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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

With the "Monitors" in the Summer of 1863- II

Part two of an account of the 127th New York Volunteers on the Peninsula in 1862 . . .

On June 14th Colonel Porter of the 40th Massachusetts reported that he had captured Diascund Bridge without serious opposition, and General Halleck the same day informed General Dix that General Lee's army was in motion up the Shenandoah Valley, and directed him to concentrate all of his available force and threaten Richmond, to seize and destroy the railroad bridges over the North and South Anna Rivers, and to do the enemy all the damage he could. General Dix was unable to promptly comply with this order, as the transports necessary to transfer the portion of his force from Norfolk were being used at Acquia Creek by the War Department; still the probability is that the delay made little difference, as General Lee had on the 12th ordered General Hill to move troops forward, and protect the bridges over the two Annas, and also to protect the approaches to Richmond. 
On the 15th the weather was again oppressively warm. The pickets brought in about a dozen prisoners, suspected of bush-whacking, and a wounded Union cavalry man, who had been fired upon from ambush, while picking berries, passed through camp on his way to the rear. The 16th was another very warm day, and as the regiment was camped in an open field with no other shelter than a rail fence the heat was very oppressive. Rations, which consisted of hard tack, pork and coffee, were getting scarce, and the visit of the paymaster afforded no relief, as nothing could be purchased in the neighborhood. 
On the 18th General Dix ordered General Gordon to make his troops as comfortable as possible, and on the 19th we were glad to get our knapsacks and shelter tents which had been left behind at the Williamsburg camp. The regiment had been since the nth in bivouac under such shelter as could be improvised by the use of fence rails and rubber blankets, and the officers had not only fared the same as the men in this respect, but some had been glad to share the men's rations. The Field and Staff occupied a four foot high shelter made of fence rails and rubber blankets, and the dignified Lieutenant Colonel and the gruff Major could, at times, be seen crawling in and out on their hands and knees. The whole situation tended to laxity in dignity, and the customary lectures to delinquent officers, which were usually followed by the "good morning'" style of dismissal, were for the time omitted. The writer recalls seeing General Schimmelfennig and Staff crawl out at reveille from among the bivouac of the rank and file when the troops first reached Newport News on their way to South Carolina, but he never again had the pleasure of seeing any of the Field officers of the 127th regiment roughing it as the enlisted men had to do, though they enjoyed that privilege when the regiment marched up the Charleston and Savannah Railroad from Pocotaligo to Charleston. The shelter tents were received and pitched not any too soon, as on the night following their arrival it rained very hard, and we were glad to have even this partial protection. 
The Confederate Field returns on the 20th showed 10,176 troops "for duty" in the defenses of Richmond, and on the 21st the Confederate Secretary of War notified General Hill that the Federals were concentrating 20,000 troops at Yorktown for an advance on Richmond, but General Hill expressed the opinion that the Federals were going to attack the bridges over the Annas. On the 23d our regiment was ordered to pack our woolen blankets into the knapsacks that they might be sent back to Fort Magruder to be stored. General confusion now prevailed in camp; cooks were preparing rations, and those men who had received boxes from home were distributing their contents among their best friends, that the good things of this life, which they had just received, might be put where they would do the most good. 
At 11 p.m. the regiment fell in and marched about eleven miles, reaching Barnesville(Barhamsville?) about three o'clock the next morning (24th), where we bivouacked near the camp of the 144th N. Y. We did not break camp until the 25th, and the men made themselves as comfortable as possible by the use of small pine poles and shelter tents. Colonel Spear with eight hundred Pennsylvania and two hundred and fifty Illinois and Massachusetts Cavalry started out to attempt the destruction of the Virginia Central Railroad bridge over the South Anna River. 
It rained hard during the night of the 24th and the day of the 25th, and while other troops were still marching by the regiment remained in bivouac until 4.30 p. m., when we were ordered to fall in and follow them. After marching about 1 1/2 miles we came to a large piece of woods near Ropers Church, in which the other troops were camped and where we also bivouacked. It was raining hard and the outlook for a comfortable night was not promising, but the shelter tents were quickly pitched and floored with a rubber blanket, and large fires were soon started at which the savory coffee furnished by Uncle Sam was cooked, and the groups of three could soon be seen sitting in the edge of their tents laughing and joking as they ate their supper of coffee, crackers and pork. The ground outside of the tents was speedily ditched enough to keep out the running water, and it was not long after supper before the men were dreaming of the "good time coming." General Gordon in commenting upon the cheerful bearing of the troops under such gloomy circumstances said it indicated the ability of the American soldier to adapt himself to his surroundings. 
The same day the Confederate Secretary of War notified General Hill that the Federals had landed six thousand troops at White House, and he ordered Jenkins' Confederate Brigade (2,632 strong) up to Richmond. At an early hour on the morning of the 26th, the regiment with the rest of the column broke camp and in a drizzling rain resumed the march toward the White House; as the roads were heavy with mud and the clothing and equipment damp, the march was very trying. At 3 p.m. we passed New Kent Court House on our left and arrived at Cumberland Landing on the Pamunkey River about 6 p.m. and bivouacked with many other troops already there.

-The History of the 127th New York Volunteers, "Monitors," in the War for the Preservation of the Union -- September 8th, 1862, June 30th, 1865
McGrath, Franklin, ed


Saturday, December 9, 2017

Governor McAuliffe Makes Historic preservation Announcement at Chickahominy Tribal Center

Governor McAuliffe Announces Nearly $12.5 Million in Land Conservation Grants~Projects will protect and interpret at-risk historic sites benefitting the James and York Rivers~
PROVIDENCE FORGE – Governor McAuliffe announced today nearly $12.5 million in grants from the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation (VLCF) to nine projects. The awards will protect almost 4,000 historically significant acres and fund new interpretive tools at multiple sites. Funding was provided by Dominion Energy as part of an $89.5 million agreement to mitigate the adverse impact to historic resources of the Surry-Skiffes Creek Transmission Line. 
“Virginia is home to a wealth of historical treasures, and these grants from the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation will improve visitor experiences and enhance educational opportunities at some of our country's most significant sites,” said Governor Terry McAuliffe. “I am especially pleased that a significant grant from this funding will go towards land preservation that will finally provide the Chickahominy Indian Tribe with permanent access to the river.” 
A grant to the Chickahominy Indian Tribe will support the acquisition of tribal lands along the James River, known to them as the Powhatan. This land, to be permanently protected under a conservation easement, will be the first held by the Chickahominy on one of its home rivers in centuries. It will provide a beautiful, appropriate site for the Chickahominy to celebrate and preserve its heritage and traditions, and for all Virginians to better appreciate their important place in the Commonwealth’s past, present, and future.   
VLCF will also provide a grant to support the future acquisition of Belmead on the James, a historic plantation constructed around 1845. The plantation was converted into a school which educated more than 15,000 African American and Native American students before closing in the 1970s. 
“As Virginians, we play a special role in the stewardship of our national story,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward. “The projects receiving funding today protect vulnerable habitats while preserving crucial parts of our collective history, including the under-represented history of Virginia’s Tribes.” 
In addition to these projects, grants will fund the land acquisition of five significant battlefield sites associated with both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, including expanded protections for Yorktown Civil War Battlefield, funding to support the acquisition of Malvern Hill Farm by the Capital Region Land Conservancy, and the purchase of multiple parcels by the Civil War Trust. Two additional grants will be used to develop a new exhibit at Endview Plantation and create a digital model of Fort Crafford, which is part of Fort Eustis in Newport News.

-release Governor's office, December 7, 2017

Friday, December 8, 2017

With the "Monitors" in the Summer of 1863- I

Find below the beginning of an account of the movements of the 127th New York Volunteers(the "Monitors")across New Kent during June and July, 1863 . . .

At 4 p.m. the men embarked on the steamer Belvidere, and, arriving at Yorktown at 7 p.m., marched to a point about one mile to the rear of the town and there pitched their shelter tents. The camp was named "Howland," presumably in honor of Captain Howland, the former Commandant of Company A. The same day the Richmond War Office, which had been keeping a close watch on our troops at West Point, notified General Lee of the evacuation of the place. As soon as we were fairly in camp at Yorktown drills and camp routine were resumed, and on the 5th and 6th of June the regiment participated in a Brigade drill, and was also drilled at target firing. This camp was situated about half a mile from the river and the same distance from the village of Yorktown, a place consisting of a few houses, the most of which are venerable looking; the country about is level and swampy, and gives evidence of the desolation of war; the river is quite salt here and abounds in fish, oysters, clams, crabs, etc., which were quite a treat to us (when we were lucky enough to get any of them). June 3d the whole of Company H went in bathing in salt water for the first time since leaving old Long Island's "sea-girt shore." At 10 a.m. of the 9th the 127th Regiment with two brigades of infantry, six batteries of light artillery and some cavalry left Yorktown and marched to within one and one-half miles of Williamsburg, and then filed to the right and camped, about 6 o'clock, within sight of the York river. The day had been excessively warm, and the roads very muddy. The next morning we pitched our shelter tents, expecting to remain at the new camp a few days. 
The Confederates were still closely watching every movement of our troops, and the Richmond war office notified General D. H. Hill that the Federals were about to make a movement to cut the railroad between Richmond and the Rappahannock, and perhaps march upon Richmond, and General Lee advised that General Cook's brigade be sent to Hanover Junction, and Jenkins' brigade to the crossings of the Chickahominy. 
General Gordon having received orders from General Dix to move his Division forward as far as seemed prudent, with a view of locating the Confederates and keeping them on the move, the Division left Williamsburg, soon after daybreak of the nth, in light marching order, leaving tents standing, and taking only rubber and woolen blankets, 60 rounds of ammunition and three days' rations, the march being up the old Richmond post road, the 127th New York leading the way. From about ten miles beyond Williamsburg the right wing of the regiment was deployed as skirmishers. At 3 p.m. column halted for dinner at Burnt Ordinary, about twelve miles from Williamsburg. At 4 p.m. the 127th New York, accompanied by a company of cavalry and a battery of artillery, were ordered forward toward Diascund Bridge, in front of which a body of Confederates was supposed to be posted in a strong position. The left wing of the regiment, consisting of Companies A, D and I, were deployed as skirmishers. After marching about four miles, as the regiment approached Edward's Mill, several men were seen to run from the mill toward the bridge. After crossing the bridge over the mill stream, one section of artillery and Company H were left to guard the bridge and about one mile further on Company B were posted at a cross road. The balance of the regiment pressed forward for about one-fourth of a mile, when the skirmish line was met by a brisk fire from the Confederates concealed in the woods, and by the time the rest of the troops reached the top of the hill the firing became general. 
Private Bookstaver of A was wounded in the first fire and taken to the rear, as the regiment moved to the front. The musketry fire was kept up by both sides for about an hour, but no further advance was made, and as darkness was approaching and the section of artillery could not be brought into position the regiment was withdrawn and returned to Burnt Ordinary about 11 p.m., and there bivouacked, the men being thoroughly tired and thirsty, as the day had been hot and the water scarce. 
The march had extended over 26 to 28 miles, and when the regiment finally halted, the men were glad to roll themselves in their blankets without waiting to find particularly soft spots to lie on, and they did not permit the shots fired by the pickets at some stray sheep to disturb them. 
On this day Confederate General Jones reported the Federal troops, between two thousand and twenty-five hundred strong, advancing as far as the Burnt Ordinary, and General Wise also reported the Federals in force at Hickory Neck Academy and also on the Diascund Road
While on the skirmish line in the advance toward Diascund Bridge, the second platoon of Company H lost their way and was unable to join the regiment until the following afternoon. While wandering around they visited several houses, possibly with a view of adding to their store of rations, which was not especially inviting. 
Learning at one house that the old man '"had just returned from Richmond," and was at a neighbor's half a mile distant, Corporal Hunting and four men were sent to find him. Each man had his position assigned him, the approach of the house being made from the rear. As the Corporal came in front of the house two supposed Confederates dodged in. He, the Corporal, soon saw a double barreled gun pointed at him from a window, to avoid the contents of which he slipped behind an out-building. The gun was fired either at him or at one of the men, and, thinking they had run into the picket line, the squad hastened back to the main body. Then they learned that Jacob Reese¹ was missing, and recollecting having heard a cry they concluded that he had received the shot fired. 
Saturday, the 13th, a force from the 4th Delaware Cavalry² was sent to the house, which they burned, and the body of Reese was recovered. He had been shot through the body and had lived three hours and had been buried by the negroes on the place. Men were detailed to recover the body and give it a soldier's burial, the place of interment being near a church about two miles from our camp. The scouts of Holcomb's Confederate Cavalry reported that they killed one of the Federals at Dr. Jennings', whose residence it probably was from which the shot was fired. 
Then on the march from Williamsburg a point was reached where a fine stream of clear, cool water flowed alongside the road, and several men quickly stepped out of line and dipped their tin cups in the stream; but they were ordered back in words more forcible than polite. The captain having resumed his place, the temptation proved too great to resist, and the attempt to quench the thirst was again made, and in some cases met partial success, which even the presence of a dead horse discovered in the stream a few feet further on did not materially mar. The water was wet and had cooled the parched throats, and we had long since ceased to be fastidious in supplying our various wants. 
The next morning found the men footsore and ready to rest. The bivouac was moved into the edge of a piece of woods, and most of the men were soon taking advantage of a stream flowing near the camp, washing and getting in trim for the next movement. At 2 o'clock the regiment was marched back four miles to Airy Plains, near the Six Mile Ordinary, where it bivouacked without, however, any shelter except what could be improvised with the blankets. 

¹Jacob Reis, enlisted, August 22, 1862, at the age of 22 in Greenport, New York

²There was no 4th Delaware Cavalry, most likely this was the 4th Delaware Infantry which was on the Peninsula at the time.

Burnt Ordinary= Toano
Six Mile Ordinary= Norge

-The History of the 127th New York Volunteers, "Monitors," in the War for the Preservation of the Union -- September 8th, 1862, June 30th, 1865
by McGrath, Franklin, ed


Wednesday, November 29, 2017


We note, with pleasure every token of improvement and of religious advancement among the people of colour in the South. The circulation of the Bible among them depends upon their demand for it and their ability to use it. Churches and schools add greatly to their calls for the word God. The statements made below by Lieut. Goodyear, of the Freedmen's Bureau, indicate progress, and illustrate the value of our Bible work. Acknowledging the reception and presentation three pulpit Bibles, for three coloured churches King William and New Kent Counties the writer says: 
A brief history of church and school operations in this field may be wished by the Society.  
In August, 1867, when sent here by Gen. Howard as bureau officer there was no house, either in King William or New Kent Counties where the coloured people could meet for religious worship. Partly by the efforts of the freedmen, and partly by bureau help, three schools (both day and Sunday) and three churches have been established. Over 300 scholars attend the day schools, and over 400 the Sunday schools. Each church has a coloured minister, and has a meeting every Sunday, generally well attended. The interest in the good work is constantly increasing. The field is a large one. This work is but the nucleus for more extended effort in the same direction. I am now preparing a fourth building near West Point, Va., in New Kent County, for church and school purposes and a fifth will be built mainly by the freedmen, at West Point Church, Va. The progress of the children in both Sunday and day schools is wonderful, and is full of encouragement to those who are anxiously watching the course of these poor and despised people, so lately slaves.

-The Bible Society Record, Vol. XIV no. 3- March 1869
New York

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thanksgiving- 1908

Roxbury News. 

Roxbury. Va.. Dec. 1- Thanksgiving day was very generally observed in New Kent. The day was spent in many ways of enjoyment. Fox hunts, bird and rabbit hunting and deer hunting parties were had. Much game killed, while the family had their turkey and fine dinner. Many visitors from Richmond spent the day with their friends. At Liberty Hall, the hospitable home of Mr. and Mrs Provo, were Mr. and Mrs. E.A. Long. Mr. and Mrs. Henry Taylor, Mr. and Mrs. Rich and Gentry and Mr. Clarence Satterwhite. At Mulberry Grove, the home of Mrs. D.A. Bailey, were Mr. and Mrs. James Wright and Mrs. Bettie Gilliam, of Richmond. At Poplar Grove, the home of Mr Lee Leber, were Mr. Chris Leber and Mr Luther Robinson, of Richmond.  
Mr. W.P. Tunstall, Jr., student of William and Mary, spent the day with his parents at Locust Grove.  
The wrestling match between two Roxbury sports. Mr. C.S. Taylor and B.H. Ewan, was witnessed by a large crowd. Mr. Ewan won after a hard fight, by standing Mr. Taylor on his head, that portion of his anatomy being stuck in a stove. Mr. Ewan who is a great favorite of the boys and a pet of the ladies, has been lionized by his friends since winning the friendly bout.  
Mr. Kennie Post was referee and his hearty laugh caused the jars on the shelf to tremble. 
Mr. C. D. Binns was on hand with a supply of sticking plaster but his services were not needed.  
Miss Mary Bailey has been appointed as teacher for the White House school. She entered upon her duties Monday.  
The new telephone line owned by local capitalists, through New Kent is working finely. Many applications have been made by private parties for phones to be installed in their their homes. Like the rural mail delivery once in service never cab be done without. 

                                                                          Truthful Jeems

-Virginia Gazette, 5 December 1908

Sunday, November 19, 2017

A Lost Account from the War of 1861-1865

I had been aware of this account in Confederate Veteran magazine for sometime, but had never got around to reading it. Imagine my surprise when finally siting down to do so and finding that the article was entirely about incidents on the Pamunkey River, not the James. The title was, I assume, just a mistake on the part of the magazine.



Although it is thirty-seven years since the boom of artillery and the defiant Rebel yell were heard in the harbor of Charleston at the bombardment of Fort Sumter, and the opening of the war thus inaugurated, the incidents unnumbered, of every shade of interest, which followed in the four eventful years still continue to come forth from the memories of those who were engaged in the mighty struggle, and are being given to the rising generation to preserve as precious relics gathered from "flood and field" in the greatest civil war of which there is any record. 
I give an account of the first Federal gunboat which appeared in the inland waters of Virginia as it came under my own observation, as well as that of others who were with me as members of the party of which I was the commanding officer in charge. As first lieutenant in the corps of engineers of the Army of Northern Virginia, I received the following order from Capt. Alfred L. Rives, acting chief engineer of the bureau at Richmond, under date of March 25, 1862:

"Sir: You will form a party or parties at once and proceed to the county of New Kent to reconnoiter and survey the country, especially noticing the streams, woods, marshes, and landings, to determine up to what points the Pamunkey and Chickahominy Rivers are navigable. Examine the rivers also with a view to obstructing them rapidly and at low points, if possible."
 The following one was issued, on my personal application by John Withers, A. A. G.:

"The following men are detailed for temporary duty in the Engineer Department, and will without delay report to Lieut. John B. Tapscott, of the provisional engineers, in this city: H.L. Heiskell, Company G, Twenty-Seventh Virginia Volunteers; W.M. McDonald, Company G, Second Virginia Volunteers."
Before leaving for the field my friend, John Harmer Gilmer, Jr., of Richmond, joined the party. 
Having been equipped with the necessary instruments and appliances for the work, and having a permit from the provost marshal "to visit West Point and country between James River and Rappahannock, upon honor not to communicate in writing or verbally for publication any fact ascertained, which, if known to the enemy, might be injurious to the Confederate States of America," we proceeded without delay. 
Taking the Richmond and the York River railroad to West Point, a distance of thirty-nine miles, I concluded to make a beginning at the Pamunkey river and opposite the Mattapony, the two rivers forming the York river. Getting a boat, we crossed over to the tongue of land formed by the rivers to examine some defensive works that had been thrown up there. I wrote a report only of their condition, as I knew full drawings of them were on file in the war office. 
Returning to the town about noon, I asked a darky if he knew where we could get dinner, and he said, "Yes, sah! right ober dah," pointing to a queer-looking old house having a centenary look in all respects. The first story was of stone, and on this was one of weatherboards, the wood looking old and dingy. Above the cone of the roof an immense chimney top rose, built of English brick brought over as a ballast in vessels more than a hundred and fifty years ago. It was finished in a very peculiar style, and resembled many others I afterwards saw in other parts of the country. I took a peep into this old rookery before dinner. Imagine my surprise when I saw a clean, sanded floor, with a snow-white cloth spread over a long table, on which was an abundance of dishes and plates nicely arranged and ready to receive the dinner about to be served. In half an hour we sat down to enjoy a feast that I shall never forget. The season was just opening for shad, and we found this queen of all fish on the table, being fried, baked, and boiled; also York River oysters, fried ham and eggs, and all the vegetables of the season, together with different kinds of bread, fresh butter, sweet milk, buttermilk, and winding up with a dessert of custard pie. Ample justice was done this fine dinner. 
Having the order to make examinations of the Pamunkey river in regard to obstructing it for the purpose of intercepting Federal gunboats, we commenced the ascent of it, carefully noting everything bearing upon the object intended to be effected. Sketches were made, noting the topography at many points along its hanks, also the names of landings and their connections with the main county roads leading to Richmond. These observations were continued until we reached White House Landing, fifteen miles from West Point. 
Sundown on the first day found us near a farmhouse, on a little elevation back from the south bank of the river, and. concluding to seek its hospitality for the night, we called on the gentleman, stating our business in that part of the country, and were received most cordially. After a fine supper we were delightfully entertained by his daughters and a couple of young lady visitors from the neighborhood. We had music and dancing, and the hours, winged by pleasure, flew charmingly along, leaving pleasant memories with all. The next day we reached the head of Cook’s Island, two miles below a small settlement called Cumberland. Here was the only point that I considered practicable for placing obstructions for the intended purpose. We then continued the work to the end. Returning to Col. Cook's, whose residence was on the bluff, near the head of the island, I made a survey and sketch of the position, reporting to the department at Richmond: "It appears that the upper end of the island could be easily obstructed. The bottom of the river is composed of mud and sand, and there would be no difficulty in sinking piles. The timber necessary could be obtained along the river, and within three miles of the island — white oak and spruce pine. Near the main elevation, which enfilades the river, is Chestnut Grove Landing. Artillery could be hauled up rapidly by making a rough trackway, or, if the road should be dry, it could be transported over the natural surface. The country presents an irregular profile for some distance back from the river. The landings have roads leading to the ridge roads, and connect with the county and stage roads to Richmond. The rains in April and May would not prevent the advance of the enemy, as the roads dry rapidly, the water being absorbed and carried off in subterranean channels. Cahoke Station is twenty-eight miles from Richmond. There are but two mails per week, Wednesdays and Fridays. 
The sketch I send is sufficiently clear to enable you to determine the practicability of placing obstructions at the point as designated. Supplies are getting scarce in this region, the army on the peninsula having pretty well exhausted them." 
We went from Col. Cook's to New Kent C. H., and began the survey of the county, which occupied the greater part of the month of April. Having received a subsequent order to make a hydrographical survey of the Pamunkey river, beginning at West Point and extending to the railroad bridge beyond the "White House," we did this work, and on its completion returned to Cumberland. Before this Yorktown had been evacuated and an immense quantity of military stores of every description which were there had been loaded on schooners and sent up to White House Station, near the railroad bridge, to be transferred on trains to Richmond. The department at Richmond having been notified that a Federal gun-boat had started up York River and would continue its course up the Pamunkey, with a view of destroying the property which had been carried away from Yorktown, it was determined by Gen. Lee to intercept it by obstructing the river at Cook's Island, as suggested in my report, and I received a note from Capt. Charles A. Carrington, of the quartermaster's department, who had been sent to take charge of and secure the same if possible. He wrote: "I ask you to come to this place with all possible speed to aid me." On reporting to him as requested, I received this additional order, dated May 4, 1862: "You are hereby ordered to take charge of any vessels at Cumberland loaded with wood or long forage, and, detailing any force which may be necessary, discharge their cargoes and use them in obstructing the Pamunkey river against the passage of the enemy's vessels. You are further ordered to apply to the farmers to aid you in the discharge of this duty." 
Another note from Col. R. T. Cook, which I received at Cumberland, stated: "We are all on our heads nearly. I am just on my feet creeping about the house. We don't know what to do. You are called to the 'White House' by Gen. Lee. A boy came down here after you posthaste. If you come down here, call." 
It being arranged to have the vessels unloaded and sent to me at the place to be obstructed, we returned to Mr. Tolers', at Cumberland, to spend the night. The night, I may say, was an eventful one, and the incident which occurred was in striking contrast to those which transpired the three days following it. I bring it forth as an amusing episode which was altogether unexpected. After having enjoyed a delightful supper and the pleasant social intercourse of the family for two or three hours after it, we were shown to our room by Mr. Toler, all bidding us good-night, with wishes for refreshing sleep and happy dreams. We were not long in disrobing. Gilmer got in bed with me, and McDonald in one just opposite. Being pretty well worn out, it was some time before I could settle to an easy position in bed. I heard several low growls coming from the direction of McDonald's bed, and very soon more of them came — when all of a sudden the cover on the bed rose up, and quick as a flash it descended to the floor, with McDonald following it, lighting upon his feet. "What's the matter?" I said. "There are rats in there," he answered; "and I don't propose to be a bedfellow with them." Gilmer was awakened, and he said: "Let's rout 'em out." I got up, struck a match, and lit the candle, McDonald standing just where he had landed from the bed, and facing it, robed in a red flannel undergarment of very full dimensions; and, unadorned otherwise, he presented a sight that was amusing and picturesque. Gilmer, finding a couple of canes in the room, gave one to McDonald and held the other himself. The bed was pulled out a few feet from the wall, and they went behind it. I got on top, with the candle in one hand to give light, and was to bend the mattress back until the varmints came in sight. All being ready, I took hold of the side of the mattress near them and commenced raising it, and when halfway up I gave it a sudden jerk, and behold! a little pet squirrel came in sight, and sat upon his haunches, pluming his tail and looking at us with his big eyes, as much as to say: "What are you disturbing me about?" The canes were dropped, and Gilmer, throwing his vest over the little fellow, gathered him up, and, finding his box in the room, put him in it, and we then returned to bed, and were soon wafted to the land of nod. The next morning we had a fine breakfast, and, thanking our friends for their kindness, left to begin the work of obstructing the river. 
We found two schooners awaiting us, anchored a short distance above the line to obstruct. Raising the anchor of one, we let it float with the ebbing tide to position, dropped the anchor again, to hold it, and ran the bow close to the channel edge by a mud flat which ran out a hundred and fifty feet from the New Kent side of the river and terminated in water fifteen feet deep. We then scuttled the vessel at the water line, midway between bow and stern, and in less than half an hour it filled and sunk to the bottom. The other one was worked in the same way, and in line with the first, extending toward the island. Late in the after-noon five others came, and, although a cold drizzling rain commenced falling about sundown, we worked straight along all night, getting the last one in position about sunrise. While at breakfast my boatman informed me that four more schooners were in sight, making eleven in all, the number necessary to finish the work in the New Kent channel. The rain continued to come down, and it was chilly. 
We were now expecting the gunboat at every moment, so we used all the energy within us to sink the remaining vessels, which would finish the most important part of the work, as the pilots knew nothing about the channel on the King William side of the river. Not taking time for dinner or rest, we completed the obstructions as intended late in the afternoon. 
Four other schooners were sent down to be sunk in the King William channel. They came about sundown. Taking advantage of the ebb tide, we got two of them in position, after losing a great deal of time in getting around shallows and sandbars at the head of the island. These were sunk before midnight, and the two others left anchored until the flood tide ceased and the ebb commenced again. This would not occur until about nine o'clock in the morning. 
We concluded to take a little rest, and went up to Col. Cook's, giving orders to a picket to notify me promptly on the appearance of the gunboat. About sun up there was a heavy pounding on the door of our room, which I found was made by the picket, who informed me that the boat was coming up the river slowly, and was about a mile distant. We were soon in our clothes, and determined to burn the vessels remaining at anchor, to prevent their falling into the hands of the enemy. Having our boat at shore nearby, we started to carry out this purpose, and just as we were in the act of ascending the side of one of the vessels the gun-boat appeared, coming around a short bend in the river less than half a mile away. It was a dangerous-looking object. Its hull was painted black and appeared to sit low in the water, and came moving along with dense smoke rolling from its stack. Knowing that we were in short range of its guns, the idea at once suggested itself that our best chance to escape its fire was to deceive the officer in command by making the impression that we were the crew of the vessel instead of Confederates. I told the boys we would return to the shore, but to make no hurried motions in rowing back, to keep cool, and not to look toward the Federals. We moved slowly along, expecting every moment to see the puff of gray from the explosion of the bow gun and hear the hissing of a shell or the screech of grape coming from it; but we got safely to shore, and, pulling the boat up a gulley near a fish house, I told them to remain there and I would go up on the bluff and see what would be done by the enemy. Creeping through the undergrowth and weeds, I got within a few hundred yards of them, getting a full view. They approached the obstructions very slowly, and, seeing an open space of about one hundred and fifty feet where there appeared no vessels had been sunk, they made for it, evidently with the intention of passing on up the river to carry out their purpose of capturing or destroying the military stores taken from Yorktown by the schooners; but this was the mud fiat spoken of heretofore, which the tide yet covered, and, going into it before knowing its character, they stuck fast, and puffed and swung around right and left for half an hour before they got off again. Being once more in the channel, they tried to force a way through the obstructions, attempting it at several places, but failed to do so; the vessels would not yield, the work being well done, and they were thus disappointed. This was on the morning of May 7, 1862. A launch was then lowered from the boat. and twenty armed marines got into it, and after making a few soundings they captured a negro on the island, who had been left a prisoner by the tide carrying off his skiff. Taking him to the gunboat, they then crossed the obstructions and started up the river. Having reason to believe that the darky had betrayed us, and as we were greatly in the minority, and having no arms to fight them, we left at once for New Kent C. H., and from thence crossed over to the railroad near White House Landing, and returned to Richmond on a freight loaded with some of the Yorktown supplies that still remained at the station  I afterwards learned that the two vessels which were not sunk were carried off by the Yankees, and that no further attempt was made by the enemy to force the obstructions after he returned down the river with the captured vessels. 
The party now disbanded, having successfully carried out all the orders given, and were afterwards assigned to different lines of service. Altogether, we had a pleasant time in the prosecution of the work, and many pleasing incidents in connection with it are still
treasured in memory by me, and will never fade from it.

-Confederate Veteran. Vol. VII.
S. A. Cunningham, Editor and Proprietor.
Nashville, Tenn. 1899.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Politics and Potatoes and Such- 1911


Roxbury. Va.. November 13- After the political storm there is a calm. The victors and vanquished have settled down to business again. In New Kent county especially that for supervisors the fight was a hot one. Black Creek district was the battle ground between Mr. R. Southall (Democrat) and Mr. Lemuell L. Ellyson (Republican). In this precinct there were 72 qualified voters, and 66 out of 72 voted. Mr. Ellyson got 36, Mr. Southall 30. For justice of the peace. J. A. Wright, 65; C.C. Tunstall, 18. For constable, G.W. Moran, 62. All the others for state office has no opposition. 
The saddest part is life long Democrats, some of whom voted in the primary, forgot their pledge went over to the Republican camp. Mr. Ellyson won his laurels on a determined fight, not one derogatory word was spoken by either candidate of each other. Mr. Ellyson like his father, is a Republican from principle not for graft, and will be as faithful in the trust confided to his keeping as in his dramatic life. All will watch the actions of the members of the board with an eagle eye. They go in as reformers. So may it be, all hope, for the county is heavily in debt, a burden heavy to bear on the tax payers. The new courthouse¹, the automobile highway, the six head of mules and road implements. All came against young Southall, who has been on the board 14 years and believes in public improvements. Many can not see it that way. 
Many new homeseekers are here today looking after Peninsula farms. Several farms have changed hands the past week. Looks to this writer now as if all the far western people are now heading for the country between Richmond and Newport News. 
On the farm of Mr. Bock at this place is an exhibition sweet potatoes 3 feet 8 inches long; Irish potatoes measuring 6 inches in diameter. 400 bushels to the acres. The latter raised on the farm of Mr. R.D. Provo, Liberty Farm. 
Mr. T. W. Marston has on farm several white partridges among the brown. Where this strain of birds originated none knows. None like them were ever seen in this section before. Mr. Marston is guarding them with care. The party who kills or captures these prettys will be severely dealt with. Notices have been posted everywhere to be careful of these birds. A few months ago a pair of white squirrels made their appearance here. One was killed, the other captured and became as gentle as a kitten. Mr. W. P. Tunstall, Sr., killed a fine old doe a few days ago and Mr. Roy Ford killed an old buck weighing after dressed 165 pounds. This section is stocked with deer so plentiful that much corn and green vegetables are being destroyed. This month closes the hunting season east of the Blue Ridge mountains for deer. The watchful eye of the; game wardens are keeping the pot hunters and triffling(sic) negro with a gun off, so game is plentiful.   
Four men from Richmond were arrested by Game Warden Moran a few days ago. They begged off the fine, promising to pay the costs. This they have failed to do and Sheriff Apperson will look after them. Before these arrests Richmond pot hunters swarmed in Chickahominy swamp, shooting all day Sunday as if it were a week day. It is different now.

-Virginia Gazette, 16 November 1911

1- New Kent had decided after years of controversy to build a new courthouse which was finished in 1909 for the sum of $7,700. Then work was started on a new jail for $2,500.

2- The highway funds for Peninsula highway.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

More 1911- Warm Politics

Warm Politics in New Kent. 

Quinton. Va., October 16- As the general election for state and county is near at hand, any new faces will be seen as many who have served their people for years will have to retire to private life. The most important places to be filled by the county people is that of supervisor. In New Kent county for some time, as well as in our adjoining counties, a sea of unrest is beneath the surface. Taxes are higher than ever before, schools worse, roads not one bit better than 25 years ago.  
The board of supervisors for New Kent, for it is the object of this reporter to begin to sweep the trash from his own door before he goes to his neighbor's, there are already two new members of the board elected in the primary against another, and perhaps another, if not the other two. All hope that our young chairman of the board, who has filled the place for years with honor to himself and his people, will be reelected. I refer to Mr. R.T. Southall. He is only 35 years old, left when an infant without a father, but brought up by a christian mother. At her knee he learned the lessons of honor, sobriety and industry. Rather than great riches to be chosen, there was a better thing- a good name. All this he has followed through life. Not until the hearts of all hearts is known will be known the good he has done for the poor and afflicted of this county. Many a poor widow and the old have had the wolf driven from their door by this charming young man.  
Mr. Southall will be opposed in the general election by Mr. L.M. Ellyson, the  Republican candidate, he too like Mr. Southall is quite young and popular in his neighborhood. Both candidates are for the honor. To let Mr. Southall go down in defeat will be a great mistake as his long service has placed him in a position to understand the needs of his people. 
Mr. W.P. Tunstall, who defeated Mr. R.C. Apperson, Sr., in the primary,is another young man who has already won honors for himself and will make a good supervisor. 
The three cornered fight in between Messrs. Eggleston, J.B. Richardson and Eddie Boswell is  a hot one to the finish. Mr. G.E. Fisher, our popular treasurer, will be opposed by George Sweet. Mr. Fisher is one of the most popular you men in the county has filled the position with honor to himself and his people. All the candidate are Democrats  except Mr. Ellyson. There is going to be brought out every voter in the county on November 7th, and people are watching with interest the result.

 -Virginia Gazette, 19 October 1911

Sunday, October 15, 2017

In the Pines

From the account of the 95th Pennsylvania Volunteers as they marched through New Kent during the Peninsula Campaign of 1862 . . .

The Pines of Virginia often played an important part in the history of our army life, and were many times the theme of some poetic effusion. The erection of bowers to ward off the sunbeams; construction of picket-huts and corduroying the roads. The use of pine wood for fuel which when green would emit a nasty disordering smoke damaging to the sight. We used to cut pine branches with which to decorate our camp on festive occasions and many times whilst on the march through some dense thicket have had the springy limbs of some stubborn bush fly back and switch our faces. The charcoal burner, also had his abode in the pines before Richmond. 

-The Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers (Gosline's Pennsylvania Zouaves") in the Sixth Corps
George Norton Galloway, 1884

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Road Building in 1911

                                 NEW KENT PROMISES AID. 
         Nearly $2,000 Will He Given for Richmond-Newport News Highway.
                                 [Special to The Times-Dispatch.]  
Roxbury, Va.. February 10.-There was a full attendance of the members at a meeting of the New Kent Board of Supervisors held at the courthouse on Tuesday. After several matters of routine interest were disposed of the subject of the proposed highway from Richmond to Newport News was discussed. Each of the four districts in the county promised to give $200; by private subscriptions the amount of $1,000 was raised, and the board agreed to allow four months' work of the county teams and employees. It was also decided that the county shall ask appropriation from the State to equal that made by the county. The subscriptions and time allowed means more than $2,000 for this county. The route of the proposed highway could not better please the residents of New Kent, as it will traverse the entire, length of the county, a distance of thirty-two miles.

 -Times Dispatch, 11 February 1911

Office of State Highway Commission. 
Richmond. Va., April 6. 1911. 

Bid will be received at this of office 12 o'clock noon, Saturday, for the construction of about ten miles of sand-clay road in New Kent county from New Kent Courthouse to the James City county and about six in James City county from the New Kent count line to Toano.  
Specification on file at this office.  
Certified check for $250.00 to accompany each bid.  
Further information furnished on application to the undersigned. 
The right is reserved to reject any and all bids. 

P. St. J. Wilson.
State Highway Commissioner

-Virginia Gazette(Williamsburg), 20 April 1911

Thursday, September 28, 2017

A Road Trip from Richmond to Williamsburg- 1911

A 1911 account of a road trip down the trip Peninsula by a reporter from the Times-Dispatch. I have included, in red, my own comments about the itinerary.

Correct and Accurate Reading of Road Made for Benefit of Those Desiring to Make Trip-Road in Splendid Condition and People Anxious to Welcome Visitors.

0.0 - Foster Motor Car Company. Down Broad to Jefferson; turn right to
0.4 - Jefferson Hotel. Down Franklin to . . .
1.1 - Capitol Square. Turn right down Ninth; then left down Bank; then right down Tenth; then right up Main to . . .
1.2 - Times-Dispatch. Up Main to Ninth to Capitol then right to . . .
1.6 - Memorial Hospital. Turn to left into Marshall Street; then turn to right one block to Broad Street to . . .
3.0 - Chimborazo Park.
3.3 - Keep straight ahead, skirting Chimborazo Park to right, to
3.5 - Left down steep hill to railroad crossing.
3.6 - Railroad crossing.
4.4 - To Government Road (good condition).
8.4 - Church on right; turn to left. (I believe this is the original Corinth United Methodist Church which is now less than a  half mile to the east.)
9.6 - Pass store and road on left pass by National Cemetery. (Seven Pines National Cemetery.)
10.7 - Good road to
12.6 - Ford; to (Ford over Boar Swamp)
13.2 - Sharp turn to left (about nine degrees)
15.3 - Long Chickahominy Bridge, sandy road. (Bridge at Bottom's Bridge; NOT in its current location.)
15.6 - Short Chickahominy Bridge.(Bridge over Higgins Swamp.)
15.7 - Corduroy road.
15.8 - More corduroy.
15.9 - New road (good).(This would be Clint Lane, then  on what is now Quaker which at that time continued straight through to Rose Cottage Rd and at that road . . .)
18.7 - Take fork to right. Follow, telegraph wires.( . . . going down Quinton Road and then bearing left onto New Kent Highway.)
21.1 - Pass store on left. (Patterson's Store at Crump's Crossroads.)
23.8 - Turn to left and keep straight ahead.(Going north on Emmaus Church Road.)
21.2 - Richardson's store. Turn right, down slight hill. (The Baltimore Store at Talleysville.)
25.4 - Church on left, down hill. (Rising Mt. Zion.)
25.5 - Ford foot of hill- hard bottom. (Pelham Creek.)
26.3 - Store on right.
29.5 - Church on right. (Corinth Baptist; road until 1930's passed north of church.)
29.9 - New Kent Courthouse.
30.7 - Take right fork.
32.4 - Slatersville cross roods. (It gets tricky here. Instead of proceeding down what is now New Kent Highway they seem to go straight through on Stage Road.)
35.1 - Spring at bottom of hill. ( Upper reach of Beaverdam Creek?)
38.6 - Ford; hard bottom. (Warreneye Creek?)
40.0 - Barhamsville.
40.1 - Store on left; turn to right. (Pott's store?)
45.1 - Brick school house on left. (Hickory Neck Academy, the school, was closed in 1908. The year after this trip it would be deeded to the trustees of Hickory Neck Protestant Episcopal Church thus returning it to it's original use.)
45.7 - Cross bridge over railroad.
45.9 - Toano; well of good water at entrance to town turn left through town.
47.1 - Pass brick school house on left. (Toano High School opened 1908.)
50.5 - Pass store on right; well on left.
50.6 - cross railroad tracks; turn sharp left and then right.(Lightfoot.)
52.1 - Pass store on right.
52.1 - Pass fork on right.
52.3 - Pass fork on right.
52.4 - Pass fork on left.
53.6 - Cross railroad.(Across from Yankee Candle.)
54.4 - Pass road on right.
56.0 - William and Mary College on right approaching Williamsburg.
56.1 - Pass fork on right.(Jamestown Road.)
56.4 - Bruton Church on left.
56.5 -Ruins of Williamburg Courthouse on left.(the Old Courthouse of Williamsburg/James City, the one across from the powder magazine, had been destroyed by fire just 3 months before in April 1911. The building was restored to original appearance, except for some new columns, work finishing up January 1912.)

-Times Dispatch, 13 July 1911

The Foster Motor Car Company went into bankruptcy in 1913.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Good Work If You Can Get It

By John B. Alsop, of Alsop Motor Company.

On account of the interest shown by the business men of Richmond in the Tidewater Counties of Virginia, I thought it would probably be Interesting to give you an idea of a recent trip which I have just taken through the counties of the Eastern Shore. E.R. Bittner and myself left Richmond on Friday about 12:30 o'clock in a five passenger K-R-I-T car for Mathews County. After leaving Seven Pines we found the trip uneventful, and very hot, until we reached Barhamsville, in New Kent County, forty miles below Richmond. We stopped at this place for a few minutes, called on Mr. Potts*, who runs a very nice store, and who is an automobile owner. 
We inquired of Mr. Potts regarding the roads between Barhamsville and Williamsburg, and to our surprise he stated that we would have to take a by-road between Barhamsville and Toano on account of the very bad condition of the road between these two points. He stated that there were several places that were extremely bad on account of the shade surrounding these spots, which kept them from drying up rapidly. Mr. Potts stated to I me that he and some of the neighbors around the store had tried to fill up these bad places by cutting down some of the trees, and throwing brush into some of the small holes, but as fast as this was done some of the people living in the immediate vicinity of these bad spots would take out the brush and trees which they had put In. Their reasons for doing this, he stated, was that one man had been able to make $15 or $20 a week by pulling automobiles out of these holes, and naturally they did not want to see them fixed up. The people reaping the benefit of the bad roads would let an automobile owner go into this road without any warning, and consequently, they could not pull through. We were very thankful to Mr.Potts for his advice, and had no trouble in passing this spot on the road through the woods.

-Times Dispatch, 13 July 1913

*probably either James Anderson Potts or George Kidder Potts

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

New Confederate Stone Fleet

This a cleaned up re-posting of a post from April, 2013 . . .

An Annex from
Navy Department,
Office of the Chief of Naval Operations
Naval History Division,
Washington, D.C.

The Confederate Army and Navy found it expedient at times to construct barricade at strategic points in inland waterways to permit the escape During the first half of 1862, two areas of Virginia, Croatan Sound and of their forces, prevent captures, and impede the Federal advance. the Pamunkey River, were obstructed with numerous ships which were served briefly as transport. Varied sizes and types of ships, having seized from private owners specifically for this purpose, or which had little if any previous service were loaded with stone and sand, or CSA, and employed to carry provisions and supplies while the army was filled with dirt, then towed to a designated spot and sunk as a hazard to all craft that passed. 
The following ships were seized by forces under Gen. J. E. Johnston, on the Pamunkey River. Most of the ships were then sunk in that vicinity at Yorktown. When the army withdrew toward Richmond, the transports were loaded with Government stores that were discharged at White House, Va., during May 1862 to delay Union gunboats.

Ships sunk at White House, Va., between 5 & 10 May 1862

CLAUDIA, owned by M. Williams
LITTLE ADDIE, sloop owned by J. Montgomery

Ships destroyed at Cooke's Island 5 & 10 May 1862

AMERICAN COASTER, schooner owned by M. Crockett, was loaded with dirt and prepared for sinking but was captured by USS CURRITUCK. She was later used as a Union transport.
DAVID VANAME, schooner owned by C. Johnson
DIANA HOPKINS, schooner owned by E. Phillips
HANNAH ANN, schooner
EXPERIMENT, schooner owned by W. Messick
FRIENDSHIP, schooner owned by Allman and Watts
KING WILLIAM, schooner owned by Sayre & Fleming
J.& G. FAIR, schooner owned by W. Lee
J.T. CONNOR, owned by J. Bagby
JOSEPHINE, schooner owned by W. Dansey
PRINCESS, schooner owned by W. Lee
MARY LUYSTER, owned by J. T. Bland
ORNAMENT, sloop owned by Crittenden and Post
PALESTINE, schooner owned by Thomas
WILLIAM SHANBERG, schooner owned by W. Messick and E. Phillips
R. P. WALLER, schooner owned by T. Gilliam
SARAH ANN, schooner owned by W. Ward
WILLIAM EDWARD, schooner owned by J. and W. Thomas

Ships destroyed at Garlick's landing Between 5 & 10 May 1862

JENNY LIND, schooner owned by J. F. New & Co.
STAR, owned by S. Moon

Ships Burned Near Indian Town Between 5 & 10 May 1862

WAY, schooner owned by Gresham and Bagby

Ships burned at Newcastle on 17 May 1862

MARGARET SCHULTZ, owned by Harrenn and Ballown
O. WHITMOND, owned by J. Wright
WATCHMAN, owned by J. Brown
WALTON, owned by J. Warring
WAVE, owned by R. Howard
WILLIAM S. RYLAND, owned by W. Berkley

Ships burned at Cumberland between 5 & 10 May 1862

CALIFORNIA, schooner owned by Blassingham
CAROLINE BAKER, schooner owned by F. and C. Post

Ships sunk near Bassett's Landing on 17 May 1862

ALERT, owned by A. West
BETTY RICHARD, owned by W. Smith
ANN BELL, owned by W. Thomas
FRANCIS AND THEODORE, owned by J. Arrington
JEFFERSON, schooner owned by Garefoster & Braumly
JAMES BRADEN, owned by S. Kimble
JOHN ALLEN, schooner owned by S. Guy
MARY BAXTER, owned by C. Parks
LITTLE WAVE, owned by T. Hibble
MARY ALICE, owned by Captail Gage
OXFORD, schooner of 85 tons and 7' draft built in 1855 at Dorchester, Md., and owned by Claybrook and Dobyns.
PARAGON, sloop
SARA WASHINGTON, schooner owned by Moore and Elliston
WILLIAM AND WESLEY, schooner owned by J. Cronmonger
SEA WITCH, owned by J. Robins
UNION, owned by B. F. Gresham
VIRGINIA, owned by E. Lawson
WILD PIGEON, schooner owned by W. Messick
WILLIAM FRANCIS, schooner owned by C. Coleman

-Principally from the site Haze Gray

* PLANTER, a schooner, was prepared for sinking but was captured by USS CURRITUCK on 7 May 1862. She was turned over by the Union to her former owner in recognition of assistance rendered in the York and Pamunkey Rivers.

** STARLIGHT, also scheduled for destruction, was approached while underway for White House, Va., by USS CORWIN. STARLIGHT escaped up the Potopotank River where she was abandoned. She was seized by CORWIN on 16 June and sent into Norfolk at a prize.

†--Named I assume for, " . . .  Capt. David Van Name who entered the oyster business as a dealer in 1817 and was said to be one of the first two men in America to plant oysters, according to Dr. A.L. Van Name Jr., his great-grandson." -The Daily Press, Nov.2, 1995


Sunday, September 3, 2017

Reconstruction Winter- 1870

                                                            Letter from New Kent.
                                         [Correspondence of the Richmond Dispatch.]
          New Kent C. H., Va., Dec. 5th, 1870.
A motion to set aside the election in this county will be made before Judge Benj. W. Lacy, in a few days, upon the grounds that the registration books were not opened in accordance with the election law, fifteen days anterior to the day of voting. The popular impression is that the court will grant the petition, and that the Conservatives will have another shuffle and deal. In this event they may succeed in winning, as the Radicals only triumphed by a very small majority in the late contest. The result would have been otherwise but for the almost criminal apathy on the part of the Conservatives, many of whom remained quietly at their homes while others were battle nobly for political disenthralment(sic). Much has been said about the Hon. Jos. Mayo¹ allowing himself to be run on the Radical ticket for Commonwealth's attorney. The platform upon which this gentleman stands is not erected of Radical or Conservative timber, as he defines his political position, for he declared to your correspondent immediately after the election that he was not identified with either party; that he had been solicited by both sides to become a candidate. Be this as it may, it is known that he did formally accept the nomination of the Radicals, and was elected by them.
The quarterly term of the county court has just closed, Judge Lacy presiding. A negro man was found guilty of larceny and sentenced to imprisonment in the county jail, but the negro having the election between this and the whipping-post, preferred the latter and became the recipient of fifteen stripes², properly administered by the sheriff. In this the negro evinced wisdom, for it is not half so painful as a protracted incarceration, particularly at this season of the year.
From the late census returns one would readily perceive that the population has been greatly depleted in this county within the last decade, and one see the decline of industrial resources in every neighborhood. It certainly cannot be an indication of increasing prosperity of a county or State when there is such an alarming loss in the people as there has taken place here in such a short period, numbers of young men have gone out to seek their fortunes in different portions of the Union since the war, and will likely never return. But we cannot think a country abounding with every natural resource for greatness can long remain in such a depressed state, and we believe that in the course of the next decade a new era will dawn.³ 
A party consisting of five gentlemen from your city came here a week ago with the view of hunting, and in a few days killed fifteen deer, among them some as heavily antlered as were ever seen in an American forest. 
Mr. W. A. Pollard, a most worthy and enterprising young man of Baltimore, who died at the residence of his brothers, in your city, was brought to the country for internment to-day. He was a gallant Confederate, and bore himself heroically in the war, and received a most painful wound, from which he never wholly recovered. Old Hickory

-Daily Dispatch, 9 December, 1870

Joseph Carrington Mayo, was the same Mayo who was mayor of Richmond, 1861-1865 and 1866-1868. After his second term as mayor he moved to New Kent about the same time as the death of his brother Dr. John Mayo, a county resident. Joseph served as Commonwealth's Attorney from 1868 until his death in August 1872.

 The whipping post was abolished by the "Readjuster" General Assembly of 1882.

The Census of 1870 gave New Kent a population of only 4,381. This was a decline of 25% from the 1860 figure(5,884). New Kent had the smallest population of any county east of the Blue Ridge.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

"Enumerable Bugs and Specimens of Insect Life Hitherto Unknown to Them"

A few nature scenes from the Peninsula Campaign of 1862 . . .

The whole Peninsula, that portion of Virginia between the York and the James River, was low and swampy and it was common talk at the time that one could not pat the earth three times with his foot anywhere without bringing water. Great mortality occurred among the troops, chiefly from malarial fever, and often, when a poor fellow was about to be laid away in the earth, his grave would be full of water before it had been dug two feet deep. Quinine and whiskey were issued daily, companies being formed in line for the purpose, and the ration was drunk under the supervision of the surgeon.  
- - - 
It was hot and muggy most of the time. It rained frequently and the men made the acquaintance of the "wood-tick, and enumerable bugs and specimens of insect life hitherto unknown to them. The very earth moved with "new life." Sticks and twigs were endowed with motion. The men would watch a black twig two or three inches long, apparently dead wood among the leaves, when it would scamper off and the acquaintance of a new insect called the "walking stick" was made, although it was a very old inhabitant of this section. They had the "Gold Bug" not the political specimen of later days but a handsome round yellow "feller." Lieut. James G. C. Dodge, of Company F, made quite a collection of these bugs.  
It was a common thing to see two or three men, huddled together, poking at something on the ground. Others would join them on the run. Soon a crowd would collect, running and yelling "What's Up?" Some one of the crouchers would answer, "Oh, got a new bug," and the crowd would laugh and disperse. Like everything else, this was soon an old story and "buggy" was immediately dispatched, given to the lieutenant for his collection, or allowed to fly or run. away. One specimen, however, stuck and abided long. It was the common louse. 

-History of the Nineteenth Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, 1861-1865
Ernest Linden Waitt, 1906

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Title Says it All

Big  Melon- We saw yesterday at the Old Market a mammoth cantaloupe, raised by Mr. George Fisher, of New Kent. It weighed 23 pounds, and was sold for $1.

-The Daily Dispatch(Richmond), August 16, 1871

Monday, August 21, 2017

"Barren Deserts"

Camp near Harrison’s Landing, Va., July 7, 1862.

Maj. Gen. JOHN A. DIX, Commanding Fort Monroe.
GENERAL: The general commanding refers to your discretion the inclosed(sic) letter from Charles M. Hubbard and others, prisoners confined at Fort Wool, and directs that you cause all of those referred to in the letter who can be discharged with safety to the public service to be conveyed to some suitable point whence they may return to their homes. You will cause them to be provided with necessary subsistence during their return. 
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Colonel and Aide-de-Camp.

FORT WOOL, July 4, 1862.
We propose to present to your consideration the following facts: There are now about 100 citizens of Virginia who have in no way been connected with the present war confined at this place. They were taken from their homes or arrested by bands of armed men, separated from their families, and are here imprisoned and not even informed of the charges if any there be on which they were arrested. They know not on what evidence they were arrested nor have they been confronted with their accusers. They are denied all intercourse with the world and are here confined with the same hard fare alike for the sick and well, good and bad huddled together without respect for their rights or person. When taken from their homes they were assured by the officers who arrested them that they would be detained but a few hours and then would be restored to their homes and families. They were then induced to leave home without a change of clothes and are now [covered with] vermin of this prison house, without a change of clothing. They are without funds with which they can procure the necessaries or comforts with which to promote cleanliness or preserve health. Their families are without any protection, surrounded by slaves and camp followers, from the unprincipled and violent hands of whom every species of wrong may be anticipated. From the rumors that reach us through the citizens who have been most recently sent here many of us believe that our slaves have left us; that our household furniture has been wantonly destroyed; that the provision designed for the use of our families during the present year has been forcibly taken from them, and that our growing crops have been wasted and destroyed, and that our homes except for the presence of loved wives and children are barren deserts.
Much more might with truth and propriety be said, but surely this is enough of the sad picture which has resulted from our effort to remain at our homes and protect those who are dependent on us, when we believed that our property and persons would not be violated by those who were seeking to restore a humane and liberal Government. Our friends advised us that it was best that we should remain at home. Our reason and judgment approved the advice and your proclamation inviting the citizens to remain at home and assuring them protection confirmed us in the propriety of that course. Alas! alas! How vain were our expectations! How we have been disappointed! Why are we here? We know that we are here and can well imagine the sufferings of all who are dear to us. How long shall this continue? We cannot believe that you have caused us to be imprisoned in violation of the assurances of your proclamation. We cannot realize that the Government of the United States thus refuses us our liberty, wastes our property and places our persons on this island of rock that we may by cruelty and oppression be taught to hate the Government under which we were born.
As citizens of Virginia we ask that we may be at once released from this prison.
CHARLES M. HUBBARD, of James City,1  
       JOHN P. PIERCE, of New Kent County,2   
       A. B. TIMBERLAKE, of Hanover,3   
       SAMUEL EDWARDS, of King William,
Committee in behalf of the whole.

Prisoners of State, Fort Wool. 
GENTLEMEN: I am directed by Major-General Dix to say in reply to your letter of this date that he will forward any proper communication from you to Richmond by the first flag of truce; that he holds you under orders from General McClellan and does not know for whom you are held as hostages. If you are in want of any articles needful for your personal comfort he will be glad to supply them. A personal interview he cannot at present conveniently grant. 
By command of Major-General Dix:
Yours, respectfully,
   Captain and Aide-de-Camp.

-The War of the Rebellion: A compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.-series ii.-volume iv.
Correspondence, Orders, etc., Relating to Prisoners of War and State from June 13, 1862, to November 30, 1862.-Union Correspondence, etc

1. Charles M. Hubbard was the State Senator representing the district that comprised the entire Peninsula.

2.The John P. Pierce was New Kent's Commonwealth's Attorney at the time.

3.Archibald Burnett Timberlake, owner of Rutland near Atlee Station. He had two sons in J.E.B.Stuarts cavalry and the house was sometimes used as a base for the cavalry. Timberlake's health declined after his release and he died in 1863, being buried, rather notoriously, in a cast iron coffin with a viewing plate.

Sunday, August 13, 2017


In 2016 New Kent County was one of top 10 fastest growing counties in Virginia. That fact has been reported on by the County and in the local press.

What is less well know is, that based on growth from 2015 to 2016, New Kent for that time was the 29th fastest growing county IN THE UNITED STATES.¹

There are currently 3,142 counties(or equivalents e.g. parishes, districts, independent cities) in the United States. That would place New Kent within the top 1%.

¹ "Resident Population Estimates for the 100 Fastest Growing U.S. Counties with 10,000 or More Population in 2015: July 1, 2015 to July 1, 2016"
-U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division- March 2017

Saturday, August 5, 2017

"She Has Her Finger On The Pulse Of School Affairs At All Times."

                                                       NEW KENT COUNTY
The honor of being the first woman elected to trusteeship on a county school board in Virginia is claimed by Mrs. Belle B. Turner of Lanexa, New Kent county. The name of Mrs. Turner was placed in nomination at a meeting of the Trustee Electoral Board on October 4, 1920, and favorably voted on. She qualified as trustee of Cumberland district on November 23, 1920, her term of office to expire September 1, 1923. 
Mrs Turner is the proud mother of a bright-eyed little daughter and a partner with her husband in the successful operation of the Bellecourt Dairy Farm at Lanexa. Aside from possessing unusual business qualifications Mrs. Turner is familiar with the problems of the rural school, teacher having at one time been a teacher herself in the public schools of the State. 
Interrogated as to her opinion of the importance of the recent recognition of the active citizenship of women Mrs Turner had the following to say. The amendment to the Federal Constitution which gave women of this and other States the right to vote empowered them with a great privilege and a greater responsibility One of the most needed services women can render is that of helping to improve the public school system. In no other branch of public Service can women exercise to more advantage their new citizenship. 
"Women and especially mothers, many of whom have been teachers, are really the best judges of results in child training. Excepting the hearthstone, there is no place more propitious to the teaching of fine citizenship than in the schoolroom and on the school grounds. It is incumbent on every voter in the State to do his utmost to place on school boards men and women who are capable of passing on the merits of good and bad instruction." 
"The rural supervisor is a great asset to the rural school system. She has her finger on the pulse of school affairs at all times. She is the mutual helper of School board and school teacher. She is the friend to those who need her most- the children."  
"Our schools of today harbor our citizens of tomorrow Citizenship is the supreme aim of education. Teamwork and the recognition of the square deal must be taught our children. This is the surest way in the tangled skein of human existence to bridge the gulf of malice and distrust which separates in modern civilization for instance Capital and Labor. The day is coming thanks to an efficient school system when these two forces must pull together like two old tired farm horses." 
Furthermore good teachers are essential to good schools. Good teachers demand good salaries We cannot pay good salaries unless funds are available and the Surest way to have money available is to spend our money in Virginia. There is no reason why under the sun of new opportunities in Virginia the school system of this State should not stand second to none in the United States of America 

HERMAN L. HARRIS, Superintendent 

-Virginia Journal of Education,  February 1924- (Vol. XIV No.6)
Virginia State Teachers' Association, Virginia Education Association

The school trustees of that time corresponded to the school board members of our present day. If you are interested in their role . . .

23. The duties of boards of school trustees shall be in general as follows subject to be defined more particularly by the Board of Education and in other parts of this law to wit-  
First, To explain and enforce the school laws and regulations and observe the same.  
Second, To employ teachers, and to dismiss them when delinquent, inefficient, or in anywise unworthy of the position.  
Third, To suspend or dismiss pupils when the prosperity and efficiency of the schools make it necessary.  
Fourth, To decide what children, wishing to enter the schools of the district, are entitled, by reason of the poverty of their parents or guardians, to receive textbooks free of charge, and to provide for supplying them accordingly.  
Fifth, To see that the census of children, required by section twenty five, is taken in the proper time and in proper manner.  
Sixth, To hold regular meetings at fixed periods to be prescribed by the Board of Education and special meetings when called by the chairman or by any two members.  
Seventh, To call meetings of the people of the district for consultation in regard to the school interests thereof at which meetings the chairman or some other member of the board shall preside, if present.  
Eighth, On or before the fifteenth day of July in each year to prepare and return to the president of the county school board to be by him laid before the board at its earliest meeting, an estimate of the amount of money which will be needed in the district during the next scholastic year for providing school houses, school books for indigent children, and other school appliance and necessary, proper and lawful expenses.  
Ninth, To take care of, manage and control the school property of the district. And where in any school district a school house belonging to the public free schools of said district is unoccupied and unused for public free school purposes, because of want of school funds to employ a teacher therefor the school trustees for the district in which said school house is situated may permit the same, under such regulations and rules as to them may seem proper to be occupied and used for school purposes by any teacher though not employed by said school board: provided that such arrangement shall not in any wise interfere with or prevent said school house being occupied and used at any time by said trustees for public free school purposes.  
Tenth, To report on any special matter when required by the county superintendent of schools, and to report to him, annually, by the fifteenth day of August, down to the first day of that month, on all subjects indicated in the blank forms supplied for the purpose.  
Eleventh, To visit the public free schools within the district, from time to time, and to take care that they are conducted according to law, and within the utmost efficiency. 

--Virginia Journal of Education, February 1893- Vol. II No.2
Virginia State Teachers' Association, Virginia Education Association