State Highway Marker

State Highway Marker

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

150 Years Ago Today

The Yankees on the Peninsula.

--We learn that on Saturday a party of Federals made a raid up to Custis, (Gen. Lee's farm,) on the Pamunkey river, and captured a small steamer owned by Mr. T. T. Cropper. It was afterwards stated that they were making a raid further up the Peninsula, but we have heard nothing more of their doings than the performance noted above.

-from the Richmond Daily Dispatch September 28, 1863

 -The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies: Chapter XLI - Operations in North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. August 4-December 31, 1863

It might be tangential to the whole point of this website but I was perplexed by the mysterious gunboat Jesup, of which there seemed to be no official listing, and by its Wisconsin landlubber crew. What I have pieced together from the record is this . . .

. . . from the Official Records

Norfolk, January 21, 1865. 

 Major General E. O. C. Ord,
Commanding Dept. of Va. and N. C. and Army of the James:
GENERAL: In obedience to your verbal orders, I respectfully report that this command consists of the following boats: 
. . .
 (3.) Propeller Jesup; the hull of a gun-boat built by the ladies of Norfolk for the rebels; partially destroyed by rebels when Norfolk was evacuated; rebuilt by United States; mounts two 30-pounder Parrott guns; hull and engine in excellent order, but requires new boiler; crew, thirty men.

. . . . and explaining a bit more, from Wisconsin in the War of the Rebellion by Gale Cengage Learning . . .

In May 1863, Lieutenant Colonel Whipple [ of the Nineteenth Wisconsin] was appointed to take command of the gun-boat "General Jesup," he selected Lieutenant Charles D. Williams, of company E, for his mate, and chose a full crew from the regiment. The boat was armed with two thirty-two[?] pound Parrotts and two twelve-pound Napoleons. The colonel, with his Wisconsin crew, did excellent service during the year up the James, the York and its tributaries, and in the sounds of North Carolina. In one action they received eleven shots through the boat. In the autumn Colonel Whipple was compelled by ill health to quit his post, and was discharged from the service. Lieutenant Williams being appointed to succeed him in the command of the boat, proved himself a competent and reliabel brofficer in that capacity, capturing a rebel steamer soon after his promotion, on the York River, near West Point.

. . . and so Wisconsin got its navy.

A 30 pound Parrott

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Morris Church

I had a question a couple of weeks ago about the location of the Morris Church that was referenced in the Richmond dispatch of August 29, 1863 as a picket location,"We had pickets at New Kent C. H., Morris's Church, and near Balls's Store, all of these points being about thirty miles from Richmond. " Consulting Malcolm Harris's Old New Kent County . . .

At the time Morris Chruch was part of the Plantation ["Ellsworth", belonging to the Lacy's], deeded to the Methodist Trustees Conference for use as Church for as long as it was used as a church and was then to return to the estate.
Morris Church was used for Camp Company[?] of North Carolina soldiers, abandoned when McClellan raided the county. Mr. Cottrell in 1868 furnished lumber to repair it and it was then used for public and private school as well as religious services. It was repaired again in 1879 and abandoned about 1910.
And from the map Part of the map of the Military Department of Southeastern Virginia and Fort Monroe showing the approaches to Richmond and Petersburg. Compiled in the Bureau of Topographical Engineers of the War Department. 1861.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Travails of a Assistant Subassistant Commissioner

Capt. A. M. Brooks was the Assistant Subassistant Commissioner of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands i.e. the Freedmen's Bureau for New Kent and Charles City. Stationed in Barhamsville and then New Kent Courthouse he served from March 1866 to December 1867.
His command consisted of one orderly.

New Kent C. H. Va.
June 10th 1866

Gen. S. C. Armstrong
Dear sir.

    My orderly Prvt. Wilson has failed to report with his team from Yorktown as ordered and I wish him to be relieve from duty with me. 
    I send herewith bills which he has contracted and ask that they be stopped from his pay. In regard to the bill for Board of horse the facts are as follows. When I went to Richmond I gave him orders to meet me with the horses at Yorktown on Wednesday. He left here on Sunday taking with him everything but his equipment,saying "Damned if he was coming back until he got his pay." One of the horses was taken sick on the road but instead of bringing him here as he should have done, he left him with a man at Barhamsville at an expense of $1. a day.
    The Bill for cooking, washing & etc is I think just as Elvira Meekins subsisted him as claimed. The bills for Medical attention are I know just as he has an aggravated case of Syphilis and both the physicians attended him.
    My bill against his him is partly for money which I loaned him, and partly which he appropriated to his own use from money forwarded to me by him from Portsmouth, without my knowledge or consent.
    He took with him a violin belonging to Mrs. Geo. T Bromley of this county leaving his own here, which I would request you to return.
    There was taken from the Hotel a valuable silver soup ladle with the initial "B" engraved on it, on the evening before he left. From conversations he held with the servants in regard to its value and what it could be sold for, on the same day it was taken, suspicion falls on him.
    I can get no clue in regard to the letter he spoke of, so can make no claim for it, he is lazy and insolvent and no reliance whatever can be placed in his assertions, but there is nothing to substantiate charges if he was tried by Court Martial.

Very Respectfully
Your Obt. Servt.
A. M. Brooks
Capt. & Asst. Supt.

I somehow feel that Captain Brooks enjoyed writing this letter..

Transcribed by myself with relish from the Virginia Freedmen's Bureau Correspondence, 1865-1872
 As a side note, Armstrong High School in Richmond is named for General Armstrong who founded Hampton University.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Done in by a fkittefh horfe

-from the Williamsburg Virginia Gazette of December 15, 1768

I believe this might be a prime example of "swilling the planters with bumbo"

 . . . as for "fkittifh" there is thif

Thursday, September 19, 2013


 This post was supposed to fall on the actual anniversary of the battle but I had some trouble uploading the map.

September 17, 2013 was the 151st anniversary of the battle of Antietam, the bloodiest single day engagement of the Civil War, in fact the bloodiest single day of battle in the history of the America's.
The Pamunkey Rifles of New Kent as well as the Barhamsville Grays were present as companies E and B respectfully of the 53rd Virginia Infantry. The  53rd was one of the five regiment of Lewis A. Armistead's brigade of Anderson's division. The division was part of Longstreets' Corp which was the Confederate right on the field of battle.  During the battle the Regimental commander, Captain William Pollard (formerly commanding Co. H the  Mattaponni Guards) was killed and his place was taken by captain Harwood. From what I can tell, Captain Pollard might have been the only fatality of the brigade on that bloody day.

The 53rd Virginia is in the lower left corner

From Antietam on the Web:
"Brought in at Sharpsburg, [Armistead's] brigade arrived on the field on the morning of September 17, but instead of joining their division near the sunken road were held back in support of McLaw's Division near the Dunker Church. Here the troops of the Union Second Army Corps had been beaten off, and Armistead's men were needed to shore up the Confederate defenses in the area. Uncomfortable at being held in reserve, Armistead stood in front of the brigade anxiously awaiting the call for battle. Incredibly, a stray cannon ball rolled over the hill and struck him on the foot, thereby putting him out of action. Although not seriously injured he was compelled to relinquish his command to Colonel James G. Hodges and leave the field."

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Hurricane Isabel Anniversary

 "Last Thursday night came on the Severest hurricane of wind and rain, that has happened here in the memory of man, which lasted great part of Friday. The damage it has done is inconceivable. Vast numbers of houses are blown down, and mills carried away, trees of all sizes torn up by the roots, and cattle, hugs, &c. crushed by their fall; the corn laid level with the ground, and the tobacco ruined in many places, and much hurt in almost all; In short, such a dreadful scene of devastation presents itself in every part of the colony we have yet heard from, as beggars all description."
           - description of the September 1769 hurricane from the Williamsburg Virginia Gazette

 . . . and a few interesting links

 The Hurricane in Virginia History

Virginia's Significant Tropical Cyclones

 Hurricane History of Central and Eastern Virginia

Hurricane Camille 1969  

The Hurricane History of Colonial Virginia 

Coffin Ready

-from the Roanoke Times, August 20, 1895

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Monday, September 16, 2013

Luther Libby of Prison Fame

-from the Alexandria Daily State Journal, August 29, 1871

More on Libby prison here

. . . .it's interesting that Luther Libby was a Maine native. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

A 1940 Census Map of Providence Forge

A 1940 census map of the Providence Forge area. . .  note of course how VA route 60 is missing from the 1940 picture and the East-West road you see is the present Boulevard Road . . .

the guide . . .

 . . . and Providence Forge today . . .

Friday, September 13, 2013

A Muddy Suit

. . . .yes, even in 1906 litigious behavior was rife

-Richmond Dispatch, August 10, 1906

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Wilhelm Heine's Report from the Chickahominy 1862

Report of Capt. Wilhelm Heine, Volunteer Topographical Engineer.

FORT MONROE, VA., August 21, 1862.
GENERAL: Respectfully I submit the following report: According to instructions received on Saturday, June 28, at 5.2011 embarked on board the steam-tug C. P. Smith. with the usual escort of 40 men, commanded by Captain Lee, Ninety-ninth New York Volunteers, and proceeded up James River. At 11.10 o'clock I reached the gunboat flotilla, and at 11.25 o,clock I handed the dispatch addressed to the senior naval officer to Commander McKinstry, U. S. Navy, on board the United States sloop of war Dacotah*. He could not supply me with a pilot; therefore I had to anchor for the night at the mouth of the Chickahominy.

On Sunday, the 29th, at daylight, Captain Lee went ashore in the cutter and brought on board a negro well acquainted with the locality, who piloted us in and up the Chickahominy River. At 11 o'clock we got aground, but got off again after a short delay, and reached the place called the Windsor Shades, where, as directed, I anchored at 12 p. in. A short distance below this the United States gunboat Delaware was aground, and after having communicated to the commanding officer the object of my mission, and requested him to render to Captain Lee such assistance as the emergency of the case might require, I went, as directed, ashore with the prescribed escort of 6 men and a non-commissioned officer. The Windsor Shades are situated on the north-east shore of the Chickahominy, at the end of a narrow neck of laud flanked on both sides by an impenetrable swamp. The southwest shore for miles above and below is also a dense swamp, rendering the position favorable for defense. Two roads lead at about right angles from it one toward New Kent Court-House, the other toward Long Bridge; at that time, as I had reason to believe, in possession of our troops. I took the latter. The bridge marked on the map Forge Bridge was burned; the ford near an old mill impassable on account of the high water. Some negroe's on a plantation warned me that the enemy's cavalry was on the other side of the Chickahominy in the lower White Oak Swamp and on the road toward Charles City Court-House. Anxious to reach General McClellan's headquarters, I pushed on without delay and near sunset got up to Long Bridge. This was also burned; the river unfordable, and so I pushed on toward Bottoms Bridge. About this time firing of cannon and musketry could be heard in that direction, receding toward Richmond. With my nearly exhausted men I hastened on, and reached Bottoms Bridge at about 11 p. m. Here all was darkness and silence. The firing had ceased; a drizzling rain made the night still darker. No trace of living beings could be discovered, and exhausted we laid down in the road close to the destroyed bridge to wait until daylight.

Daylight of Monday, the 30th, came, but no traces of either friend or foe could be discovered. Finding the river unfordable, we went as far as the railroad bridge. This, as well as an ammunition train on it, was on fire. We crossed the swamp on fragments of railroad cars, boxes, & etc., and marched up the railroad, where firing of skirmishers was heard. One sick soldier of the Sixty-third New York was lying on the track. His mind was wandering and he gave a confused account of the fight of the previous day. A short distance farther a rebel sentinel stood on the edge of the wood. Ninety-ninth New York Volunteers, and two privates went and captured him. He belonged to the Fourth Georgia Regiment. From him I learned that Toomb's brigade and some cavalry had moved down Charles City road through the lower White Oak Swamp and joined Jackson in his attack on Sumner's Corps. The sick and wounded, of whom many hundred filled the station house and the adjoining farms, confirmed the report, an that the last of our troops had left about sundown, pursued by the enemy. The firing in front had ceased and a large body of the enemy's infantry was now seen approaching on the railroad. Accordingly I assembled 8 or 10 stragglers and convalescents, formed them, and retreated across the Chickahominy, covering front and rear with skirmishers. I hoped to reach the boat and Charles City by way of James River. Striking the same road by which I had come the previous evening, and which was then free from the enemy, I marched about 5 miles until at a cross-road I met a squad of the enemy's cavalry. With Privates Joseph Cathcart and Owen Dougherty, Ninety-ninth New York Volunteers, and one of the convalescents, whose name I am sorry not to know, I went forward to attack them and drove them back, while Corporal Young and the other 4 men of my escort prevented the stragglers and convalescents, who declined to fight, from running away. We succeeded in gaining the woods and marched 2 miles farther, when,just as we were emerging in an open space, two companies of cavalry fell upon us from all sides, riding us down. I had previously directed the men of the Ninety-ninth, in case of an attack by overwhelming numbers, to disperse and to make each separately his way to Captain Lee, to advise him of what had happened. Five men succeeded. Corporal Young and Private Casey were taken with me prisoners. In the flutter that succeeded the attack, I managed, as directed, to destroy the papers by eating them up unobserved.

I was sorry to learn afterward that of the 5 who succeeded in escaping 4 were taken the next day. The fifth, Joseph Catheart, refused to surrender, killed the captain of the enemy's cavalry, and was shot dead. I recommend respectfully that this man's family, which is poor, may have the benefit of such a pension as the law allows. I was taken to Richmond and confined, with about 130 of our officers, in the Tobacco Warehouse until August 15, when we were all sent to Aikens Landing, and returned to this place in a flag of truce. With great regret I learn that Corporal Young and Private J. Casey, Ninety-ninth New York Volunteers, are still prisoners of war in Richmond. Their fate concerns me greatly, and I feel sure that you will effect their release if it is in your power to do so.
Very respectfully, your most obedient servant,

WM. HEINE, Captain, Volunteer Topographical Engineer.

*USS Dacotah had had a busy life so far. Built in Norfolk, only commissioned on May 1, 1860 she sailed in June to join the East India Squadron, arriving at Hong Kong  January 1861. Notified of the outbreak of hostilities she was ordered to return in August 1861 and returned via the Cape of Good Hope. She arrived in the Virgin Islands in November where she started blockade operations. She started operations in the Hampton Roads area after a winter refit.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Raid of August 1863. Pt. V: More on Onderdonk

More on the 1st New York Mounted Rifles, also known as the 4th Provisional Regiment New York Volunteer Cavalry.

Onderdonk and his men had just returned from raiding north-eastern North Carolina earlier in the month. Here's an account of there activities from Elizabeth City, North Carolina and the Civil War: A History of Battle and Occupation by Alex Christopher Meekins
We can probably assume that the unit's behavior was no different on the Pamunkey than it had been on the Chowan.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Raid of August 1863. Pt. IV: From the Richmond Daily Dispatch

From the Peninsula — the great raid.
--The "great raid" which was coming up the Peninsula turns out to be a very small affair. Without annoying the public by a repetition in print of the thousand exaggerated rumors which were in circulation yesterday, we give below all the facts of the affair, which are furnished us by an officer of the signal corps, who arrived in the city last night from New Kent C. H. 
We had pickets at New Kent C. H., Morris's Church, and near Balls's Store, all of these points being about thirty miles from Richmond. These pickets were driven in at an early hour Thursday morning by the 11th Pennsylvania cavalry, commanded by Col. Spears, and numbering about 400 men — that regiment being the entire force which has been so greatly exaggerated.

The Yankees after driving in our pickets chased them to Bottom's Bridge, (over the Chickahominy river,) about fifteen miles from the city, which they reached in the afternoon. At this point Col. Shingler dismounted about forty of our cavalry and put them forward as skirmishers. These dismounted men opened fire on the approaching Yankees, and the fire was returned for a short time, but the enemy, getting tired of the sport, retreated about twilight, falling back to Cross-Roads, where they bivouacked for the night. Yesterday, morning early they again took up their backward line of march in the direction of New Kent C. H. 
A short distance from the Court-House Col. Robins's cavalry engaged them and killed one of their number. After this engagement the Yankees continued retreating in the direction of Barhamsville, and are by this time doubtless in Williamsburg. Two of the members of Holcombe's Legion were killed while pursuing the enemy, one of them being shot through mistake by our own men, and one by being thrown from his horse. The only thieving we have heard of perpetrated by the Yankees was the breaking open of a farmer's smoke-house in New Kent and the removal of the meat it contained. And so ends this raid, which was being made, according to rumor, by 7,000 cavalry, infantry, and artillery.

The city troops, who went down below yesterday morning, will doubtless return to-day.

Another raid was going on off the Peninsula while the one detailed above was in progress, for an account of which we are indebted to a friend who participated in an attempt to catch the raiders.

On Wednesday evening last a small side-wheel steamer entered the Chickahominy river, which stream it ascended a distance of fifteen miles, and landed a small party of soldiers on the north bank at Hog Neck wharf, who made a reconnaissance, searched several houses in the neighborhood, and retired. On Thursday morning the same boat again appeared, and landed about thirty men at Lamb's, on the south side of the river, who immediately commenced a plundering expedition in the vicinity of the boat. Captain Hanley, of General Wise's command, with twenty men, was dispatched to catch these thieves. He came upon them about a mile and a half from their boat, but was ordered to wait until he could get them further inland so as to capture the whole party. While they were waiting however, a citizen, whose house they were plundering and who was ambushed to watch them, became exasperated at the sight and fired on them. His example was followed by several of our men, who also fired without orders, and so alarmed the thieves that they fled to their gunboat, after discharging their muskets at random.

-from the Richmond Daily Dispatch of August 29, 1863