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

2015

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


1865


2015

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.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Just Finished Reading - Shifting Grounds

Significant scholarly works have been written on the diversity of political thought in the white antebellum and Civil War South. William Freehling's The South vs The South quickly comes to mind, but fewer books have attempted to examine the transitions that were necessary to spark a nation-making attempt that eventually consisted of eleven states called the Confederate States of America.

That gigantic hole is now largely filled with Paul Quigley's Shifting Grounds: Nationalism and the American South, 1848-1865 (Oxford University Press, 2012). This eye-opening look at the South's evolution, from a strong United States nationalist position to that of a separate entity, and then with defeat, a non-nation of commemoration, should find an eager audience.

Although national events such as the Missouri Compromise (1820) and the Nullification Crisis (1832-33) predate Quigley's time frame, the Mexican-American War and the lands acquired from that conflict sped up sectional division. New territory meant new states, which meant making difficult decisions and taking strong actions on which newly formed states would be slave and which would be free. So, what was to be gained or lost? To the South what to be lost was a balance of power in Congress. With a loss of balance of power, presidential elections, and Supreme Court appointments was potentially the loss of their economic, social, and cultural way of life; i.e. slavery. The Compromise of 1850 brought about the first true Southern considerations about secession and serious thoughts of creating their own nation; one that was designed to protect slavery and guarantee its ability to expand as new land was added.

The nineteenth century was an era of nation making. European efforts in places like Italy, Hungary, and Ireland brought about a certain romantic idealism which often overlooked the difficulties encountered along the way. Southerners' questions abounded though: "What made a nation? Could an individual or a group change nationality at will? How should one balance different layers of identity and loyalty when they came into conflict? How did nation-states secure and maintain legitimacy at home and abroad? What were the rights and responsibilities of citizenship?"

To help illustrate some of his points, Quigley looks at traditional forms of American nationalism and how the South adapted them for their own purposes. Events such as Fourth of July celebrations and the legacy of the Revolutionary War, symbols such as the American flag, and heroes like George Washington were all incorporated in different ways in the new Confederacy's claims for nationhood.

Of course, the Civil War brought challenges to what white Confederates had hoped would be a more free nation than that experienced in the old United States. However, conscription (just a year into their national experience), slave impressment, crop confiscation, and geographical pockets of strident Unionism that had be controlled, all made nation building a more difficult experiment than originally expected.

The Confederate nation ended with its army's defeats on the battlefields, but although no longer in existence, the suffering and sacrifices experienced by the soldiers and their families created a culture of commemoration and pride in heritage that continues to this day. Without understanding how the Confederate nation came into being, one cannot truly understand or appreciate the cultural divide that has existed since 1865.

I highly recommend this excellently written and researched book. It was truly one of those rare books that I found difficult to close and eager to reopen. On a scale of one to five, I give it a well deserved five.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

I Will Give $2 Reward


I have been on quite the reading tear; and will have some "Just Finished Reading" posts soon. But, in between books, I did some browsing through the Chronicling America newspaper database on the Library of Congress website. Of course, I got distracted by the notices and advertisements.

The latest book I am reading is a biography of Hinton Rowan Helper, the North Carolinian who wrote The Impending Crisis of the South in 1857. I was searching through the database to see if any reactions to the book were made in Virginia's newspapers. Not finding much, I paged through the August 1, 1860 edition of the Richmond Daily Dispatch when the ad pictured above particularly caught my eye.

In it Mary Brown, "A free woman of color" offered a $2.00 reward to anyone who happened to find her "FREE PAPERS," which she lost on Saturday, July 28 "near the Old Market." The importance of the papers are indicated in the considerable reward and in the fact that Ms. Brown mentioned that "They were in a tin box," presumably for safekeeping.

As one might image free papers were invaluable for free people of color in the slave states. Without their papers free people had to rely on a white patron who could vouch for their free status. Those without a white patron, they could be subject to be imprisoned and advertised as a runaway and then sold when not claimed.
Having such as common name, an attempt to find out more about Mary Brown by searching in the 1860 census turned up too many black and mulatto free Mary Brown's in Richmond to pinpoint the one in the advertisement. Some of the Mary Browns had occupations listed. Among them were: "washer," "nurse," "wash woman," and "servant." Of course it is pure speculation, but I could image the Mary Brown in the advertisement was likely employed in a similar type position and was probably doing her market shopping when perhaps she was distracted by something and sat her tin box containing her spending money and free papers down and moved on forgetting to retrieve the box.

Did Ms. Brown have the tin box returned? If so, who found it? Was it found by another free person of color or a white shopper at the Old Market? If they were not found, was she able to petition for a new set of free papers? How long did it take to get a new set of free papers? Did she have to pay a fee to get a new set of free papers? Did she experience much trouble over not having her free papers? Always . . . the questions!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Help Save Almost 300 Acres at Shiloh


Save 295 acres at Shiloh!
The morning of April 6, 1862 was one of shock and alarm as the men of General Ulysses S. Grant’s Union army found their camp at Pittsburg Landing being attacked by Confederates under General Albert Sidney Johnston. Colonel John McDowell, whose brigade occupied the extreme right flank of Grant’s army, rushed his troops forward to meet the threat. Colonel Preston Pond, Jr.’s Louisiana brigade greeted them with fierce volleys and eventually overwhelmed the Yankees. With the Union right flank collapsing, the Confederates swept the field.
Today, the Civil War Trust is pleased to announce our immediate effort to save the exact site of McDowell’s stand against Pond’s Confederates. This 295-acre area of land is the most signi ficant unprotected land on the western edge of Shiloh National Military Park. With your help in saving this land we are not only adding to the protected acreage at Shiloh, but also providing an important buffer between the battlefield and likely development on the park’s western border.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Sacrificing for the Cause - John C.C. Sanders


One of the exciting things about learning new historical information is being introduced to the personalities one encounters along the way. I had certainly heard of General John C.C. Sanders, but knew few details of the man's pre-war or wartime experiences. Doing just a little research produced some remarkable findings which show his commitment to the cause for which he was fighting.


John Caldwell Calhoun Sanders was born on April 4, 1840, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He was named for the great states' rights and proslavery South Carolina politician (above). This is not all that surprising as thousands of sons during this time period were named for famous military and political personalities. In addition, Sanders' father, Charles P. Sanders, was a native South Carolinian, who likely held Calhoun in veneration.

The 1850 census give a little more detail into the Sanders family. At that time they lived in the Eutaw District of Greene County, Alabama. John's father, Charles, is listed as a thirty-seven year old physician, who owned $1000 in real estate. John's mother, Elizabeth Ann is listed as thirty-one and also a South Carolina native. The family must have moved to Alabama just a few years before John was born as older brother Matthew L., who was listed as 14 years old, had been born in their home state, while another older brother, William H (12) and John (10) were both born in Alabama. Also included in the family were younger sisters, Arabella F. (7), and Martha L. (5). All of the Sanders children were shown as attending school. I was unable to find Charles P. Sanders in the 1850 slave schedules.

The Sanders family prospered the the following decade. In 1860, Charles was listed as "Doctor & Planter." He had increased his wealth in real estate to $15,300 and personal property to $30,000, of which included 25 slaves. The slaves consisted of eleven males ranging in age from sixty to one year old, and fourteen females that were from fifty-five to one year old. All of the slaves are listed as black, except for a one year old female that was described as mulatto. The Sanders' family workforce lived in six slave houses.

By 1860, apparently son Matthew no longer lived in the household, and William, now twenty-one was listed as a doctor, like his father. John is listed as nineteen and as a "Col.[lege] Student." Arabella was now sixteen. Perhaps Martha did not live, as the only other children are listed as initals and hers does not fit. The other children were: H.A. Sanders, a fourteen year old girl; E.A. Sanders, a seven year old girl, and C.P. Sanders, a two year old girl.

John must have been a promising student as he was attending the University of Alabama when the war started. Although his parents objected to his decision to withdraw from school and join up, John would not miss the chance to serve his new nation and headed back to Greene County, where he helped raise Company C of the 11th Alabama Infantry. His experience as a University of Alabama cadet and winning personality helped him gain the captaincy of the company. He was only 21 years old.

The 11th was quickly forwarded to the seat of war in Virginia and barely missed participating in the Battle of First Manassas. The regiment was included in the brigade of Cadmus M. Wilcox and fought some difficult battles in the Peninsula Campaign. John was grievously wounded in the leg during the Battle of Glendale (Frayser's Farm). A fast recovery brought John back in time to fight more, and as the brigade's senior captain, he led the 11th in battle at Second Manassas and Antietam, where he was wounded in the face.

John was soon made colonel of the 11th; at only twenty-two years old. The 11th fought at Salem Church during the Chancellorsville Campaign, and at Gettysburg. On July 2, 1863, Sanders was shot in the knee.


When Wilcox was promoted to division command, the brigade was placed under Sanders's command for a time. But then when General Abner Perrin took command of the brigade, Sanders was back in charge of the 11th. After a particularly difficult fight at the Wilderness, however, Perrin was killed at Spotsylvania on May 12, 1864. Sanders once again assumed command of the brigade. He officially was promoted on June 7 to brigadier general. Sanders was only twenty-four years old. As fighting devolved to Petersburg, Sanders's brigade fought in several battles south of the important rail junction city. On July 30, Sanders's brigade was one of the principal units that successfully counterattacked against the Union forces at the Battle of the Crater.

Sanders's brigade was moved north of the James River to fight at Second Deep Bottom in mid-August. The mobile brigade was quickly moved back south of Petersburg where it fought at the Battle of Globe Tavern (above photograph), also known as Weldon Railroad, on August 21. During the Confederate attempt to regain its lost ground Sanders's brigade, now fighting with Mahone's division, attacked. In the fight John Caldwell Calhoun Sanders was shot through both thighs. The wound severed his femoral arteries and he quickly bled to death. He was only twenty-four. Sanders was laid to rest in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond.


Today, the quiet fields around where Globe Tavern once stood and a fierce battle once raged only grow crops or sit empty. Fortunately, no longer do muskets crack and artillery boom. Only the sounds of an occasional passing car, cranky crows, and sometimes, rumbling railroad freight cars disturb the peace. It is here though that we should remember those who lost their lives, both Union and Confederate. After all they were all Americans.  

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Roger Pryor's Duels


Feeling a little touch of cabin fever, and knowing it was going to be blazing hot later in the day, I ran down to the southern end of Dinwiddie County this morning to find Roger Pryor's birthplace. I located the place, but did not take any pictures since it is privately owned and the highway marker (above) was back on the closest major road.

Researching into Pryor's history a little I kept finding him engaged in duels. His many affairs of honor probably shouldn't be surprising considering he worked in occupations that easily offended (newspaper editor and politician) others.

Pryor was a hotspur, no doubt. He provoked challenges, challenged, and fought duels against a number of men. He never killed an opponent, and wounded but few. Pryor's first duel was with Charles Irving. Apparently some understanding was developed between the men before shots were fired. His next duel was with fellow newspaper editor Robert Ridgeway, but Pryor chose to shoot into the ground instead of at his opponent. In his duel against Dr. Oswald Finney, fought across the James River from Richmond, Pryor shot Finney in the ribs, but the good doctor recovered. Ad hominem attacks were Pryor's stock in trade. Perhaps he channeled his minister father's religious zeal in a much different direction. Pryor fought a duel with a son of noted Virginia Unionist John Minor Botts, but declined to shoot the man due to an infirmity. He also challenged his congressional opponent Thomas F. Goode.  

As a congressman, in 1860, Pryor took offense during an antislavery speech delivered by Owen Lovejoy of Illinois in the House of Representatives. In the speech Pryor warned Lovejoy not to bring his rants to the Democratic side of the House. John Potter, a Wisconsin Republican, defended Lovejoy. William Barksdale of Mississippi and Martin Crawford jumped in on Pryor's side. Somehow a dust up was averted. However, about a week later, Potter and Pryor got into an argument about what was printed in the Congressional Globe. This led to Pryor sending Potter a card of challenge. Since Pryor had challenged, Potter had the choice of weapons. The Wisconsinite chose bowie knives. Pryor's seconds considered the weapon choice uncivilized and refused the weapons as unworthy of a Southern gentleman. The duel was cancelled.

During the Civil War Pryor took his fights to the battlefields. Apparently he desired a commission more than a politician's desk. He was made commander of the 3rd Virginia, but was soon assigned a brigade. He fought rather well in the Peninsula Campaign. He also saw service at Second Manassas and Antietam. Pryor was replaced in command in the spring of 1863, and without a brigade, he resigned in August. He was captured, apparently spying, on November 27, 1864, near Petersburg and was held until April 1865 in Fort Lafayette in New York.

Pryor transferred his residence to New York after the war and used his gift of gab as an attorney and judge. He died on March 14, 1919 and was buried at Princeton, New Jersey.      

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Bully Civil War Photograph - The Little Secessionist


This photograph of an unknown little secessionist boy struck me as particularly impressive. The little fellow stands as straight as an arrow at right shoulder arms. He stares frowning but intently at the photographer; his hair neatly parted on the side. A secession cockade is pinned to his shirt, worn to show support for the Confederate nation.

Was this boy's father away in the Southern army? If so, was he killed in battle?  Or, did his father spend time in a prisoner of war camp? Did his father come home missing an arm or a leg? Or, did his father bring mental demons back from the front? Or was he well adjusted? Did the boy have brothers and sisters? Did this boy have the opportunity of an education? What occupation did he grow up to hold? Did he make a contribution to better society? Did he live to old age? Did he live to see airplanes, and automobiles? What did he think about these major innovations? Questions . . . so many questions that cannot be answered.

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Obstacles to Advance


When the armies fought around Petersburg, they were most often in quite close proximity. To guard against attacks, both sides incorporated additional obstacles to their defensive earthworks. It was believed that if the huge earthen berms and ditches were not enough to discourage advances, then other measures might dissuade offensive movements.

Pictured above are two forms. Abatis is shown in the left foreground. These were often young growth trees or cut tree tops that were defoliated and the tips of the limbs sharpened. The points were directed toward the enemy and the base buried into the ground at an angle. Often abatis was woven together to form a particularly difficult obstacle. 

In the left background of the same photograph are fraise. These were larger logs with sharpened points and  spaced just wide enough apart for attackers to have to stop to slide past. Of these, one Union soldier stated: "Along and in front of the enemy line bristled a heavy sharpened stakes set close together and pointing outward with an unyielding and aggressive air, as if to say 'Come and impale yourselves on us.'"    


Another obstacle that was incorporated into the defenses were chevaux-de-frise (above). These devilish-looking inventions were sharpened stakes set at opposing angles and that were probed through a central log. These were often chained or wired together and had to either be chopped through or carefully rolled away, both of which slowed attackers.

Other obstacles, included sinks (latrines) between the opposing lines, and telegraph wire strung between stumps in no-man's-land. Of the sinks, Union Colonel Hazard Stevens wrote: "the enemy had placed some of their sinks in front of the abatis and stakes [fraise], so that attacking troops would have to break their lines in order to avoid falling into these filthy holes."

Telegraph wire proved especially effective, sometimes on one's own men, as a group of Maryland Union soldiers found out: "Suddenly a number of men fell flat on their faces and we thought that they had been hit by the enemy's fire. To our surprise, they hurriedly scrambled to their feet again and continued toward us. A few steps more and again they plunged to the ground. It dawned upon us then what was the cause of their strange behavior. They had tripped over the telegraph wires stretched about a foot high along the ground. The men, too, realized what was the matter and they carefully picked their way the rest of the distance, being greeted with laughter as they approached. They, however, were in no mood to enjoy the merriment."

Images courtesy of the Library of Congress.  

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Richmond Free Black Barber Advertisement


That November 21, 1859 issue of the Richmond Daily Dispatch was loaded with interesting goodies for me. Along with the stories on Congressman-elect Pryor and the barber who wanted to crop Brown's raiders ears, I found the above advertisement for Richmond free black barber R. C. Hobson.

Hobson styled himself as a "Practical Hair Cutter and [hair] Dresser. His business was located, like many free black barbers, under a local hotel - location, location, location. Hobson's shop was under the American Hotel,which was one of Richmond's more notable hotels. Similar to other black barbers, Hobson offered and listed in his advertisement a variety of services. He cut hair "in the latest and most approved style," dyed, and shampooed hair, and shaved faces.


Curious to learn more about Hobson, I located him in the 1860 census. He lived in Richmond's Second Ward, and it indeed lists him as a barber and thirty-eight years old. He is also listed as a mulatto, as are all of the members of his family household, who included: thirty-seven year old Martha A., a domestic and his wife; son Robert L. nineteen years old; daughter Mary F, five years old; Elmore Brown, a sixteen year old barber (probably an apprentice); and John Wilder, twenty-one years old and also a barber. Hobson appears to have been literate, as well as his wife Mary and John Wilder.

Hobson's listed worth shows him to be quite well off. He owned $3300 in real estate property and $352 in personal property. His wealth is not all that surprising as a free black barber, but it is still an impressive amount and shows his good business sense with investing in real estate.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

A Richmond Free Black Barber and John Brown's Raiders


Way way back I shared Lebanon, Kentucky free black barber Abraham Meaux's letter to Governor Magoffin. It was a fascinating look at his thoughts about John Brown and what he considered the trouble Brown had brought the free people of color in Kentucky.

While browsing through the 1859 issue of the Richmond, Virginia Daily Dispatch that I shared yesterday, I found the above short article. It focuses its attention on a free black barber in the state's capital city, who while shaving a patron, in this case the city's mayor, offered to go to Charlestown, where John Brown was being held in jail awaiting execution, mentioned he sought to have a "brush with the invaders." The barber allegedly offered to muster a company to go and "shear the ears from some abolitionist heads." Although not accepted, apparently the mayor appreciated Lomax's offer to defend Virginia against abolitionist threats.

Was Smith just boasting for his notable white patron? It appears from the information in the article that Smith had long been a respected barber in the community, as it mentions that he had apparently shaved Lafayette when he visited Richmond in 1824. Perhaps Smith had adopted the politics of his white patrons as it appears Meaux had done in Kentucky. After all, deferring and agreeing with one's benefactors was good for business, but making waves was a sure way to lose customers and find one's self in hot water.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Roger A. Pryor, John Brown, Secession, and Slavery



It is fascinating to me that certain men made sure they witnessed and took part in history making events leading up to the Civil War. I think that says something about these individuals as well as the stake that they had in the outcome of these events and what they wanted to see for the future. 

It is well known that Virginia arch-secessionist Edmund Ruffin made the trip to Harpers Ferry from his plantation shortly after Brown's raid to be at the ground zero of an event that he hoped would kick off a conflict between the North and South and result in Southern independence. Taking advantage of the occasion, he also took time to collect some of Brown's pikes to send to slave state governors as propaganda pieces. Ruffin, too, was at Charleston, South Carolina, as events came to a head at Fort Sumter. Some claim he was given the honor of firing the first shot. It seems another Southern fire-eater also made an appearance at Charlestown, Virginia, and Charleston, South Carolina as the sectional fires continued to grow in 1859, 1860, and 1861.   

I came across the above newspaper notice in the November 21, 1859, edition of the Richmond Daily Dispatch. As it mentions, Roger Pryor, who at the time had been elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, and was a citizen of Petersburg, Virginia, made the trip to Charlestown, Virginia, with his city's militia unit to guard Brown and the other captured raiders at the town's jail.


Roger Atkinson Pryor was born in southern Dinwiddie County in 1828, to Theodorick and Lucy Pryor only a handful of miles from where the enslaved Elizabeth Keckley had been born ten years earlier. The Pryor family moved to Nottoway County when Theodorick switched careers from attorney to Presbyterian minister. Following his father's footsteps, in 1845, Roger graduated from Hampden-Sydney College in Prince Edward County, and then graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in law in 1848. He was admitted to the bar the following year and practiced law in Petersburg before calling it quits due to ill health. Pryor added newspaper editor to his resume soon thereafter. He oversaw papers in both Richmond and Washington D.C. 

In 1854, Pryor was appointed by President Franklin Pierce to serve as a special minister to Greece for about three years. Upon his return he went back into the newspaper business briefly. When Representative William O. Goode died in office, Pryor was elected to fill his seat. He took office in December 1859 and served to March, 1861, when he resigned during the secession crisis.

Like Ruffin, Pryor was an ardent secesssion advocate. And like Ruffin, Pryor was in Charleston when Fort Sumter was fired upon on April 12, 1861. Pryor was hailed by South Carolinians, who often sought out like-mined Southerners from other states. In a speech there shortly before Fort Sumter he declared: "I thank you especially, that you have at last annihilated this accursed Union, reeking with corruption and insolent with excess of tyranny. Thank God! it is blasted with the lightning wrath of and outraged and indignant people. Not only is it gone, but gone forever!" Pryor was part of the four man delegation that demanded the surrender of Major Robert Anderson and his force in Fort Sumter. Probably realizing the gravity of the moment he allegedly refused the honor of firing the first shot on the fort.

Apparently Roger Pryor did not personally own slaves. However, he vehemently supported the institution as a constitutional right, and saw the Northern states' refusal to honor the Fugitive Slave Law as grounds for breaking away to form an independent nation. Pryor also well understood the power slavery provided the Southern states. Pryor believed that without slavery the South would not be the South he loved. The institution supported the region's economy and framed its society. 

When it came time to put up or shut up, Pryor anted up and became a brigadier general in the Confederate army. He was replaced in 1863, but continued to serve in different capacities; as a scout, special courier, and possibly a spy. Pryor was captured in November 1864 near Petersburg and was sent to Fort Lafayette in New York. He was released with a parole from President Lincoln just before Lee's surrender at Appomattox. He lived in New York where he wrote for a newspaper and revived his law career. Pryor died  in New York on March 14, 1919, far from his Southside Virginia roots, and was buried in Princeton, New Jersey, where is wife and two sons were buried