmund Ruffin penned in his diary on May 23: "My mind cannot take in the momentous fact, nor my perceptions approach to the measure of reality."

Ruffin could not take much more, and when Confederate defeat finally became a reality, he ended his ruined world by his own hand. On June 17, 1865, he took time to write in his diary: "I here declare my unmitigated hatred to Yankee rule-to all political, social & business connection with Yankees-& to the Yankee race. Would that I could impress these sentiments, in their full force, on every living southerner, & bequeath them to every one yet to be born! May such sentiments be held universally in the outraged & down-trodden South, though in silence & stillness, until the now far-distant day shall arrive for just retribution for Yankee usurpation, oppression, & atrocious outrages-& for deliverance & vengeance for the now ruined, subjugated, & enslaved Southern States!"

Using a stick to trigger his weapon, Ruffin's gun misfired on first attempt. He recapped the piece and was successful in his second try. The old hot-spur was buried on his former plantation, Marlborough, in Hanover County, suffering no more losses.

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Henry A. Wise's Loss

Wanting to learn more about Virginia's enigmatic politician, Henry A. Wise, I recently completed reading Craig M. Simpson's 1985 book, A Good Southerner: The Life of Henry A. Wise of Virginia. I enjoyed the book and found Wise to be as an intriguing personality as I imagined.

You might remember that Wise was governor of the Old Dominion when John Brown struck at Harpers Ferry in 1859. The book's chapter on Wise and Brown was quite fascinating. Although Wise certainly was at odds with Brown's ideals of racial egalitarianism, the governor had a healthy respect for Brown's courage and commitment to his cause. One might even say that Wise admired Brown.

Wise was succeeded as governor by John Letcher, but his political influence continued. He strongly encouraged the state's secession during its April 1861 convention. When war broke out, Wise, although in his mid-fifties, raised a combined infantry, artillery and cavalry unit appropriately named Wise's Legion. In the summer of 1861, Wise was made a brigadier general. At best, Wise had a checkered track record during the war. His touchiness and honor-bound nature caused him to clash any fellow officers who presented the slightest offense. An 1861 foray into Western Virginia and his inability to work with fellow former governor Gen. John Floyd serves a perfect example.

In early 1862, Wise was transferred to North Carolina. There, he immediately rubbed Gen. Benjamin Huger the wrong way. On February 8, in a fight at Roanoke Island while Wise was sick, his oldest son Obadiah Jennings Wise, a former editor of the Richmond Enquirer, was killed in the battle. Wise the younger was born in 1831, and like his father, held honor most high. Before the war Obadiah fought several duels, some of which came at the defense of his father and his political policies.

Obie, as he was sometimes known, was part of the Richmond Light Infantry Blues, a local militia unit that dated back to 1789. During the Civil War the Blues became Company A of the 46th Virginia Infantry. Apparently Obie was hit in the wrist of his sword-carrying arm while leading his company in the fight at Roanoke Island. Quickly bandaging the injury, he soon received a mortal wound.

Thus, Henry A. Wise not only suffered defeat in northeastern North Carolina, he lost what some considered his favorite son. Obie's body was recovered and when father saw son, Wise exclaimed, "Oh, my brave boy, you have died for me, you have died for me." Obie was buried in Hollywood Cemetery. Father joined son in Hollywood in 1876.

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Wade Hampton's Loss

My continuing study of the Petersburg Campaign has brought a new admiration for the military skills of Wade Hampton. Whether displaying his daring in carrying out the Beefsteak Raid, or his tactical ability at Reams Station, Hampton's cavalry was a proven commodity for Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia.

Wade Hampton sacrificed more than just his enormous fortune for the Confederate cause; he lost a son. At the Battle of Hatcher's Run in February 1864, Lt. Preston Hampton was cut down in the fighting. It is difficult to imagine the pain Hampton must have felt in learning the sad news. In a kind attempt to sooth the mourning father, Gen. Lee wrote the cavalryman. Lee had intimately experienced a similar loss when his daughter Annie died in 1862 at age twenty-three. 

Lee wrote:
"My dear General, I grieve with you at the loss of your gallant son. So young, so brave, so true. I know how much you must suffer. Yet, think of the great gain to him; how changed his condition, how bright his future. We must labor in the charge before us, but for him I trust is rest and peace for I believe our merciful God takes us when it is best for us to go. He is now safe from all harm and from all evil and nobly died in the defense of the rights of his country. May God support you under your great affliction and give you strength to bear the trials He may impose on you. Truly your friend, R.E. Lee"  

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.     

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Gen. Cullen Battle's Grave

Have you ever wondered where you will rest in peace? I know, that's a pretty morbid thought. But, I admit, I've wondered. Will it be in the area where I last reside? Or, will I find myself in a generations-old traditional family plot?

Similarly, I sometimes wonder why certain people end up in certain cemeteries. Today, I was over at Petersburg's Blandford Cemetery with a colleague doing some preliminary research on project. One of the graves we visited was that of Confederate General Cullen Andrews Battle. Doing some quick thinking of what I knew of Battle, I found myself at a loss as to why he was buried in Petersburg.

Cullen Battle was born in Hancock County, Georgia, in 1829, but moved with his family to Eufala, Alabama as a boy. After studying at the University of Alabama, Battle read law and was admitted to the bar in 1852. A tried and true secessionist, Battle was close friends with Alabama's leading fire-eater, William Lowndes Yancey. After John Brown's raid, Battle raised a local militia unit and offered its services to Virginia. However, Virginia Governor Henry A. Wise already had enough in-state militia. Battle's unit continued to drill tough and maintained a readiness as sectional tensions increased.

When war finally came in 1861, Battle was made major of the 3rd Alabama Infantry. The 3rd eventually made their way to Virginia and fought during the Peninsula Campaign, at South Mountain, and Antietam. For competent service, Battle was promoted to colonel of the 3rd at the end of 1862.

Battle received promotion to brigadier general in February 1864, taking command of Gen. Robert E. Rodes's former brigade. Battle missed a good deal of service due to injuries and illness. After missing time in the summer of 1864 for dysentery, he returned but was wounded at the Battle of Cedar Creek that fall. That wound kept the general out of commission for the remainder of the war. Although major general is listed on his headstone, it appears that promotion was never made official.

In 1880, Battle resettled in New Bern, North Carolina, and edited a newspaper. Later, he resided in Greensboro, North Carolina, where he died at age 75 in 1905 .

So, why wasn't Battle buried in Greensboro, New Bern, or even back in Alabama? The answer it seems was just a wish. Apparently, Battle's son, Henry, a Petersburg minister, desired to have his father's body be brought to and buried in the Cockade City. Sometimes it is as simple as that.  

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A Sample of Warrenton's Town Slave Quarters

My visit to Warrenton had me seeking out evidence of the town's antebellum slave life. I was a little surprised it was actually not too difficult to find. While I only took a hand full of shots of what appeared to be surviving slave quarters, there were a number more dotting the town's landscape, often behind beautiful historic homes. 

Parking at the town's visitor center put us adjacent to what is known as the Mosby House. And behind the Mosby House was the two story building pictured above. Although I did not go in the building, if I had to guess, I would wager that the right side door of the building entered into what served as the home's kitchen and the left door probably when up stairs to an apartment room. While many slave quarters that I have encountered in Virginia are two story structures, most are more horizontally oriented. I found it an extremely interesting design. 

A short walk across the yard was what probably served as a smokehouse. This square-shaped brick building with a pitched-point roof is common for Virginia smokehouses.

Although the home is called the Mosby House, it was actually built by Edward Spillman, a judge, in 1859. The famed Confederate guerrilla leader Col. John Singleton Mosby owned the home after the Civil War. Later, Confederate general Eppa Hunton owned the home. 

Walking down a side street I noticed the above brick building. It, too, was likely a kitchen and house slave/cook's quarters. It looks like it has been converted into a small home office or guest apartment.

The small frame building shown above fits the description of a town slave quarters. The structure has had a few alterations and additions to it but it was quite small as can be seen when comparing it to the car parked next to it.

Now I am curious to explore some other old Virginia towns to see if Warrenton's town slave quarters are just uncommonly common.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Fauquier County, Virginia Courthouse Then and Now

circa 1863


This past weekend I was able to do a little bit of exploring in Warrenton, Virginia. This beautiful and friendly little town is located in Fauquier County, just west of Manassas, and north of Culpeper, Virginia. 

I had remembered seeing a Civil War-era photograph of the county courthouse on the Library of Congress website, so I thought I'd do "then and now" shot. It was not taken from quite the right angle and distance, but it will have to do.

The Fauquier County courthouse was originally constructed in 1790, but that building burned, as did buildings constructed in 1819 and 1854. Today's building was built in 1890 and was reconstructed on the foundation of the 1854 courthouse. During the Civil War, Warrenton experienced alternating bouts of occupation by both Union and Confederate troops. 

Just out of the courthouse picture above is the above monument to Col. John Singleton Mosby. Known as the "Gray Ghost" during the Civil War, Mosby made Warrenton part of his focus during the war and his home after the conflict. His switch to the Republican Party and candid comments in his memoirs on the Confederate cause made him unpopular with some of his fellow Virginians, but others cherished the memory of the Gray Ghost and his amazing lightning-quick strikes against the Union army. Mosby died in 1916 and was buried in the Warrenton Cemetery. 

If you get the opportunity, take a trip Warrenton. So much history abounds there waiting to be seen and learned. I don't think you will be disappointed.

Historic photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Petersburg's Bollingbrook Street - Then and Now



Last Saturday I was fortunate enough to take in a walking tour given by Petersburg National Battlefield ranger and curator Emmanuel Dabney. The subject of the tour was Petersburg's enslaved and free black communities before and during the Civil War. Emmanuel has researched extensively in primary sources and has developed a fascinating tour.

Our last stop was on Bollingbrook Street to discuss several commercial businesses and individual homes and their ties to slavery. One surviving home, the Nathaniel Friend house, stands at the corner of Bollingbrook and Cockade Alley. Behind the home and along the cobblestoned Cockade Alley are what used to be the Friend House's kitchen, slave quarters, and smoke house, all connected. The slave quarters part of the contiguous structure is now the popular restaurant, Brickhouse Run.

Across Cockade Alley is what used to be Farmer's Bank. Behind the bank building, and built on the original foundation, is a structure that was reconstructed where an urban slave quarters stood. Wrapped around it and a recreated smoke house is a high brick wall, a common site in Southern urban slave settings.

Just a few steps west down Bollingbrook and on the south side of the street was the slave jail of Henry Davis. The building, although altered somewhat over the years, still stands. Back on the north side of Bollingbrook is a small grassy vacant lot where William Tench's auction house once stood. Owners could have Tench sell their surplus slaves here, or those needing additional laborers could find them here.

Although I had walked these streets numerous times, almost all of the information was new to me. It is difficult to understand the deep impact slavery had on the economy, society, and culture in Southern cities like Petersburg until one takes the time to hear and learn thes storied behind these places.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Memorializing USCT Valor at Petersburg National Battlefield

There is not an overabundance of memorials at Petersburg National Battlefield. Unlike at Gettysburg, Antietam, Chickamauga, or Vicksburg, where monuments almost overawe visitors, at Petersburg they merely dot the landscape. One that is quite inconspicuous honors the United States Colored Troops from the XVIII Corps (Army of the James), who fought bravely and with marked success.

While the USCT fighting at the Battle of the Crater is probably better remembered in history, they fought with much more success in the initial fighting of the Petersburg Campaign on July 15, 1864. In this engagement USCTs under the ultimate command of William F. "Baldy" Smith charged and captured a significant part of the eastern section of the Confederate Dimmock Line, including Batteries Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, and Eleven. A sergeant-major in the 1st USCI recalled the action at Battery Seven: "The boys made a bold charge although they were exposed to cross-fire of three forts, and were harassed by infantry and cavalry. They scaled the fort, and the enemy, becoming panic-stricken, ran like deer, leaving three pieces of cannon."

Following the earthworks that connected the various battery posts the black soldiers made their way south down the line. Making another charge, Colonel Joseph Kiddoo of the 22nd USCI wrote that "My men wavered at first under the hot fire of the enemy but soon, on seeing their colors on the opposite side of the ravine, pushed rapidly up and passed the rifle-pits and fort." Thus Battery Eight was bagged.

Battery Nine was apparently given up as a lost cause by the Confederates and the USCTs concentrated on Battery Ten. The 4th USCI charged it and fairly won an artillery piece, caissons, and horses. Battery Eleven, too, was given up by the Confederates when it previously support battery fell.

Unfortunately for the Union cause, the ground gained on June 15, was to be a hollow victory. Smith, worried about his unmitigated success, and thus fearing a Confederate counterattack called off the press. The black soldiers though had won some hard earned respect from their fellow white soldiers. One officer of the 6th USCI stated "It was rather interesting to see the old veterans of the Army of the Potomac stare when they saw the works we had captured. The old soldiers would hardly believe that colored troops had done it, but had to do so." Another officer estimated that the USCTs had lost between 160 and 200 killed or wounded in the day's fighting.