Saturday, December 19, 2020

More on the Burning of the Albert Boisseau House

About two years ago I shared some information that I located in a Richmond newspaper concerning the burning of the Albert Boisseau house , on October 4, 1864, following the Battle of Peebles Farm. I mentioned in that article that if I ever found anything else about this incident I would share it. 

Well, while doing some research at work this past week, I found some corroborating information. While trying to learn how former U.S. Congressman and Confederate brigadier general, Roger A. Pryor  ended  up captured (then serving as a private in the 3rd Virginia Cavalry) on November 27, 1864, near where the Union picket line ran by the remains of the Albert Boisseau house, I happened upon the the name of Capt. Henry S. Burrage. Not knowing anything about Capt. Burrage, I looked him up and found he served with the 36th Massachusetts Infantry (IV Corps). With that information I searched further and found that he helped write a history of the 36th Massachusetts after the war. I located a copy of the book and found the following account on page 268: 

"October 4th. Comparative quiet prevailed until the afternoon, when there was a lively breeze on the picket line. In our immediate front, and held by our pickets, was a deserted house, to which reference has already been made, lately occupied by Dr. Boisseau. As this house stood on rising ground, and commanded a view of the enemy's line, it was surmised that it might be made the object of an attack. In anticipation of such an event, Captain Morse, with his company, was, on the 3d instant, detailed as a reserve picket force, and[] took up a position in a small rifle-pit near the house a short distance to the rear of the picket line. The rebels had during the day kept up a desultory fire, which made the position of the few men stationed in the building somewhat uncomfortable; but nothing unusual was noted until about four o'clock, when the enemy attacked the picket line of the Second New York, of our brigade. The capture of this line let the enemy into the rear of the picket pits of the Thirty-Sixth, and those adjacent to the house were precipitately evacuated; but the reserve force held its ground until convinced that the enemy was present in superior numbers, when it fell back, leaving the house and a few men in his possession. Our loss was four men captured,—Corporals Charles Bottomley and George H. Mills, of Company C, and privates Reuben Jackson and Lyman McDowell, of Company E. Mills and Bottomley were shortly afterwards paroled; but Jackson and McDowell were fated to swell the ranks of that mighty army the story of which is sadly told by the words, "Died in rebel prisons." The picket line was at once reinforced, and the captured posts were retaken. A second attack of the enemy was unsuccessful. After dark, in accordance with orders, Captain Burrage, who was brigade officer of the day, gave directions for the burning of the building. It was soon a mass of flame, and presented a brilliant spectacle, the weird effect being heightened by the sharp crack of the rifles as the outposts on both sides blazed away at random, each desirous to show to his antagonist that he was not to be caught napping. At daylight on the morning of the 5th the disputed property was a heap of ruins, and our pickets who had been drawn back, on account of the fire, took possession of their old pits without opposition."

There is it. October 4 is the date the Albert Boisseau house was burned, and the account gives the reason why it was incinerated. It, along with the neighboring Pegram house (just off the map to the south), and later, the Robert H. Jones house (also known as Oak Grove), became caught between the lines and thus victims of the flames of war.