Drawing of the destroyed railroad bridge at White House on the Pamunkey

Drawing of the destroyed railroad bridge at White House on the Pamunkey
From the Story of Thirty-third New York Volunteers

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

A Strange Tale of 1888- Part Two

The Seal Broken continued from October 22nd . . .

Tupps, who was in front, could scarcely squeeze his bulky form through the narrow opening, For more than fifty yards we compelled to crawl along the low tunnel, but the floor was very smooth and dry and the walls were regular. Having proceeded some distance we were halted by an exclamation from Tupps, who was peering into the darkness below. The cavern had now widened so that we all came up and stood abreast. "Here's the bottomless pit!" said Tupps, with a laugh and the sound echoed from the depths like the voice of a lost spirit. "What's that?" said Lane, and echo repeated the question. Braddenham lowered his pole, but the bottom was not reached.  The lantern was then tied to the rope and let down, when the bottom was found to be not more than twenty feet below. It appeared that the end of our journey had been reached, for while we might have descended by aid of the rope, the difficulty of getting up the perpendicular walls could not be so easily overcome. The apartment in which we stood was about ten feet wide, and the vaulted roof was some distance above our heads. At length we found a small opening on our right, which we entered, and discovered it led downward, winding to the left. Continuing on in this downward and circuitous route, we reached the level and stood in a large chamber immediately below the place from which we had last started.

While wandering around in this place we were startled by an exclamation, as one of the party stumbled in the darkness and fell. When Braddenham came up with the light we found Lane at full length on the ground clasped in the arms of a grinning skeleton. We started back, Lane arose, and with some irritation gave the cause of his mishap a kick, which caused the skeleton to fall to pieces and the skull to roll some distance away. Near this object we found a bone-handled hunting-knife much eaten by rust, two copper shoe-buckles and a large flint-lock gun. The stock of the gun fell off as Lane attempted to pick it up, and crumbled with the touch; but by careful handling we were able to examine it, and found carved in large letters the name and date: "Jeremy Allicock, Ancient, 1607," The word "Ancient" probably meant ensign, and from the date we inferred that the luckless owner of the ancient weapon was one of the first "adventurers" to the colony. We now passed through this chamber, and continuing on about 100 yards entered another larger chamber.

This apartment was circular in form and about three hundred feet in diameter. In the centre we could not touch the roof with our poles, but it sloped down within reach at the side walls. While, standing here we were surprised to perceive a current of air which swept like a whirlwind around the chamber. At times we could not feel the wind, but soon its approach was heralded by a low, musical sound, and the current swept around the cavern, gaining force and momentum with each shortened circuit. In the middle of the cave the wind roared and rushed with great fury, and whirled us about in a bewildering manner. Our lanterns had been extinguished and the darkness was of that character which could almost be felt, we now groped our way to the sidewall of the chamber, and taking advantage of a lull in the storm relighted the lanterns. Soon the low musical found was heard and the storm was again approaching. "Boys, let's get in the cyclone again," said Tupps "I enjoy it, even if I do have to hold the hair on my head." Saying this, he sprang forward and in a few minutes was mounted on a flat rock in the middle of the cave, whirling around like a Dervish. The lantern in his hand remained lighted, and as he spun around a circle of light encompassed him. We were much amused by the grotesque antics of the fat and amiable Tupps, but our mirth was changed to consternation as we heard him utter a yell for assistance and saw him rapidly sink down and disappear. Braddenham was the first to rush to his assistance. The fury of the storm had not abated, and his lantern was soon extinguished. He gave it to Lane, who returned to the wall to relight it. When the wind had subsided we approached the middle of the apartment and discovered a circular hole, about four feet in diameter, at the spot where Tupps had last been seen. Braddenham, who hail been crawling around in the dark, now came up, and bending over the opening called to Tupps. "Here I am!" sounded a voice very near us, "a little disfigured, but still in the ring." Tupps had been lying down, but he now arose, and taking the light commenced to examine his surroundings. We all then descended and discovered that the flat, circular platform had gone down about five feet in spiral grooves cut into the surrounding rocks. In this well we found the door to another tunnel, which we entered and followed for several hundred yards. This passage inclined gradually downward and grew, larger as we proceeded. Presently we heard the splashing of water. The atmosphere of the cavern was now moist, the ground was covered with a wet, sticky clay, and many large boulders obstructed our progress.

Climbing over these obstructions, we continued on in the direction of the sound until our progress was arrested by a broad sheet of limpid water, falling apparently from considerable distance directly across our path. At this place there were many excavations and side passages, but the most of them led only a short distance. We followed the winding course of one of these passages for more than half an hour, but finally emerged through an opening near the point of entrance at the foot of the falls. In this labyrinth of so many intricate passages it was difficult for us to determine how we should proceed. Lane pushed his pole through the sheet of water and found that it met with no obstruction. We then discovered that although the waters ware spread out more than twelve feet, the sheet was only a few inches in thickness. The pole divided this sheet like a curtain, and by raising it an opening was made sufficiently wide for us to enter, "Here we go," said Lane, and he passed through the opening with a lantern in his hand. The curtain was then allowed to fall, and the effect was indescribably beautiful. The sheet of water gleamed and sparkled like a revolving belt of polished silver, refracting the light from the other side. Again dividing the waters we all went through the opening and found the passage was leading onward and descending down ward.


Saturday, October 22, 2016

A Strange Tale of 1888

From the pages of the Richmond Dispatch of 1888, a strange tale for the week before Halloween. 

          A Remarkable Discovery Near the Ancient Capital- Captain John                    Smith's Letters.

                WILLIAMSBURG, VA, March 31, 1888.
To the Editor of the Dispatch:
Thursday inst, while two gentlemen from New Kent were hunting on the Stone-House tract, in this county, they discovered the entrance to a remarkable cavern, but as it was then late in the afternoon an exploration of its mysteries was deferred until a more favorable time. When the discovery became generally known there was a considerable excitement among the residents of that vicinity, any persons believing it was the open sesame to the Cavern in which, according to tradition, vast treasure were stored. Mr. Winder Lane, of this city, made arrangements with a party to explore the cave, and your correspondent was kindly invited to accompany him. Early this morning we started out, and were not long in reaching the Stone House tract. Here, in consequence of the roughness of the country, we left the vehicle and pursued the remainder of the journey on foot. Expecting to find game we brought guns with us, and soon we were banging away at the ducks floating off the stream. As the report of our weapons died away, "Hello" came a shout from the New Kent side of Ware creek. Lane responded, and a small boat in which two men were seated, glided across the stream. These were the men Lane had engaged to meet. Mr. Braddenham is a taciturn, middle-aged gentleman, and his features give evidence that he is a man of courage and cool determination. James Richardson, who was familiarly greeted as "Tupps," is a younger man, of herculean frame, and the embodiment of good nature. Removing from the boat two lanterns, a hatchet, a coil of rope, and a large ball of twine, we started up the hill, and Tupps, by right of original discovery, led the way. Our course lay through what is known as

A more unbroken country is not to be found in this region. The hills rise abruptly from three to four hundred feet, and the descent is precipitous into dark ravines made almost impenetrable by thick undergrowth of laurel and ivy. Tall trees of oak and chestnut obstruct the light, and in many places we were compelled to grope our way in darkness. After toiling up and down the hills for some time Tupps halted and appeared to be lost. We were then in a ravine and a small stream flowed across our path.

                                                               THE LOST STREAM
"I've never seen this 'branch' before," said our guide, "and I've just been wondering how it gets out of here." This did seem a puzzle, for on every side we could see nothing but hills and no outlet for the water. We followed the stream and as we went the waters rushed more rapidly and a deep rambling sound was heard. The undergrowth now became so thick that we were compelled to clear a path with the hatchet. Making our way with difficulty through the oozy soil, we found that the stream descended into the earth through an opening between two huge boulders. Retracing our steps we next reached the top of one of the highest ridges, when, to our gratification, the serpentine course of Ware creek could be traced and York river was plainly seen in the distance. Tupps then said he had the "bearings," but it would be impossible for him to find the cave unless he started for the Stone House. Accordingly we set out for the creek and after a wearisome march ascended the tall hill overhanging that stream. The Stone House was soon afterward reached, and here, nearly worn out by fatigue stopped to rest.

has suffered much from the lapse of time and the ruthless hand of treasure hunters. The walls have been thrown down, the chimney nearly removed, and not one stone has been left upon another, except in the foundation-walls, which appear to sink deep into the ground All around the building deep holes have been sunk, to evidence the labors of modern seekers for hidden wealth. There is local tradition which ascribes the erection of the stone house to Blackbeard, a pirate, who was infamous for his cruelties about the beginning of the eighteenth century, and who is supposed to have concealed his ill-gotten gains near this retreat. There is, however, no historical evidence to support this tradition. Among Virginia historians there seems to be a consensus that is the popular word of opinion that this is the "Fort of Retreat" alluded to by Captain John Smith in his writings as having been erected in 1608-'09. If this is true, it is a most interesting relic of by gone days and the ruins of the oldest house built by the hands of Englishmen in America. After halting on this interesting spot for more than half an hour we arose to pursue our journey. Tupps got up lazily and faced successively each point of the compass. When the bearings had been obtained he started off rapidly, and we followed in Indian file. Following the ridge about one third of a mile we reached a gnarled ash-tree, and here our guide abruptly turned and commenced to descend the hill. We were soon deep in the ravine, wandering about in an eccentric and apparently aimless course. Tupps grunted his satisfaction on discovering familiar objects, but it was evident he was an unacquainted with the direct route to the goal, and for two hours we pursued the tiresome journey.

At length our conductor sprang off to the left with rapid strides and pushed his way out of sight in a tangled mass of undergrowth, Soon afterwards we heard a shout, and Tupps called out to us, "Come on boys. Here’s the port-hole of -- Sheol." We scrambled over the rocks and through the brush to where he was standing, and there sure enough was the entrance to the cavern. A large rock had been partially dislodged by the elements of nature, and the opening to the cave was exposed. We were now at the base of one of the highest hill, and the thick matted branches shut out the sunlight, so that objects were undistinguishable at a few feet distant. The lanterns were lighted, and on examination it was found that the mouth of the cave was two feet wide and three and one half feet high. The huge stone was smooth on the underside, and had evidently once closed the mouth of the cavern, but it had been undermined by the rains and slided partly down the hill. We now made ready to enter the cave, and not expecting to meet savage men or beast it was thought best to leave our guns at the entrance and provide ourselves with long poles. Three of us did so, but Tupps could not be persuaded to leave his trusty gun behind. Braddenham unwound a ball of twine and attached one end to a tree, explaining that it would be a good guide to daylight should we lose our way. 


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Weird Tales of New Kent- December 1904

 In honor of Halloween we begin our occasional series  . . .cue the music . . .Weird Tales of New Kent . . .

                                       A DAZZLING BEAST.  
                         A New Kent Lady Sees Strange Sights in the Swamp.
                                        (Special to The Times.-Dispatch)
ROXBURY, VA. Dec 19.-New Kent farmers are looking after the birds and is not thought they suffered greatly during the heavy snow. Several flocks or partridges have been seen, and they seem to be all-right. The farmers are  putting out feed and not allowing any to be killed during the snow. 
One of the strangest sights ever seen in this section was  witnessed near this place, Saturday, which has left the lady in a terrible state of nervous  prostration. Mrs. Woodson whose home near the Chickihominy Swamp, heard a noise like the bleating of a lamb. Fearing some little lamb had wandered away, she went to its succor. When a few rods off she noticed the head of an object like that of a sheep coming towards her. Its eyes were a light brown, while its ears were like those of a sheep. Its body was the shape of some large snake, apparently about four feet long, full of scales. As it would move in the sunlight the different colors were dazzling in their brightness and so changeable that it caused her eyes to pain terribly. 
Mrs. Woodson ran to the house after the male members of the family to tell them of her strange find, but when the men got to where the beast or serpent was it had retreated to the swamps of the Chickahominy. It was tracked to the waters edge; there all traces were lost of the strange intruder. Hunger had undoubtedly forced it from its hiding place, as two rabbits and three birds had been caught by the strange beast, as portions of each were found by the huntsmen.

-Times Dispatch, 20 December 1904

Sunday, October 16, 2016

MAY 20-23, l862.- Operations about Bottoms Bridge, Chickahominy River, Va- VIII

Report of Brig. Gen. Silas Casey, U. S. Army, commanding division, of operations May 20.

                                       HEADQUARTERS CASEY'S DIVISION,
                                                                              May 23, 1862.
GENERAL: I have the honor to report that, in accordance with the authority given me to make such reconnaissance as I might think proper to the north and west, I proceeded to organize one on the morning of the 20th instant, the cay after the arrival of my division. I directed General Naglee, with two regiments, to proceed down the rail-road, and, if possible, to the bridge across the Chickahominy. With two batteries of artillery and one regiment of infantry I proceeded to the road leading to Bottoms Bridge and thence along a road passing to the right. I placed the guns near the railroad and about halt a mile from the bridge, where the road crosses the Chickahominy. I soon went down near the bridge and found General Naglee, who had been successful in driving in the enemy's pickets and taking the bridge, extinguishing the fire which had been communicated to the structure by the enemy. I found that he had some time previous to my arrival deployed a line of skirmishers along the river bottom.
Soon after my arrival the enemy brought down to the opposite end of the bridge three pieces of artillery, and endeavored to drive away our sharpshooters, in which they did not succeed. I ordered four pieces of artillery to be brought down and placed near the bridge, and soon succeeded in driving the enemy's pieces from their position. I remained on the ground until 5 o'clock, when I gave orders to repair the bridge and for the pickets to cross over as soon as this was accomplished. A short time after the pickets were ordered away from the bridge, as I was informed by General Devens, but not until a number had succeeded in crossing. The result of the reconnaissance was to put us in possession of the bridge and supply important information which had been sought for some days.
The conduct of General Naglee was prompt and skillful and the troops behaved well. I inclose his report.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
                                    SILAS CASEY,
                                                      Brigadier-General, Commanding Division.
                        Capt. C.C. SUYDAM,
                                                     Assistant Adjutant-General. 

The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. ; Series 1 - Volume 11 (Part I)

Friday, October 14, 2016

MAY 20-23, l862.- Operations about Bottoms Bridge, Chickahominy River, Va- VII

Report of Col. David Mc M. Gregg, Eighth Pennsylvania Cavalry.

                              CAMP AT BOTTOMS BRIDGE, VA., May 23, 1862.
COLONEL: I have the honor to report that, agreeably to orders, this morning, with eight companies of the Eighth Pennsylvania Cavalry, the Seventh Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, Colonel Russell, the Twenty-third Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, Colonel Neill -the infantry all under command of Colonel Russell proceeded on the main road toward Richmond. After passing our outer pickets I proceeded cautiously, making a thorough examination of the country to the front and between the main road and railroad. I examined all the roads to the right and left. The roads leading away from the main road are unimportant, and do not connect any main roads. The country to the front is rolling, with frequent cultivated tracts. A half mile beyond our pickets I came upon the enemy's pickets, which, after firing upon us, retired on the road. Following along the road a mile farther I met the enemy's pickets in greater force, the picket being composed of cavalry and infantry. When discovered the enemy's picket was upon the western side of a plain, under cover of timber. I sent through the woods companies of infantry to the right and left, drove away the picket, and put to flight the whole or the greater portion of a regiment of infantry and a force of 300 to 400 cavalry. The enemy moving away to my left through the woods, I did not deem it safe to follow, lest a movement should be made against my left and rear. One of the enemy was killed. From this point, 3 miles from the Chickahominy and 10 miles from Richmond, I returned to this camp.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
                                       D. Mc M. GREGG,
                            Colonel Eighth Pennsylvania Cavalry.

          Lieut. Col. A. V. COLBURN,
                       Assistant Adjutant- General, Department of the Potomac.

The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. ; Series 1 - Volume 11 (Part I)

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Three Historical Markers for Cumberland Landing

At the historic Cumberland Platation at Cumberland Landing, New Kent County, Thursday, October 6, three new markers were dedicated by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
Speakers were:
Camilla Tramuel, President New Kent Historical Society; Kent Radwani, local historian; Mark Daniels, local historian; Julie Langan, Department of Historic Resources; John Poindexter, owner of Cumberland Plantation.

French Cannon at Cumberland Landing- WO-22
(See also April 1847 issue of Southern Literary Messenger)

Cumberland Town- WO-21

Thursday, September 29, 2016

When it Rains . . .

New Kent Couple Were Gathering Lost "Whips" From Buggy Wheels 
Roxbury, Va., Aug. 13-This section has been visited by a heavy rain and windstorm. No damage was done -only two young people have been left in a nervous state. It was while returning from a visit and some distance from home when the storm broke on them. Young Willie Bruden and a lady friend were driving home at a fast gait and noticed a long black object wrapt around the wheel. Thinking it was a whip some driver had dropped, he reached out, took the object, placed it under the eat of his buggy and kept on. In a little while another whip was seen around the wheel. This too, was taken, in. 
"Well," said Willie, "it is an ill wind that blows no one some good." 
All went nicely. They reached home all right and put the buggy away. The next morning Willie went to look for his two black whips; as he supposed, but was surprised to find snugly coiled up under the seat two large black snakes of unusual size. As the wheels passed over them they got caught in the wheel and held fast until young Bruden took them in out of the wet. After killing, the snakes he went to the house to tell his lady friend. As he reached the house he heard the lady scream. While hanging out the robe to dry another snake crept out. This one had been carried into the house by the lady the night before and the unwelcome visitor had spent the night in the folds of the buggy robe. They say never again will they take hold of anything that looks like a snake in the dark.

-Alexandria Gazette, 13 August 1915