Thursday, May 28, 2015

"Little Powell's" Last Gallop

Only one man's name was supposedly included in the last words of both Gen. Robert E. Lee and Gen. Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson. That man was General Ambrose Powell Hill. 

Known to most as A.P. or "Little Powell," Hill was born in 1825 near Culpeper, Virginia. He attended West Point, but illness caused him to lose a year, landing him in the class of 1847. Hill did make it south of the border in time to serve in the Mexican-American War, but only saw limited action.

In 1859, "Little Powell" married the Kitty Morgan McClung, the widowed sister of Kentuckian John Hunt Morgan. Hill called her Dolly. The couple eventually had four daughters, only two of which survived. When the Civil War came, Hill was made the colonel of the Thirteenth Virginia Infantry.

Hill's battle record as regimental, brigade, and division commander was outstanding. For example, his forced but timely march from Harpers Ferry to Sharpsburg on the afternoon of September 17, 1862, helped hold off McClellan's Union forces until night fell.

As corps commander, however, Hill initially struggled. His blunders at Bristoe Station in the October 1863 and North Anna in May 1864, were two instances where he disappointed Lee. At Petersburg, however, Hill seemed to get his footing back. In several actions around the "Cockade City," Hill's forces held their own. But "Little Hill" could not have known that on the morning of April 2, 1865, he would not live see that day's sun go down.    


Located less than a mile from where I live three separate historic markers note Hill's demise. The highway marker shown above is posted on Boydton Plank Road (US 1), just south of Duncan Road. It tells part of Hill's last ride.

Hill had returned to duty on March 31, after suffering from a recurring illness due in part from youthful indiscretions while a cadet at West Point. The sometimes debilitating sickness made riding a horse virtually impossible at times. On April 1, Hill spent the majority of the day checking on his troops who were entrenched in earthworks protecting the important supply lines of the Boydton Plank Road and nearby Southside Railroad.

That night the little general eventually made his way to his headquarters in Petersburg. There with him was his pregnant wife Dolly and two of his daughters. That night the Union artillery let loose a massive bombardment on Hill's entrenched troops as a precursor to the assault that would come the following morning at 4:40 a.m.

That assault, led by the Union's VI Corps, broke Hill's lines, which were held by Cadmus Wilcox's Division, consisting of the brigades of James Lane's and Eric Erson's North Carolinians and Edward Thomas's Georgians. 

The combination of pain and worry did not allow Hill to sleep. He got up around 3:00 a.m. and went to his headquarters. There he saddled up and went to check on his lines. Hill first rode to Lee's headquarters at Edge Hill where he found the commanding general battling insomnia as well. The men chatted and were soon joined by James Longstreet, whose troops had just arrived at Petersburg.

When one of Lee's officers announced that Hill's Confederate line had been broken, Hill rode off to try to rally his troops. Along with Hill were George Tucker and William Jenkins of his staff, and Charles Venable of Lee's staff. Hill sent Venable off to get some artillery support and proceeded on southwest with the other two. 

Before long the riders ran into two Union infantrymen, who they quickly captured. Hill ordered Jenkins to take them to Lee. Hill and Tucker continued to ride on just west of Boydton Plank Road. Hill hoped to make it to General Heth's headquarters to gain more information on the extent of the breakthrough. Before Hill and Tucker could go much farther they bumped into two more Federal infantrymen who had made it to the Southside Railroad and had headed back. Hill immediately wanted to capture them. Tucker went to demand their surrender and Hill yelled at them to throw their guns down.   

The two Union soldiers were from the 138th Pennsylvanaia. One, named Mauck, was a corporal, the other, named Wolford, was merely a private. A bold Mauck whispered, "Let us shoot them." Wolford aimed at Tucker and missed. Mauck, however hit Hill. The bullet took off the thumb of the general's extended left hand and then traveled into his chest, passing through his heart. The shot unhorsed Hill. He was likely dead before he hit the ground. Tucker made a break for it and escaped back to report to Lee. The commanding general remarked, "He is now at rest, and we who are left are the ones to suffer." A.P. Hill was killed exactly one week before Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox.

Just off of Boydton Plank Road, behind a circled subdivision of duplex apartments, and just down a dirt trail is a small stone maker with the simple words "SPOT WHERE A.P. HILL WAS KILLED." Two wilted wreaths from the 150th anniversary of his death stand near the marker along with two small Confederate battle flags. "Little Powell" is not forgotten.

A.P. Hill photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Blandford Church - Then and Now

Since I knew I would be working today for Memorial Day, I took advantage of some amazing late spring weather on Saturday and visiedt a couple of cemeteries that contain thousands of Civil War veterans.

My first stop was to Blandford Cemetery. Remembering that I had seen a historic photo (below) of the church building there, I tried to position my shot (above) to mimic as much as possible the period image as I had recalled it. I think it came out pretty close. The below photograph was taken in April 1865, after the Union army had captured Petersburg. At that time the church was in a poor state of repair, but it has been lovingly restored since.

Like a few other places, Blandford Cemetery claims to be the birthplace of Memorial Day. David Blight in his book, Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory, contends that recently freed slaves first decorated the graves of Union soldiers that had died at a prison at a Charleston, South Carolina horse race track on May 1, 1865.

If that was in fact the first "Decorations Day," then Blandford Cemetery was not far behind. On June 9, 1866, a young school teacher, Miss Nora Davidson, brought her students to Blandford to decorate the graves of those Petersburg citizens who had perished in a battle that occurred near the cemetery just two years before to the day.

The event became an annual tradition, and in 1868, Union Gen. John Logan's wife, Mary, witnessed the decoration of the graves. Mrs. Logan recalled years later that she had visited Blandford Church in the spring of 1868 and noticed the graves covered with flowers and small flags. When she returned to Washington D.C. she told Gen. Logan about the Petersburg grave decorations. Logan, who was head of the Grand Army of the Republic at the time liked the idea and issued General Order 11 on May 5, 1868, which designated May 30 as an annual day of decoration of graves of veterans who had died in the war.

People still come to Blandford Cemetery to decorate the graves. There are over 30,000 Confederate graves in Blandford and many on Saturday had flowers, wreaths, and flags on them. Most of those 30,000 graves are unmarked and belong to men who died in the numerous engagements around Petersburg from June 1864 to April 1865. Often originally buried where they fell, most were reinterred in Blandford in the years following the end of the war.

To give equal time to the Union men, I bought six little flags for those Kentucky USCT soldiers at Poplar Grove National Cemetery that I had researched and posted about earlier. When I arrived, I found that every grave there had a flag on it. It was quite a sight to see. I went ahead and placed my little flags at the Kentucky soldiers' graves and spent a few minuted thanking my lucky stars that our country has had, and continues to have, such committed men and women, who have willingly given their lives for our cherished liberties.

Blandford Church historic image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Banks House Slave Quarters

Pamplin Historical Park owns several impressive historic structures. On the park's main campus is the Bouisseau family dwelling, which was known as "Tudor Hall." It was used by South Carolinian Gen. Samuel McGowan and his staff as their headquarters from October 1864 to the end of March 1865. Another impressive home is the Hart House, which is just across a branch of Arthur's Swamp from Tudor Hall. Just off Boydton Plank Road are yet two other historic houses. The Banks House and its domestic slave dwelling (pictured above).   

The slave quarters is of a common style for this part of Virginia. It is built as an elevated structure and consists of a central, two-sided fireplace and has divided rooms on either side; each with its own separate front entrance way. Both sides have front and rear glass windows and upstairs rooms. One side was likely used as the kitchen for cooking meals for the owners of the Banks House, as well as the dwelling (upstairs) for the cook and his or her family members. The upstairs rooms have a small four-pane glass window on each end. 

The other half of the dwelling was probably used for another enslaved family whose members served in additional domestic capacities in the Banks House. It is believed that the building dates back to the 1840s. The frame quarters floorplan reminds me of many of those I saw while in Kentucky, however many of the quarters there were constructed of brick or stone materials.

Following the Civil War, part of the duplex partition was removed to make the building a single family home with an inside open entrance way between the two sections. 

The home the slave structure inhabitants served is pictured above. The original section (right side) of the Banks House was constructed about 1750. Around 1770, an addition was constructed at the rear of this original section. Then around 1795 the home was significantly expanded with the the larger addition to the left. Finally, about 1810, another small addition was made near the rear entrance area.

The first known owner of the home was Robert Lanier, who purchased it in 1810. The house and surrounding land was then purchased by Scotsman named Thomas Banks in 1839, who named it "Wakefield."

While General McGowan's troops were camped near Tudor Hall in the fall and winter of 1864, Gen. James Lane's North Carolinians camped in proximity to the Banks House. After the Union army broke though the Confederate fortifications nearby on April 2, 1865, Gen. Grant made this headquarters at the Banks House. There he witnessed the XXIV Corps attack on Confederate Fort Gregg and came under enemy artillery fire. Fortunately, the Banks House and the slave quarters survived the adjacent fighting.

While I was wondering the grounds around the house slave quarters and the Banks House, I couldn't help but wonder what the enslaved people (if they in fact had remained there that long) thought about all the comings and goings of first the Confederate army and then the Union army to their little piece of the world. Were they aware that their freedom hung in the balance and depended on the Union army's success? Probably so. Or were they more concerned for their safety and just getting by with so many hungry soldiers about? If they were there on April 2, 1865, did they see Gen. Grant as a hero, or was he just another Yankee officer in a blue uniform? Did the families who inhabited and toiled in this humble building return after the war and finally get paid wages for their labor, or did they seek better opportunities now that they were free in Petersburg or even Richmond?

Most of these are questions can never be answered for certain. But I feel that I gain something, something special, from being near this original structure; seeing with my own eyes this little building--someone's home, and pondering these many many questions. 

Thanks goes out to Pamplin Historical Park for taking the time and expense to restore this important piece of American history. It would have been easy to simply raze the building and focus solely on the Banks House and its history, but thankfully it has been preserved to remind us of a difficult but important part of our nation's shared past.    

Friday, May 22, 2015

Just Finished Reading - The Confederate Alamo

Since moving back to Petersburg, I have been attempting to expand my knowledge and understanding of the city's nine month campaign in 1864 and 1865. One often overlooked but important engagement was that of Fort Gregg, on April 2, 1865.

I had read several positive reviews of The Confederate Alamo: Bloodbath at Petersburg's Fort Gregg on April 2, 1865, by John J. Fox, III (Angle Valley Press, 2010), and was happy to find it to be the well researched and written book that others described.

Fort Gregg sits about two and a half miles from my current residence. It is visible from I-85 (on the left if heading south), which runs between it and neighboring Fort Whitworth. While Fort Whitworth was designed a several-sided earthwork, Fort Gregg was constructed as a southward-facing earthwork bastion, which had a wooden stockaded rear.

Fox does an excellent job of setting the scene and the actions that led up to the battle at Fort Gregg. After the Union VI Corps broke through the thinly held Confederate lines southwest of Petersburg in the dawning light of April 2, 1865, they turned left and cleared the Rebels line of earthworks toward Hatcher's Run. To fill the VI Corps void, the XXIV Corps, led by Gen. John Gibbon, moved toward the main inner ring of fortifications protecting the city of Petersburg. Blocking their way was small Fort Gregg. Inside Fort Gregg was some 330 Confederates; mainly Mississippians, North Carolinians and Georgians. Fox uses a number of primary sources from participant defenders and attackers to effectively tell the Fort Gregg's terrible story.

The men inside Fort Gregg had been informed that they were the Army of Northern Virginia's last best hope of making a safe escape from Petersburg. If the men in Fort Gregg could hold out long enough against the Gibbon's XXIV Corps, perhaps Lee's army could link up with Joseph E. Johnston's force in North Carolina and continue the battle for Southern independence. The Confederate veterans in the fort fought with a desperate fury and held out before finally being surrounded. Those in Fort Gregg not killed (fifty seven) were either wounded and captured (243) or just captured uninjured (thirty three).

One defender, twenty one year old Lawrence Berry, attempted to work an artillery piece as the Union soldiers clambered over the fort walls. As Berry was about to pull the lanyard to fire his cannon, he was told to drop it or they would shoot. Berry exclaimed, "Shoot and be damned," and then pulled the lanyard. Those Union soldiers not killed by the blast, poured a deadly fire into Berry. The young Louisianan was not alone in fighting tooth and nail. Other Southerners rolled lighted artillery shells into the ditch in front of the fort into masses of Union troops stacking up there. Yet others threw bricks and rocks at the enemy, when ammunition became scarce.

Attacking Fort Gregg were some 4,500 Union soldiers. Although they outnumbered their defender opponents by over 12 to 1. They, too, exhibited tremendous bravery in attacking such a fiercely defended position. Fourteen attackers would earn the Medal of Honor at Fort Gregg for their bravery and heroism. In the fight Gibbon lost 122 killed and almost 600 wounded. Particularly hard hit were units from Illinois, Ohio, West Virginia, and New York.

In addition to the excellent twenty chapters and epilogue, Fox includes eight intriguing appendices that offer the order of battle and cover a number of controversies. The Confederate Alamo is one of those books that is difficult to put down. It is so well written with rich primary accounts that it provides one of the best military histories that I have read in quite some time. I highly recommend it to those seeking a better understanding of the end of the Petersburg Campaign. On a scale of one to five, The Confederate Alamo gets a five.    

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Soldiers and Man's Best Friend

I came across these images of soldiers with dogs and found them so touching I thought I'd share them here. These canine companions must have been quite important to their owners to have been included in their wartime photographs. 

It appears that in the top image the hound slightly moved his head as his right ear seems sort of blurry. However, it is impressive that the dog stayed still long enough for the photograph to expose as well as it did. This image must have been taken very early in the war as the unidentified soldier holds a double barrel percussion shotgun, which was perhaps a photographer prop. But then again, perhaps not, as the man also has a powder flask at his waist. 

The unidentified Union soldier and his dog above also seem to sit still for an excellent image. The soldier appears to be wearing some type of corduroy pants tucked into boots. It looks like he is wearing a vest under some style of overcoat, all of which looks as much civilian as military to me. It is difficult to tell if there is a painted backdrop in the background, but it might be a camp scene of some type. I can't tell if the dog is a mixed breed or not, but he/she sure looks friendly and relaxed.

Dogs probably served as comfortable reminders from home for soldiers. And, whether these pooches were camp mascots or the soldiers just brought their family pets along for their hometown mustering photographs, it shows how important canines companions were to some men on both sides.

Images courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Dying Far Far From Home - Temple Beard, 109th USCI

As Memorial Day approaches, I wanted to get in yet another tribute to a United States Colored Troop soldier from Kentucky who is buried in Poplar Grove Cemetery near Petersburg, Virginia. This particular soldier, Temple Beard, rests in grave number 4446.

Beard was from Butler County, Kentucky. He joined Company K, 109th United States Colored Infantry on June 19, 1864, in Bowling Green. Beard was twenty-seven years old when he mustered into the army and was listed as five feet ten and three-quarters inches tall. One of his service record cards lists his complexion was as "brown," another description card says "d[ar]k brown." His his eye color, too, was noted as brown. 

One of Beard's cards claims that his service was owed to David Beard; meaning, of course, David Beard was Temple's owner in Butler County. David M. Beard is listed in Butler County's 1860 census as being forty three years old and married to Mary J. Beard, who was forty-one. The Beard's had a daughter, Hester Ann, who was seven years old. David Beard is listed as a "Farmer" and owning $2800 in real estate and $4500 in personal property, which included Temple Beard. From Temple's enlistment form it appears that he enlisted without his owner's consent.

Temple Beard is shown as present for duty from his enlistment through the his regiment's transfer to Virginia in October 1864 and on through March 1865. Especially interesting to me, the 109th, served near Hatcher's Run (just about four miles from where I currently sit typing) in the spring of 1865. Temple's regiment witnessed the fall of Petersburg and was among the USCT units that pursued Lee's Army of Northern Virginia to Appomattox. The 109th returned to Petersburg and served guard duty there and at City Point (later known as Hopewell).

It was during this service of guard duty that Temple Beard died due to complications from pneumonia on May 3, 1865. Temple may actually have missed the chase of Lee, as his service records show that he was "Absent sick" at a post hospital at Point of Rocks (in nearby Chesterfield County) on March 26, 1865. Perhaps Beard had recovered from his March bout with illness and participated in the grueling chase of Lee, where he developed pneumonia. Or, maybe he was transferred to Petersburg for better care after the city fell on the night of April 2nd and early morning of the 3rd. Regardless, Beard was buried at the Fair Grounds Hospital at Petersburg.  

Temple Beard was, of course, not present when the 109th mustered out of service in March 1866. Instead, he was a war casualty; not by lead or steel, but by the deadliest killer, disease. Historians estimate that about two of every three soldiers who died in the Civil War died from disease. A host of illnesses including, typhoid, measles, small pox, dysentery, and pneumonia all claimed thousands of lives during the four year conflict; including that of Temple Beard. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Back of the Big House . . . In Town

When one thinks of antebellum slavery, a rural environment is usually envisioned, but the enslaved were obviously urban residents in Southern towns and cities as well. Among other occupations, urban slaves served as domestic help, skilled artisan craftsmen, factory workers, and coachmen. Like their rural counterparts, city slaves were often housed in proximity to their owners. However, unlike country field slaves, city slaves' domiciles were most often well constructed and made of durable materials, such as brick.

Earlier this week, while in downtown Petersburg, I located some buildings that I believe were once urban slave dwellings. The above picture shows the back of a two-level domicile, which is behind an impressive brick house on High Street. The suspected slave dwelling appeared to be a duplex structure, as it had two doors on the front side. Its construction is similar others I have observed in Southern urban areas.  

Next door to the dwelling in the first picture was the above structure. If I were to guess, I would say this back part of the the home to which it is attached served as its kitchen and/or house slave quarters.

This gray structure with red stutters is similar to the building in the top photo. It is located behind what was once the 1859 home of one of Petersburg's wealthy residents, Mayor John Dodson. The big house was also owned by former Confederate general William Mahone after the Civil War, and was later converted into the town's public library for many many years. As mentioned above, this two-level duplex design was common for antebellum urban slave quarters. 

The above dependency was attached to the larger home by a a slight breezeway. It, too, likely served as a kitchen and dwelling for the enslaved individuals that worked in the home.

This structure is behind the Ragland Mansion on Sycamore Street. The Italianate-style big house it likely served was built around 1857 for another of Petersburg's wealthy citizens, Reuben Ragland, and his family. Unlike the other urban slave dwellings shown here, it did not appear to have a chimney/fireplace. However, considering Ragland's wealth, it could be that this structure utilized a stove system instead.

This stuccoed structure is located behind and attached to a large home on Washington Street. It does not appear to be a kitchen, but rather solely a residence for enslaved domestics. 

Near the above stuccoed home is a frame house that is rapidly falling into disrepair. Behind it, and even perhaps on another property, is the brick ruins of what appeared to once be an urban slave quarters. 

Hopefully with some additional research time I can confirm or disprove that these structures were actually dwellings where enslaved individuals lived and worked.  

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Petersburg's Monument to Joseph Jenkins Roberts

Since I spent the day at work on Sunday doing some training, I had today off to run some errands and do a little more sight seeing in downtown Petersburg. Along with visiting a number of antique stores, I took several pictures of the town's incredible historic buildings. I was happy to some historic homes in various stages of restoration work.

While wandering through the city's streets I stumbled upon the monument pictured above at the corner of Wythe Street and Union Street. As can be seen it is dedicated to one-time Petersburg resident, and later two-time president of Libera, Joseph Jenkins Roberts.

One of my early posts on "Random Thoughts" was about Roberts, so I won't recover old territory, but I thought it would be neat to show the monument.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Dying Far Far From Home: Isham Whitsell, 118th USCI

Using the records of the National Park Service at Poplar Grove National Cemetery, I was able to determine to my satisfaction that the above headstone actually belonged to Isham Whitsell (according to the spelling in service records), not Hawkins Whetzel [Whitsell] as had been previously noted by an online source. I believe this because the initial letter "J." on the engraved headstone appears to look very much like the "I" in his service records death notice. Again, like other soldiers I have previously profiled, the misspelling of the last name appears to be a phonetic mistake or misspelling/translation from the original location grave marker.

But, there is much more to this sad story of gave number 5124. Isham Whitsell enlisted in Company B, 118th United States Colored Infantry in Owensboro, Kentucky, with his brother Hawkins Whitsell. They were owned by George Whitsell of Slaughtersville (now Slaughters), Kentucky, in Webster County.

Not only do the brothers' service records tell a story of their time in uniform, they also hint at a past that involved the interstate slave trade. The birthplace for both Isham and Hawkins was noted as Granville County, North Carolina. Did George Whitsell move from North Carolina to Kentucky and bring these two slaves along, or did they come west as the property of another owner and later sold to Whitsell? We will likely never know, but regardless they would end up serving, and unfortunately dying, not far from their old home on the Virginia/North Carolina state line, but far far from their Kentucky home.

Isham was listed as twenty-two years old when he signed up on August 16, 1864 with his brother, Hawkins, who was only two years older. Little brother Isham was listed as five feet four inches tall, while Hawkins was significantly taller at five feet eleven inches.

The 118th USCI was composed of nine companies of Kentucky men and one company of Maryland men. At the end of October 1864 they were transferred from Baltimore to City Point (now Hopewell), Virginia. Not long after arriving at their new location, Isham was sent to the army hospital at Bermuda Hundred. He is listed as being there starting on November 4, 1864. Hawkins, however, may actually have been the first of the two brothers to become sick. The older brother is shown as being in the hospital in Baltimore in October, where the regiment was finally organized before being sent to Virginia. Although likely severely ill, it appears that Hawkins made the trip with the regiment to the Old Dominion, as he was placed in the army hospital at Bermuda Hundred in November. Both brothers were sick with small pox.

On November 18, Hawkins died at the hospital. Isham died one week later, on November 25. Did the brothers spend their last few days together side by side in hospital beds? Did they discuss their transformation from slaves to soldiers? Were they content to die knowing they were trying to reunite the country and help end slavery? Did they remember fond times spent together? Did they hope for a better future for their race?

Both brothers were initially buried at the Bermuda Hundred/Jones Landing location where so many of the hospital deaths were interred. While I am quite sure that Isham's remains are those grave marked at Poplar Grove National Cemetery, perhaps, and hopefully, Hawkins was placed in one of the numerous "Unknown Soldier" graves there too; the brothers united forever.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Dying Far Far From Home: Harrison Graham, 116th USCI

One of the early scenes in Steven Spielberg's movie, Lincoln, shows the president speaking with a soldier who mentions he was a member of the 116th United States Colored Troops. The soldier explains to Honest Abe that his unit was sent east after training at Camp Nelson, Kentucky. The 116th was indeed transferred from the Bluegrass State to Virginia in the fall of 1864 to fight with the Army of the James. In the winter of 1864-65, the unit was moved to the all-African American XXV Corps. They participated in actions around Petersburg and helped pursue the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia to Appomattox. After Lee's surrender, the 116th returned to Petersburg for duty and was later shipped to Texas for duty. However, one solider that had fought with the unit through its time in Virginia did not make the trip. Corporal Harrison Graham would remain in Petersburg, forever.

Harrison Graham was 25 years old when he enlisted in Company H, 116th United States Colored Infantry. He is noted as being five feet, nine inches tall, which was about average for Civil War soldiers. Graham was described as "black" complexioned with black hair and black eyes, and was born in Garrard County. He joined his unit on July 9, 1864 at Camp Nelson. Before his enlistment Graham was owned by Richard Robinson, who apparently lived in Madison County, as it was credited for his service.

According to Graham's service records he was a reliable soldier, who was rewarded for his ability and character. On November 20, 1864, he was promoted to corporal while in the field by his colonel. However, noted on the same card was the fact that he had lost his canteen and was charged for it.

As mentioned above, Graham survived several engagements in the Petersburg and Appomattox Campaigns and returned to Petersburg sometime in mid-April 1865. While stationed in the Cockade City, Graham was shot. His service record states that he had died in camp on April 18, 1865 "of G.S. [gun shot] Wound received through criminal carelessness of a guard in camp [of] 115th U.S.C.T." While another of his service record cards also states that Graham was killed in the camp of the 115th, one claims it was the camp of the 116th.

Regardless of which camp it was, this tragedy is particularly sad. To have made it through the "shooting" part of the war, only to be killed by a gun shot wound inflicted by a comrade in camp is as tragic as those poor fellows that died in the last fighting at Appomattox. If Graham had not been shot in Petersburg it is not certain that he would have have survived various accidents and diseases before the 116th was finally mustered out in early 1867 after their service in Texas and Louisiana.

Graham, like his fellow 116th comrades, Henry Maddox and Daniel Anderson (who I have also profiled), would not make the trip back to their old Kentucky homes. These men who enlisted and trained at Camp Nelson would rest forever in Poplar Grove National Cemetery in their lonely soldiers' graves.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Dying Far Far From Home: Henry Maddox, 116th USCI

Much like I did when I was in Frankfort with the "Hometown Heroes" series, I thought I'd continue to look at several of the Kentucky USCT soldiers in the Poplar Grove National Cemetery here in Dinwiddie County, Virginia. However, unlike the Hometown Heroes, these stories will necessarily be much shorter. These men died in while they were in the service, not years afterward as was the case of those men in Greenhill Cemetery in Frankfort.

The subject of this particular post is Henry Maddox of Company G, 116th United States Colored Infantry. While Maddox's name is spelled Mattox on his gravestone, his service records show it was spelled Maddox. It seems that a good number of these men's names had different spellings on their markers from that in their records. One reason for this may be that they were buried in Poplar Grove as their second interment. Perhaps their comrades, many of which had only the rudiments of an education (if any at all), may have attempted to spell their deceased friends' names on a temporary marker, and when their bodies were moved to Poplar Grove, the spelling was continued on their permanent gravestone.

Henry Maddox was born in Henry County, Kentucky. He, like many African American Kentucky soldiers, enlisted at an early opportunity, which for Maddox was June 29, 1864. And, too, like many other black Kentuckians signed up at Camp Nelson. However, Maddox must have lived in Scott County when he enlisted, as that county is credited for his service. His owner is listed as David Sackett, but Maddox's enlistment paper was not included in his records to see if Sackett gave permission to enlist or not. Maddox's service records describe him as thirty-eight years old, and five feet, three inches tall. His complexion was described as "black."

As often happened to Civil War soldiers when the weather turned cold, Maddox became sick. He was entered into the "Base Hospital" on December 9, 1864. Maddox suffered from small pox. It was not a disease that only plagued USCT soldiers, but it did kill many of them. Maddox was ultimately one that perished to the disease. He died at the Post Hospital at Bermuda Hundred on January 3, 1865. Maddox, like fellow 116th soldier Daniel Anderson (the previous soldier profiled), initially was buried "between Bermuda Hundred and Jones Landing, Va, N[orth] of road;" a location sometimes called Watkin's Farm.

Today, Henry Maddox rests in grave number 5128 at Poplar Grove National Cemetery. It is not known if his family (if he had one) was notified of his death. If there was no one to mourn his death other than his comrades, and if there was no one who could claim pride in his service back in Kentucky, hopefully this small gesture will provide him with some measure of respect for his service to his country.