Monday, March 6, 2017

Out of the Way Places - The Clements House

Exploring Civil War battlefields can lead one to some pretty out of way places. Thankfully a great deal of the land that battles were fought on remained in rural areas in the generations following the conflict and thus were less threatened by development. However, as the years pass, it seems the out of the way places are becoming fewer and fewer.

One of those out of the way places can be found just a handful of miles south of where I live. The Clements House (pictured above) served as a landmark in two of Grant's offensive attempts to gain Petersburg. In fighting on October 27, 1864, and which received several names (Battle of Burgess Mill, Battle of Boydton Plank Road, and Battle of First Hatcher's Run) the Union forces crossed the Clements farm, located near the far right of the Confederate earthwork line. A little more than three months later (February 5, 1865) the Union V Corps and Confederates in Henry Heth's division battled it out in this area, too.

Being curious to find out a little more about the individual who owned this house and farm, I went to the 1860 census. John E. Clements was born in 1824, as he was listed as a thirty-six year old farmer. The census notes that he was born in Virginia and that his real estate was worth $1000 and his personal property was valued at $2825. Living with Clements was sixty-four year old Margaret Clements; Harriet R. M. Clements, twenty-seven; Virginia G. Clements, twenty; and Joseph G. Clements, nineteen. Perhaps Harriet was Clements's mother, and the others were sisters and a brother.

Laboring on the Clements farm were five enslaved individuals. Their ages: a twenty-six year old female, a twenty-four year old male, an eleven year old female, a nine year old male, and a two year old male could possibly be a family unit, but that would have made the woman about fifteen when the first one was born, if these were indeed her children. Clements is noted in the census as owning two slave dwellings. It would be mere speculation as to how the individuals were divided for their lodging or if only one dwelling was occupied.

Doing a little further research, it appears that Clements served as a private in the 9th Virginia Infantry. He enlisted in Norfolk in April 1862, which was when the Confederates instituted conscription. Many soldiers enlisted voluntarily at that time to avoid the stigma of being labeled a draftee. Clements was captured at the Battle of Five Forks on April 1, 1865, only a few miles from his home place and only eight days before Lee's surrender to Grant at Appomattox. Clements was sent to Point Lookout prison where he was finally released on June 26, 1865, after taking the oath of allegiance. In his service records release card, Clements is noted as being dark complected, having black hair, blue eyes, and measuring five feet seven and three quarters inches tall.

In 1870, Clements is listed as a forty-five year old farmer with $800 in real estate. He was living with Alice, who was thirty-seven, who kept house, and who, I assume, was his wife. The couple appears to have had a son, John T. two years old. Also in the household was William W. Clements, a forty year old laborer, and perhaps John's brother.

I have not been able to find when Clements died, but an online source says he is buried in the Smith Grove Methodist Church graveyard. Apparently his birth date was Feb. 9, 1824, but his death date is underground on his tombstone.

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