Pamunkey River

Pamunkey River
The Pamunkey River in 1864

Friday, March 5, 2021

Skirmish at New Market Bridge December 1861 III- Postscript

 From the New York Times of March 2, 1862


Correspondence of the Philadelphia Ledger.

NEWPORT's NEWS, VA., Sunday, Feb. 23, 1862.

The French Emperor seems resolved to secure proper respect for his Government in our waters. To the vessels already lying in Hampton Roads -- the Pomone and the Catanet -- another, bearing the flag of the Empire, has been added -- making altogether an armament of thirty-eight guns. The officers in command on these vessels bear themselves with characteristic politeness, and there is no want of salutes and other naval courtesies on every occasion allowing them.

The Roanoke, whose disability has not yet been repaired, is coolly laying for the Merrimac, which is reported fully ready for active service and very anxious to get out of Norfolk harbor. She is completely iron-clad, but so clumsily that her decks are merely above water. A queer experiment has been tested, I believe satisfactorily, on the Roanoke, for the benefit of the resurrected Merrimac. The object was to determine whether an anchor could be thrown from the mainmast upon a vessel alongside, and the intention is to run, by the aid of a tug, upon the secession steamer, when she makes her long-looked-for appearance, and introduce her to the bottom of the James River sans ceremonie(sic).

What all reconnaissance and scouting has failed to resolve, has at length, accidentally, as you have doubtless learned, been made evident -- the actual nature and strength of the works at Big Bethel. A party from Newport's News, with a flag of truce, was lost among the roads in that neighborhood a few days ago, and instead of approaching the place in front, blindfolded, they positively stumbled into the redoubted position with their eyes wide open, having in their wanderings got to its rear. It appears to have always been a very incomplete affair, consisting, in all, of three parallel intrenchments, directly beyond each other, with their accompanying earthworks, without any flank trenching worthy the name. But the strength of the place consisted of an almost impassable swamp, between the battery and the ground on which the First New-York Regiment deployed, with the idea of storming the works, an the 10th of June, 1861, immediately before all self-possession departed from the commanding General.

"Let by-gones be by-gones." Whatever Big Bethel was on that unfortunate day, it is certainly a pitiable sight now, dismantled, not containing a single piece of ordnance, and with its hundred miserable and woe-begone occupants, wan with sickness and privation, and wretched in the hopelessness of their cause, defeat echoing in their ears from every direction. You will regret, of course, to learn that the ancient edifice from which we have the title "Big Bethel," the great and venerable church in which the picus sires of "degenerate sons" delighted -- lists been destroyed. It had been transformed into a sort of barracks by the rebels, and not the ghost of sanctity lingered, but was dispelled by the odious rascals. It was the Pennsylvania Eleventh Cavalry that did the business for it. When Gen. MANSFIELD issued orders retaliatory for acts of incendiarism committed by the enemy, they drove the Secessionists like chaff before them, compelling their exit just at meal-time, when they had their beefsteak frying on the stove -- a state of things which must have added inconceivably to their distress. From the conflagration of the building nothing was saved but the builder's account-book, a portion of which is in the hands of a private of Company L, and which is a quaint relic, containing debits and credits concerning worthy masons and carpenters dating in the last century. The Secessionists had been using it to express their whims, and in a blank place was freshly written, "Miss Dolly Carter, of Kentucky, the belle of the Southwest;" and coupled with it, no doubt by the faint-hearted lover himself: "Brig.-Gen. Walter R. Tally, New-Kent troops." By the same hand also was inscribed: "The New-Kent Light Horse Dragoons are spoiling for a fight with the Mounted Dutchmen" -- obviously referring to the Pennsylvania Cavalry, which did not let them "spoil" long; and again, "The New-Kent Light Horse -- the TERROR of the Yankee Pups." This, in connection with the unceremonious flight of the "Terror" upon the advent of the identical "Mounted Dutchmen" and "Yankee Pups," is very good of the Brigadier-General -- also, of the "New-Kent Light Horse." By the way, the Eleventh, which has been at Old Point (Camp Hamilton) over two months now, has done yeoman service in this quarter, in hunting out and chasing the rebels away. It consists of twelve companies, and is a full regiment. The Colonel, a brave soldier and a true patriot -- JOSIAH HALLAN* -- is a Philadelphian, though his troops are from all parts of the State. In fact, found a whole company of Pittsburghers and Western Pennsylvania men, (among them, Company L, Capt. LOOMIS and Lieut. MAHON,) and quite a number of Ohioans. The health of the inch has been bad, owing to exposures, and in the short space of six months over thirty deaths from disease have occurred. Only yesterday, a member of Company K was carried to his last home, a victim of typhoid.

The aforementioned Walter R. Tally, was in fact Walter Richard Talley, 18, son of William C. Talley. Enlisting in June of 1861 he would serve until Appomattox attaining the rank not of Brigadier General but Corporal. He died in 1906 at the Soldiers Home Robert E. Lee Camp in Richmond.

*This is none other than Joisah Harlan, the famous Prince of Ghor


Sunday, February 21, 2021

Skirmish at New Market Bridge December 1861- II



Full Account of the Newmarket Bridge Affair.


Plan of the battle field.

Money and Clothing Sent to Our Soldiers with the Rebels,


Fortress Monroe, Dec. 26
Via Baltimore, Dec, 28, 1861

A flag truce took an immense quantity of clothes to Norfolk this afternoon, destined for the Union prisoners at Richmond, New Orleans and elsewhere.

The gunboat Keystone State arrived hero this afternoon from Bermuda. She has two cases of smallpox on board. She will remain at Quarantine.

The Keystone State has been in pursuit of the privateer Sumter, but has not seen her. She brings no news.

The brig Empire, from Boston, via Newport, arrived here this afternoon. She has, an assorted cargo of apples, preserved meats and such articles, destined for Port Royal.



                                                          Fortress Monroe, Va, Dec 23, 1861


Brilliant Skirmish of a Battalion of the Twentieth Regiment New York Volunteers, Colonel Max Weber, with the Rebels- Graphic Description of the Engagement- The Rebels have an Entire Company of Infantry Composed of Negroes- The Enemy Driven Dark- Ten Rebels Killed and upwards of Twenty Wounded-  Gallant Behavior of Our Troops- Major Schnoepf Bravely leading His Troops- Reinforcements Arrive after the Enemy had Retreated- Two Rebels Shot, and, Falling into the Back River are Floated Off with the Tide- One of them Proves to be John Hawkins, Adjutant of the Alabama Minute Men- Released Rebels Sent to Norfolk, &.,&,

The monotony of camp life here and at Camp Hamilton* was broken yesterday by the intelligence that an action of some magnitude had taken place between a detachment of 150 men of  the Twentieth Regiment New York Volunteers, in command of Major Engelbert Schnoepf, and about hundred rebel soldiers. The particulars of the affair are as follows:- Major Schnoepf having lost a man from his command the day before, left Newport News on Sunday morning at eleven o'clock at the head of one hundred and fifty men, and wended his, way towards Newmarket Bridge in search of him. Arriving near the bridge, the Major detailed some of his men to cross the creek, and charged them to search closely in the woods, as the man may have hidden himself from the enemy, who was soon about the place for several days previous. The reserve was placed behind the Newmarket Bridge (that is, where the crossing normally was), and another detachment at Sinclair's farm. The position of our men had scarcely been taken up, when the skirmishers of the Twentieth regiment discovered the enemy, consisting of three companies of infantry, among them one company of negroes, who approached in the front, and made an attack. The left flank was attacked at the same time by two squadrons of cavalry, who came dashing along at a terrible gate and deafening yells. Our men stood their ground manfully, and, as soon as the proper moment came to fire, the cavalry being near enough (about 100 yards), the order to fire was given, and obeyed with alacrity. The reserve drove the cavalry back, killing several of them while retreating.

The skirmishers on the other side or the bridge were recalled by the Major, and owing to the bridge having been destroyed, they were compelled to swim across hotly pursued by the enemy.

The pursuit of the rebels was so determined that a hand to hand engagement occurred. The pursuing party was joined by the negro soldiers, and Captain Stumpf, of the Twentieth regiment, was struck upon the back with the butt end of a musket, but not seriously hurt.

Major Schnoepf hereupon took a position. deploying his entire force along the river banks as skirmishers, and a terrible fight ensued. The enemy fired by companies, whereas the fire of our men on the pursuers was by files, and so rapid that one rebel officer and a private that stood on the opposite shore were killed and tumbled into the river on their faces. The enemy thereupon withdrew as fast as possible, firing as they ran, leaving their dead and wounded behind. Six men of the Twentieth regiment were slightly wounded. The enemy's loss, as far as ascertained, was ten killed (three were picked up yesterday and seven to-day) and probably twenty or more wounded One of the letter was brought off the field and treated by Assistant Surgeon Heiland, of the Twentieth regiment. Several horses of the cavalry were also killed. The corpses of the two mon who fell into the crook floated off with the tide, and Acting Brigadier General Weber sent a detachment off to pick them up, if possible, in order to have them decently interred.

One of the bodies only was found, and in the centre of the forehead was a hole from a bullet, which evidently was the cause of the death of this poor man. In his pockets ware found a number of letters, and by that we ascertained that his name was John Hawkins, Adjutant of the Alabama Minute Men. On his coat the buttons bore the letters A.M.M. About thirty dollars in shinplasters was found on his body, and a small bag, slung about his neck, contained nineteen dollars in gold. The bills were on the banks of North Carolina and Virginia, and as low as ten cents in value. The enemy had retreated about three hundred paces, and having again taken up a position, commenced to pour a terrible fire upon Major Schnoepf's command, without however doing any execution. The shower of bullets was so terrible that the houses, trees and fences in the vicinity were completely riddled. The Turners† . however, being greatly inferior in strength, kept a safe distance and did not reply to this fire.

Immediately after the fight commenced Major Schnoepf, seeing that he had to cope with a force three to one, Sent off an orderly to Newport News, and also a messenger to Acting Brigadier General Max Weber, for reinforcements, Col. Max Weber instantly dispatched the six companies of the Twentieth regiment, in command of Lieutenant Colonel Francis Weiss stationed at Camp Hamilton and in company with Captain H. M. Burleigh, Provost Marshal of the camp proceeded to the scene of action. Brigadier General Joseph R.T. Mansfield also hastened to the battle field leading the remainder of the Twentieth regiment battalion at Newport News and the Second regiment New York Volunteers.

I herewith send a 




The Union Coast Guard, in the command of Colonel D.W. Wardrop, being anxious to participate in the affair, were in marching order in the shortest possible time, and reached to Hampton Bridge, where they were kept in reserve. Such was the anxiety of the Coast Guard to be in the fight that a number of them smuggled themselves into the ranks of the Twentieth regiment, and were only discovered after having crossed the bridge. The other regiments of General Weber's brigade were very much disappointed in not being able to march forward and mingle in the impending bottle as they thought.

When General Weber arrived at the scene of action the fight was over, and the enemy was still visible in the distance, on the retreat. General Weber, however, received information that several of the men belonging to Major Schnoepf's battalion were missing. He thereupon sent Lieut. Colonel Weiss in command of one company across Newmarket Bridge to follow the enemy in quest of the missing Turners. Colonel Weiss found three men who had been sent ahead as skirmishers, before the action and had(?????) the enemy the entire action between them end the Twentieth regiment, but had remained undiscovered by the rebels, lying in the woods.

Shortly after the arrival of the reinforcement, headed by General Weber, from Camp Hamilton, Brigadier General Mansfield and staff, an accompanied by the Second regiment N.Y. Vols. Colonel J.B. Carr came to the scene of action.

The enemy, however, had by this nine probably reached a distance of five miles, and the bridge being taken up our men could not march in pursuit.

Numerous trophies were captured by the gallant Twentieth. One beautiful saddle, belonging evidently to the horse of an officer that had been shot, wag brought back to Newport News, as also numerous muskets, sabres and pistols. 

The engagement commenced about one o'clock, and lasted until after three. Acting Brigadier General Weber and General Mansfield complimented General Shnoepf highly on his bravery and the steadiness of his men.

The Twentieth regiment acted with the precision of regulars, and not the first man was found to waver or fall back.

Dr. Heiland, Assistant Surgeon of the Twentieth regiment, accompanied the battalion, and proved himself not only a very efficient surgeon, but also a brave and courageous soldier. His ambulances and instruments were in readiness as soon as the first volley was fired, and to his care and skill it is owing that the few men wounded are in such good condition. None of our men who were hit by the enemy's shots are fatally injured. Julius Kumerie, of Company G, was shot In the arm; Christian Teubner, Company K, shot in the elbow and below the wrist; Orderly Sergeant Ruhr, of Company K, of Williamsburg, was wounded in the neck, but not fatally. The names of the other three I could not ascertain, they being at Newport News.

The rebels, although retreating before the steady fire of our men, behaved bravely fired their smooth bore muskets, notwithstanding well handled, were no match against the sharp arid deadly fire, handled with murderous aim by the gallant Twentieth regiment.

The main fight began at Sinclair's farm; but the enemy's line extending to Newmarket bridge, and the Twentieth regiment men being in a body there, the rebels concentrated their entire force at that point.

                 -The New York Herald, December 28, 1861

Named for Lt. Col. Schuyler Hamilton.

The 20th New York was know as the "Turner Rifles". The "Turner" refers to the turnverein movement, an athletic/gymnastic society originating in Germany and popular among German-Americans. The 20th New York was a heavily German-American regiment.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Skirmish at New Market Bridge December 1861

 A comteporary article about the first serious engagement of the New Kent Cavalry in the Civil War.


at CAMP NEAR BETHEL, Dec. 23, 1861.

To the Editor of the Whig.-

As you have had No item from the Peninsula of late, I write you a brief account of the fight which came off at New Market Bridge, on yesterday, between two small parcels of our cavalry and infantry, and a body of the enemy, said to be 100 strong.

At an early hour yesterday morning, a detachment of fifty cavalry, (from New Kent, Old Dominion¹ and Black Walnut Companies²,) under the command of Major Phillips³, together with two small companies of the Eighth Alabama Regiment, all under the command of Col. Winston of said Regiment, started on a road in the direction of New Market Bridge, where it had been understood the enemy could be found in some force most every day; and having proceeded down the “Sawyer Swamp road" for about three miles, the commands divided, the infantry scouring the woods to the right of the road, aid the cavalry proceeding slowly forward. When within three miles of the bridge, Major Phillips, with a few men, moved forward as an advanced guard, leaving the remainder of the cavalry under the command of Lieut. Taylor, of the New Kent Company, with Instructions to halt until he bad gotten a mile ahead, when his column proceed, to within a short distance of the bridge, the Major obliquing  to the right to ascertain the position of the infantry.

In a few moments a sharp firing of musketry announced that a skirmish had begun between our men and the enemy, in a field separated from us by a body of woods. The cavalry were immediately put in motion, and galloping through the intervening woods, soon appeared in the field, but only in time to see the Yankees beat a retreat across the creek to a place of security from our horsemen. They were, soon observed running in the direction of New Market Bridge, and spies were seen, evidently endeavoring to ascertain the amount of our force.

The Colonel ordered an advance guard from the cavalry, with which he hastened across to the little field in front of the bridge, the remainder of the cavalry bringing up the rear. In a few moments the firing announced that the enemy were again seen, and this time they happened to be in their favorite haunt, where they seemed for a time willing to make a stand. The body of the enemy were across the bridge, which was barricaded with barrels, and along a fence and ditch; running at right angles to the creek. At these latter the cavalry made a dash, compelling them to seek shelter with their comrades on the other side of the Creek, and out of the reach of our brave horsemen.

In the meantime the infantry charged nearly to the bridge, and regardless of the storm of bullets poured upon them from the concealed foe, they held their ground, advancing step by step, until the enemy were drive from their stronghold, abandoning their flag, which, together with a prisoner, fell into the hands of our men. The cavalry were much exposed during the action (which lasted twenty minutes) while the position of the enemy would not admit of a charge.

Both officers and men received like veterans several volleys from the bridge, and were also fired upon from an ambuscade, as they were led from their exposed position in front of the bridge. It is almost miraculous that one of them were killed. One of the Old Dominion Dragoons received a ball in the foot, while several of the New Kenters narrowly escaped with their lives! One of them had his horse shot under him, a ball grazed the top of his ear, taking off the skin, another had one barrel of his gun penetrated by a minnie(sic) ball, while two others received a ball through, their clothing. Colonel Winston was everywhere in the fight, exposing himself with perfect indifference to danger. Major Phillips acted with his usual coolness and bravery. Of the Infantry one man was killed and two wounded. The loss of the one enemy is ascertained to be thirteen killed and several wounded. After the fight our men returned in good order to camp.           A SPECTATOR


                -Richmond Whig, 2 January 1862

¹- Made up of men from Elizabeth City County(present day city of Hampton) it latter became Company B, 3rd Virginia Cavalry

²- Made up of men from Halifax County, it latter became Company B, 3rd Virginia Cavalry

³- Jefferson C. Phillips, formerly Captain of the Old Dominion Dragoons. A uniform coat worn by Phillips here.

- This would be 28 year old Lt. Telemachus Taylor, who was acting commander of the company due to the illness and death of Capt. Melville Vaiden.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Twelve Days of Christmas in Colonial Virginia

From,  "Another Look at Christmas in the Eighteenth Century," By David DeSimone in The Colonial Williamsburg Interpreter, vol. 16, no. 4, winter 1995-96.

            "How long was the Christmas season? 

The holiday, or more accurately the holy days of Christmas/Epiphany, fall into a forty- day cycle. This cycle was (and still is) a commemoration of the infancy narratives found in the Gospels of Saint Luke and Saint Matthew. Four major events involving Jesus, Mary, and Joseph are commemorated in the forty-day cycle. They are:

December 25: The Nativity of Jesus

January 1: The Circumcision of Jesus (Eight Days after Christmas)

January 6: The Epiphany of Jesus (Twelve Days after Christmas)

February 2: The Purification of the Virgin (Forty Days after Christmas)*

Some of the most sacred holy days are observed within the octave of Christmas. The octave week (an eight-day observance) began on Christmas Day and included December 26-- Saint Stephens Day; December 27--Saint John the Evangelists Day; and December 28--Holy Innocents Day. The octave week festival ended with the Feast of the Circumcision on January 1. It cannot be emphasized enough that amid the joy of the season, the holy days of Saint Stephen and the Holy Innocents were a solemn reminder of the darker side of humanity. In fact, Saint Stephen and the Holy Innocents were martyred because of Christs coming. 

 . . . 

While the observance of these sacred days was over, it did not signal the end of the liturgical season of Christmas. Eight days after Christmas, January 1, was the celebration of the Circumcision of Christ. Twelve days after Christmas was the Feast of the Epiphany, or the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles. Finally, forty days after Christmas was the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin Mary."

*Also know as Candlemass and celebrated in a popular sense in the United States as Groundhog Day.


Tuesday, November 3, 2020

New Kent Votes - Presidential Votes 1788-2020 - UPDATED

 1788, 1792- George Washington ran without opposition

1796-ADAMS (F) [elector Mayo 57- elector Griffin 23]- JEFFERSON (DR) 60

1800-JEFFERSON (DR) 105- ADAMS (F) 87

1804-JEFFERSON (DR) 47-

1808-MADISON (DR) 60- MONROE 52

1812-MADISON (DR) 64- KING (F) 55

1816-MONROE (DR) 26-

1820- James MONROE faced no opposition in 1820


1828-JACKSON (D) 96- ADAMS (NR) 77

1832-JACKSON (D) 71- CLAY (W) 33

1836-WHITE (W) 108- VAN BUREN (D) 57 

1840-HARRISON (W) 198- VAN BUREN (D) 156

1844-CLAY (W) 198- POLK (D) 177-

1848-TAYOR (W) 176- CASS (D) 101

1852-SCOTT (W) 174- PIERCE (D) 148-

1856-BUCHANAN (D) 193- FILLMORE (NA) 169


1864- Part of the Confederate States of America

1868-  Virginia not readmitted to the Union until 1870

1872-GRANT (R) 474- GREELEY (D) 362

1876-GRANT (R) 540- TILDEN (D) 470

1880-HANCOCK (D) 107 [+324 READJUSTER]¹   GARFIELD (R) 361

1884-BLAINE (R) 691- CLEVELAND (D) 440

1888-HARRISON (R) 689- CLEVELAND (D) 375


1896-MCKINLEY (R) 446- BRYAN (D) 369-

1900-MCKINLEY (R) 447- BRYAN (D) 282-

1904-PARKER (D) 127- ROOSEVELT (R)  75

1908-BRYAN (D) 193- TAFT (R) 159- DEBS (SOC) 2

1912-WILSON (D) 136-  ROOSEVELT (PRO) 32-  TAFT (R) 15

1916-WILSON (D) 192- HUGHES (R)  69

1920-COX (D) 190- HARDING (R) 109

1924-DAVIS (D) 178-  COOLIDGE(R) 86- LAFOLLETTE (PRO) 15

1928-HOOVER (R) 217- SMITH (D) 178


1936-ROOSEVELT (D) 307- LANDON (R) 120

1940-ROOSEVELT (D) 286- WILKIE (R)  133

1944-ROOSEVELT (D) 329- DEWEY (R) 158

1948-TRUMAN (D) 277- DEWEY (R) 140- THURMOND (SR) 92- WALLACE (PROG) 1-                          THOMAS (SOC) 3

1952-EISENHOWER (R) 455- STEVENSON (D) 400- HASS (SL) 5- HOOPES (SOC) 1-                              HALLINAN (PROG) 1

1956-EISENHOWER (R) 510- STEVENSON (D) 178- ANDREWS (SR) 189- HASS (SL) 3

1960-NIXON (R) 526- KENNEDY (D) 481- COINER ²(CON)² 10- HASS (SL) 1

1964-JOHNSON (D) 684- GOLDWATER (R) 677- HASS (SL) 4

1968-HUMPHREY (D) 765- NIXON (R) 526- WALLACE (AI) 609- BLOMEN (SL) 1-
         GREGORY (PF) 1- MUNN (PROB) 2

1972-NIXON (R) 1370- MCGOVERN (D) 633- SHMITZ (AI) 19- FISCHER (SL) 7

1976-CARTER (D) 1338- FORD (R) 1259- CAMEJO (SW) 9- ANDERSON (AM) 14-
          LAROUCHE (USL) 17- MACBRIDE (LIB) 7

1980-REAGAN (R) 1739- CARTER (D) 1204- ANDERSON (I) 68- COMMONER  9- 
         CLARK   5

1984-REAGAN (R) 2679- MONDALE (D) 1204- LAROUCHE (I) 16

1988-BUSH (R) 2917- DUKAKIS (D) 1427- FULANI (I) 20- PAUL (LIB) 20

1992-BUSH (R) 2708- CLINTON (D) 1738- PEROT (REF) 1017

1996-DOLE (R) 2852- CLINTON (D) 1859- PEROT (REF)  520

2000-BUSH (R) 3934- GORE (D) 2055- NADER (G) 81- BUCHANAN (REF) 11-
         BROWNE (LIB)     20

2004-BUSH (R) 5414- KERRY (D) 2443-  BADNARIK (LIB) 42- PEROUTKA (CONS) 41

2008-MCCAIN (R) 6385- OBAMA (D) 3493- NADER (I) 36- BARR (LIB) 28-
         BALDWIN (CONS) 19-  MCKINNEY (G) 16

2012-ROMNEY (R) 7246- OBAMA (D) 3555-  JOHNSON (LIB) 82 - GOODE (CONS) 34-
         STEIN (G) 24

2016- TRUMP (R)  8118- CLINTON (D) 3546- JOHNSON (LIB) 348- STEIN (G)  52-                                 MCMULLIN (I) 102

2020- TRUMP (R) 9,631 -BIDEN (D)  4,621 -JORGENSEN (LIB) 172

AI- American Independent Party
AM- American Party
CON- Conservative Party of Virginia¹
CONS- Constitution Party
CON-U- Constitutional Union Party
D- Democratic Party
DR- Democratic Republican
F- Federalist Party
G- Green Party
LIB- Libertarian Party
NA- Native American Party
N-DEM- Northern Democrats
NR- National Republican Party
PF- Peace and Freedom Party 
POP- Populist Party
PR- Progressive Party (1912)
PRO- Progressive Party (1924)
PROB- Prohibition Party
PROG- Progressive Party (1948-52)
R- Republican Party
REF- Reform Party
S-DEM- Southern Democrats
SR- State's Rights Party
SRD- State's Rights Democrats
SL- Socialist Labor Party
SOC- Socialist
USL- U.S. Labor
W- Whig Party

¹ - The Readjuster Party was a Virginia political movement of the 1880's. In 1880 they nominated their own slate of Presidential electors to support Democratic candidate Winfield Scott Hancock.

² - The Conservative Party of Virginia was a conservative third party splinter group that hoped to draft Sen. Harry F. Bird.

All election returns are from the author's personal research over the years.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

The Gallows, Resurrection Men . . . and Dancing

A special Halloween reposting from 2 years ago. For the background of this piece start here.


"The negroes came in immense numbers. It was a gala day for them, and they were all in a holiday attire. The field in which the men were hanged looked like a country fair. Booths were erected. An enterprising Yankee had a side show and educated pig, and itinerant musicians enlivened the occasion. After the hanging the crowds of whites went away, but the negroes hung about the field and around the shallow graves of the felons until dark. They had determined to have a ball, but according to some superstition among them it could not begin until after the midnight hour. A large barn in the field was swept clean by hundreds of willing hands. At 12 o'clock it was crowded. 
On a small stage in a corner the stand for the musicians was placed, which was occupied by four banjo players and one fiddle. In the middle of the room was another stand, upon which the man who called out the figures stood. It was a weird scene. Boys stood in the corners of the room with pine knot torches, which filled the place with smoke, and made a murky light.
At 12:15 the festivities began. Peter Johnson, a burly tobacco hand, occupied the stand in the middle of the room, and sang out in stentorian voice: "Choose your partners." The strangely made up orchestra struck up "The Mississippi Sawyer," a wild Ethiopian air, and the dancing began. As the music went on, the musicians and dances grew wild and wilder, until they shouted and sang as though possessed by the devil. Such exclamations as "I could die dis moment" "Oh, Lord, how happy I is" and the like were heard, especially from the women. At about two o'clock Lucinda Macon, an old voudou(sic) negress, suddenly made her appearance in the barn. The musicians and dancers stopped in terror. The old hag slipped into the middle of the room, and then began a series of strange incantation scenes. The "trick" doctress* was dressed in an old blue and white checkered dress, and had in. her hand a large bundle, tied up in a red handkerchief. She opened it, and after muttering a lot of gibberish, in what the negroes say here was an African dialect, she said she had the rope with which the man were banged, and that after she had touched any bit of it that piece would secure the possessor against the evil designs of any person who tricked them or poisoned them. She cut it up in small bits, and over each bit she muttered and sprinkled something from an old jog, and then she sold it for fifty cents. The rush for these pieces of rope was great. The men fought for them.
This ceremony was kept up until 2:30 a.m. The rope did not go around, and when this became known those who did not get a piece acted like fiends, and begged the hag for a thread only. She told them that nothing else would effect the charm except small particles of the clothing in which the men were buried. A large party then started off to. the grave underneath the gallows, for the purpose of disinterring the bodies and bringing back the garments. They soon returned in horror to the ball room, swearing that they had seen the two men who were hanged walking around the grave. The hag added to the excitement by declaring at the top of her voice, singing cut the words, that Smith and Christian had not died, because she had given them a charm. The secret is, that the visit of the dancers to the grave frightened off two resurrectionists who were after the bodies for the doctors. The dancing and singing were kept up until 5 o'clock. It was announced by the voudou doctress that all who danced at the gallows ball would be able to dance as long as they lived, no matter if they lived to be ninety one"

-Shepherdstown Register (West Virginia), April 05, 1879

* hoodoo man or conjurer

For more information on the believed magical properties of the accoutrements of the gallows I suggest,  Executing Magic in the Modern Era: Criminal Bodies and the Gallows in Popular Medicine by Owen Davies and Francesca Matteoni. As for the carnival nature of the public execution, there is the book The Hanging Tree: Execution and the English People 1770-1868 by V. A. C. Gatrell and "The Execution Spectacle and State Legitimacy: The Changing Nature of the American Execution Audience, 1833-1937" by Annulla Linders in Law & Society Review.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Educational Connections- Roxbury 1860


I will open this school at my mother’s (Mrs. C.N. Pollard) residence, on the 1st of September, 1860, for the limited number of 12 boys. 

Boys of this school will enjoy all the advantages of a private family and will receive the same attention as at home The course of instruction will embrace all the English, Classical and Mathematical branches. 

Terms— $200 including everything. For further particulars see circular which can be obtained by addressing Thos. E. Ballard, Exchange Hotel, Richmond, or myself at Hubbard’s P.O.. New Kent county. 

                        THOS A POLLARD, A.M.                  

References.— C. Martin, Prof. Ancient Languages, H.S. College; M. D. Hoge, D.D., Richmond; B.B. Douglas, King William; Wm. B. Newton, Hanover; John P. Pierce*, New Kent, Hugh Nelson. Petersburg; T. Taylor, New Kent. 


-Richmond Whig, August 22, 1860

The Mrs. C. N. Pollard mentioned would be Caroline Nelson Pollard, widow of James Camm Pollard, owner of Warsaw plantation in Roxbury. She was also the mother of James Pollard, later Lieutenant of the Ninth Virginia Cavalry, mentioned here.

It seem then that the young man here is Thomas Atkinson Pollard  (Feb 17, 1836-Oct 16 1884) and so twenty four in 1860.  A graduate of Hampden-Sydney, Pollard later rose to the position of principal in the Richmond Public Schools. He was the first principal of the historic Springfield School on Church Hill.

Thomas A. Pollard's obituary from October 17, 1884 edition of the Richmond Dispatch.

Death of T. A. Pollard

Mr. Thomas A. Pollard, principal of Springfield and East-End public schools, died yesterday morning at 10 o'clock. In the forty-seventh year of his age, Mr. Pollard had bean sick since last Sunday week: and though his case was severe it was hoped, until within a day of his death, that he would recover, As a man he was amiable, modest, and true; as a Christian, earnest, conscientious and deeply pious; as a school officer, faithful, popular, and efficient.

He was greatly endeared to those who were brought into intimate contact with him, whether socially or officially. Mr. Pollard was the youngest son of the late John Camm Pollard, of King William county. After his father's death be removed to Henrico county, near the new reservoir, and subsequently to the place now occupied by John C. Shafer. Esq. He was in this city, and attended the schools of Rev. Alexander Martin and Dr. Socrates Maupin.  Later he was a student at Hampden-Sydney College, at which institution he graduated. His life has been spent in teaching in South Carolina, Mississippi, and Virginia.

For the past five years he has been engaged in the public schools of this city. During the war he was in the Confederate army in the Valley of Virginia. Mr. Pollard was twice married. His first wife was a Miss Christian of New Kent. His second wife a Miss Lipscomb, daughter of N. C. Lipscomb of this city, survives him. He leaves three children. The funeral will take place to-day at 3 o'clock P. M. from Dr. Hoge's church, of which he had been a number since early manhood.

The exercises of Springfield and East-End Schools will be suspended to-day, and the other schools will close at 1:30 P.M. The School Board will attend the funeral in a body

* New Kent's Commonwealth Attorney

UPDATE: "Roxbury" was approximately 500 acres bounded on the north by Rt. 60(now), on the south by the Chickahominy, the west by "South Garden" and the east by Schiminoe Creek.