Thursday, April 28, 2016

Thomas C. Chandler's Fairfield Plantation


A couple of weeks ago I stopped in at the Stonewall Jackson Shrine on my way down I-95 back to Petersburg. It was a Monday morning and I was the only one on the grounds of what used to be Thomas Coleman Chandler's large "Fairfield" plantation. A kind National Park Service volunteer greeted me and provided an account of Jackson's wounding, his travel to Guinea Station, stay at the Fairfield plantation office building, and ultimate death. Being already quite familiar with Jackson's history, I was more interested in learning about the Chandler family.

When I asked the volunteer how many slaves the Chandler family owned, he said "dozens." He went on to explain that a couple of Chandler's sons served in the Confederate army and had nearby plantations too. When I got home curiosity got the better of me, so I searched out Thomas C. Chandler in the 1860 census. Remembering that I had crossed into Caroline County to get to the Shrine, I located him on that county's lists.

Chandler is noted as a sixty-two year old farmer worth $14,000 in real estate and $39,500 in personal property. Also in the Chandler household were Mary E., who was Chandler's much younger forty-three year old wife, two twenty-one year old (daughters?) Mary T. and Elizabeth P., twenty-three year old son Henry H., eleven year old son James G., nine year old daughter Lucy T., seven year old daughter Elizabeth C., and five year old daughter Nannie W. In the slave schedule census I counted sixty two slaves in Chandler's possession, who lived in thirteen slave dwellings.

Listed on the same free schedule census was Thomas Coleman Chandler's son, thirty year old farmer Thomas K. Chandler, who owned $12,000 in real estate and $10,000 in personal property. Thomas K. lived with his wife twenty-five year old Ann P. Also listed just a few households away was another Chandler son, thirty-two year old physician Joseph A. Chandler and his wife Emnella. Joseph owned $12,000 in real estate and $18,000 in personal property. Thomas K. Chandler owned fourteen slaves. It appears he hired four others, all lived in two slave houses. His brother, Joseph A. Chandler, owned twenty slaves and had four hires, who lived in six slave dwellings.

It appears that Thomas K. Chandler and a younger brother, who still lived with his father, Henry H. Chandler, served in Company B, Ninth Virginia Cavalry, which was also known as the Caroline Light Dragoons.

Thomas Jonathan Jackson had camped at Fairfield Plantation during the Fredericksburg campaign and seems to have enjoyed the hospitality provided by the Chandler family and their slaves. After Jackson was wounded at Chancellorsville, Gen. Lee suggested a return to Fairfiield at Guinea Station for Jackson's amputation recovery. The hustle and bustle of the Chandler home was deemed too noisy for the wounded general, so Jackson was provided with a room in the quieter nearby plantation office building (shown above). He arrived there on May 4, and stayed until he passed away on May 10. Jackson's wife, Anna, was there at his death and accompanied the general's body to Richmond. Along on the trip and comforting Anna was the Chandlers.

As one might imagine, the war was rough on the Thomas C. Chandler household. He is listed in the 1870 census as a seventy-two year old farmer worth $8000 in real estate ($4000 less than ten years before), and $1000 in personal property ($38,500 less than ten years before). Interestingly there are eight African Americans listed in Chandler's 1870 household. One man is listed a a "farm laborer," and three of the teenage or adult women are listed as "Domestic." It appears that the Chandler household was not able to divorce itself totally from the need for African American labor, even a decade after emancipation.

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