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Sunday, June 16, 2019

"I intend to make the Yankees pay for that hat"

Detail of central Orange County, 1863

     The home of Catlett Rhoades (1804-1878) was the scene of a number of dramatic incidents over the years, both during and after the Civil War.  Catlett married Nancy Rhoades (1801-1899) in June 1831. They had three children together, two daughters--Eliza and Lucy--and a son named Achilles (sometimes spelled Archilles). The Rhoades family lived between the Grasty gold mine and Verdiersville, where Catlett served as postmaster in the 1850's Their home was located on modern Route 20 at its intersection with today's Mine Run Road. In the map detail shown above, this homestead is shown as "C. Rhodes" in the middle of the image.
     After the Seven Days Battle during the early summer of 1862, General Robert E. Lee's next priority was to "suppress" Union General John Pope's Army of Virginia, which occupied Culpeper County. General Stonewall Jackson's corps was dispatched from the Richmond area to Orange County with the intention of delivering a blow to the Federal forces in Culpeper. That blow was struck on August 9, 1862, during the Battle of Cedar Mountain. Although chastened by this defeat, Pope's army still lurked in northern Culpeper County between the Rapidan and Rappahannock rivers. Meanwhile, Union General George McClellan was successfully withdrawing his forces from southeastern Virginia and transporting them to the Washington, DC area. Lee realized that if the armies of Pope and McClellan united, their combined strength might be too difficult to defeat.

General James Ewell Brown Stuart

     General Lee decided on a plan to even the odds in his favor. He would send a force of cavalry under the command of General J.E.B. Stuart to get in the rear of Pope's army. Stuart would then burn the bridge of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad that spanned the Rapphannock River at Rappanhannock Station, and block the fords across the river. This would make Pope's withdrawal north over the river a much more difficult undertaking. While stranded on the south side of the Rappahannock, far from the safety of the defensive perimeter around Washington,  the forces of General James Longstreet and General Jackson would move in and crush Pope's army.
     Orders were written to put this plan into motion. General Stuart and his staff rode to Verdiersville in Orange County on August 17, where they were to meet General Fitzhugh Lee's cavalry brigade. General Stuart, Majors Norman Fitzhugh and Heros von Borcke, Lieutenants Chiswell Dabney and Samuel Gibson, and an unknown courier arrived at the home of Catlett Rhoades, where they awaited Fitzhugh Lee's arrival.

 Heros von Borcke

John Singleton Mosby

Chiswell Dabney

     General Fitzhugh Lee's cavalry was hours late in arriving for this rendevous. Stuart and his staff settled in for the night at the Rhoades house. Shortly before daylight on the morning of August 18, Stuart sent Major Fitzhugh and his courier up the Plank Road towards New Verdiersville to meet with the expected brigade of cavalry. As it so happened, two regiments of Union Cavalry--the 1st Michigan and the 5th New York--had crossed Raccoon Ford and were now approaching Verdiersville. On their way there, the Federals encountered two Confederates--Major Fitzhugh and his courier. They were duly captured and placed in the rear of the column. The capture of Fitzhugh would have significant consequences for the Confederacy's near-term military fortunes.
     It was still not yet daylight when a column of cavalry could be dimly seen down the road approaching the Rhoades property. Assuming them to be General Fitzhugh Lee's cavalry, Captain Mosby and Lieutenant Gibson rode out to meet them. Instead of a cheery hello, however, Mosby and
 Gibson were greeted by gunfire. Having left their sidearms in the house, they had no choice but to wheel their horses about and flee for their lives. The Yankees gave chase, firing as they came. The commotion awakened Stuart, who had been sleeping on the porch, and Dabney, who was sleeping in the house. Major von Borcke was standing in the front yard. He leaped on his horse and dashed through the front gate, which was being held open by Nancy Rhoades. He immediately found himself confronted by Union horsemen. A Union major aimed his pistol at von Borcke, who slapped his horse's head to get him to change direction (he had not had time to get his bridle on his horse) and sped away.
     Meanwhile, Lieutenant Dabney had troubles of his own. The previous night he had securely tied his horse to the Rhoades's fence. A little too securely, as it turned out. Dabney frenzedly worked at the knots he had used to secure his mount, while Federal troopers began pouring into the yard. at last he got his horse free and followed Stuart in a mad dash for the woods.

Stuart's Escape (Patricia Hurst)

     Having just missed capturing a group of Confederate officers, the Union cavalrymen spent a busy ten minutes looting the Rhoades's home. Their booty included Mosby's plumed hat, red-lined cape and haversack. The theft of his hat was particularly humiliating to Stuart. "I intend to make the Yankees pay for that hat," he vowed. The following week, Stuart had his revenge. He led 1,500 troopers into the rear of Pope's army and pillaged their supply depot at Catlett's Station. Among the items seized by the Confederates was the dress uniform of General John Pope.
     The loss of his hat was important to Stuart, but it was the loss of what had been in Major Fitzhugh's possession when he was captured that had serious implications for Lee's plan to suppress Pope. A copy of Lee's plan to cut off Pope's army while it was still south of the Rappahannock was taken from Fitzhugh and passed up the chain of command. Armed with this information, Pope managed to get men and equipment north of the Rappahannock River before he could be encircled. Although he suffered a serious defeat during the Battle of Second Manassas at the end of August, the bulk of his forces were able to retreat within the defenses of Washington. They would live to fight another day.
     A week after that, another set of orders written by General Lee fell into Union hands. This was the famous Order No. 191, which had been wrapped in paper with three cigars, and then lost by the Confederate officer who carried it. The information contained therein enabled General McClellan to make a better showing at the Battle of Antietam than he otherwise could have done by relying on his own initiative.
     And what became of General Stuart's plumed hat? It was taken by Lieutenant Ford Rogers, adjutant of the 1st Michigan Cavalry. He also grabbed Stuart's "crimson-lined cape, sash, gauntlets and a knapsack filled with official papers." After the war, Rogers took the hat with him when he moved to California. It had been crushed flat while in transit across the country, so Rogers took the hat to a haberdasher in San Francisco to be reconditioned. Amazingly, he forgot to pick up his prized historical artifact. The haberdasher, not knowing the significance of the unclaimed item, sold it as "an old second-hand hat."

     Catlett Rhoades's son, Achilles, fought with Company I (the "Orange Rangers") of the 6th Virginia Cavalry, my great grandfather's outfit. At the conclusion of the war, Achilles returned to his parents' home at Verdiersville. In July 1865 Patrick Warren, a 21-year-old private with the 1st New York Mounted Rifles, stormed into the Rhoades's house and assaulted Achilles's parents. When he came at Achilles with his sword drawn, Achilles shot him and inflicted a mortal wound. Warren was said to be drunk at the time, and Achilles appears not to have been punished for defending his family.

Fredericksburg Ledger 20 July 1865

Roster entry for Patrick Warren (New York State Military Museum)

     Achilles worked as both a brick mason and farmer after the war. He married Bettie Kube in 1880, and I believe they continued to live in the Rhoades home. In his later years, both his physical and mental health declined. In 1904 he attempted suicide by jumping from a second story window. After a long convalescence, he succeeded in taking his own life in 1905.

The Daily Star 18 May 1905

My thanks to Ron Veen, who shared the images of "Stuart's Escape" from Patricia J. Hurst's "Soldiers, Stories, Sites and Fights," written in 1998.

Other sources I consulted were:

"Riding in Circles: J.E.B. Stuart and the Confederate Cavalry 1861-1862" by Arnold Pavlovsky, Southampton, New Jersey, 2010.

"150 Years Ago: Lee's First Lost Order"

"J.E.B. Stuart's Revenge"

Monday, May 13, 2019


Western Spotsylvania County, 1863

     Parker (also known as Parker's Store, or Parkers) is a small community in western Spotsylvania near the Orange County line at the intersection of modern Orange Plank Road and Windy Acres Lane. In the map detail shown above, "Parkers" can be seen at the far left of the image. The solid line at that location represents Orange Plank Road; the dashed line indicates the extent of the grading that had been completed for what would one day be the Potomac, Fredericksburg and Piedmont Railroad. This crossroads was undoubtedly named for a member of the Parker family, but for whom, exactly, no one seems to know (at least, I have not been able to find out). Although this sparsely populated part of Spotsylvania may seem insignificant on the map, Parker has a very rich history.
     During the Battle of the Wilderness, Confederate General A.P Hill marched his troops from their encampment near Orange County Courthouse to Orange Plank Road in order to confront Union troops nearer Brock Road. Not long after the lead elements of Hill's corps passed Parker, they were met by Colonel John Hammond and the 5th New York Cavalry. A brief fight ensued, but the mounted Federals were no match for the number of Confederates in their front, and were forced to retreat. Hill's men then resumed their march toward the farm of the Widow Tapp. A few days later, troops commanded by Confederate General R.H. Anderson proceeded south from Parker to Catharpin Road, just below Shady Grove Church, in a race to prevent the Federal army from reaching Spotsylvania Courthouse first.
Parker as it looked in 1940

     The drawing above, showing Parker as it was 80 years ago, was done by Spotsylvania resident Vickie Neely based on the memory of her mother, Shirley Apperson Trigg. Mrs. Trigg grew up in Parker during the 1930's and 1940's on the Apperson farm, shown at the left of the image. The straight road through the center of the drawing is Orange Plank Road.
     The photograph below, taken in 1954, shows the house of Roy and Violet Carpenter at left, and the house and store of Myrtle Sullivan at right:

Parker, 1954

     The growth of the Parker community received a significant boost from the arrival of the Moore, Kronk and Barnes families in the 1860's and 1870's from Beaver County, Pennsylvania. In February 1869, William and Isabel Morrow of Beaver County bought 800 acres from Irish immigrant and Fredericksburg merchant, Patrick McCracken. This property included what was referred to as the Parker Store farm, on which stood the former Mattaponi post office, which had been discontinued in 1866. Shortly after Mr. Morrow bought this land, his son-in-law and daughter--Joseph (1842-1912) and Mary Ann Moore (1838-1903)--moved to this place with their two oldest children, Kate and Alice Iona. The Moores had four more children once they moved to Virginia, including a son, William Morrow Moore (1871-1957).
     Joseph Moore farmed his land for the next 40 years. He also built a store on his property, in which a new post office, named Parker, was established. Joseph was postmaster of this office until 1892. That year, the post office was moved to the store of William Cleveland Reynolds (1855-1922), which was conveniently built next to the tracks of the Potomac, Fredericksburg and Piedmont Railroad. After Mr. Reynolds death in 1922, the post office was moved back to the Moore store, which had been owned by William Morrow Moore since his father had died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1912. William's sister, Alice, was the postmistress there until she retired in 1940. Mr. Reynold's son, Reuben, operated a drug store in his father's old grocery store.
     Before she became a postmistress, Alice Moore Patton had been married to gold miner and oil man, John R. Patton, whom she married in 1894. John Patton also speculated in real estate, and in 1890 had bought 135 acres of what had once been a part of Greenfield, my family's old plantation located where Fawn Lake subdivision now stands. When he died, Reverend R.V. Owens wrote an elaborate and heart-felt obituary for the February 8, 1906 edition of The Daily Star:

     In 1892, William Morrow Moore married Annie Barnes, a daughter of Eli and Mary Ann Barnes. Annie and their infant child died the following year. In January 1900, William married Mary Etta Kronk, daughter of neighbor Lucius Marcus Kronk. William's sister, Kate, married William, a son of Eli and Mary Ann Barnes. Their daughter, Onie, married neighbor Eugene Cathwell Garner in 1934.
Parker School

Caption of Parker School photo

     In June 1889, Joseph and Mary Anne Moore deeded one acre to the Chancellor school district of Spotsylvania County. This is where the Parker School would be built. The caption to the photograph above, written by Madora Chewning Stephens, reads: "The old 1 room school house at Parkers. This one was upon the hill across the road from Mrs. Patton's house (where Wayne Miller lives now.") The other school shown in the drawing of Parker above was a private school attended by the Reynolds children.

Joseph and Barbara Kronk (Ancestry)

     Joseph Kronk was born in Beaver County, Pennsylvania in 1831. The 1860 census shows that he was still single and living in his father's household, working as a blacksmith. Both he and his brother Lewis registered for the draft in the spring of 1863, although I do not know whether or not they served in the Union army. Joseph married Barbara Brunton, probably in 1865, as their son Philmore was born in 1866. Sometime before June 1870, the Kronks and Barbara's mother moved to Spotsylvania. Joseph bought from William Morrow 216 acres on Orange Plank Road adjacent to the property of William Beazley (shown as "Beasley" in the 1863 map detail at the top of this post).
     In 1870, Joseph's brother, Lewis Marcus Kronk (1843-1922) was still living in Beaver County with his young bride, Elizabeth Barnes. Lewis was working as a blacksmith, an occupation he continued to work at after moving to Spotsylvania sometime in the 1870's. Lewis and Elizabeth lived next to Joseph's farm and raised eight children.
     Both Joseph and Lewis Kronk, as well as Eli Barnes, were customers of the saw mill business of my great grandfather, George Washington Estes Row. Their names appear in his account ledgers:

     Among my great grandfather's papers is a bill from Lewis Kronk for some smithy work he had done, and also a note written asking for payment, which reads: "Mr. Rowe Dear Sir, I would like very much if you could let me have what is due me as I want to get clover seed and am needing it badly for that purpose. Yours with respect LM Kronk Parkers Store Va."

     Joseph Kronk was a deeply religious man, and in January 1885 he deeded land to the Methodist Episcopal Church, South for the construction of Grace Methodist Church, which still stands:

Grace Methodist Church (Courtesy of Vickie Neely)

Grace Methodist Church (Courtesy of Vickie Neely)

Interior of Grace Methodist Church (Find-A-Grave)

     Madora Chewning Stephens, who grew up at nearby Mount View farm on today's Hill-Ewell Drive, wrote a memoir of Grace Methodist Church:

     Below are photographs of Madora and her parents:

Madora Chewning Stephens

Myrtle and Irvin Chewning

     Joseph Kronk's daughter, Mary, married Judson Hammond Pulliam in March 1900. Judson was the son of Thomas Richard and Sarah Pulliam. Thomas Pulliam was also the father of the notorious Phenie Tapp. Judson and Mary Pulliam's daughter, Violet, married Roy Carpenter in 1920. They lived in the Carpenter house shown both in the hand-drawn map above and in the photo of Parker taken in 1954.

Roy and Violet Carpenter (Ancestry)

     The Kronks appeared in the newspapers much more often than other Parker residents of their era. Below is a report of remarkably good news for the Kronk brothers, whose name appears to be of Dutch origin:

Staunton Spectator and Vindicator, 8 April 1897
     When Lewis Kronk's daughter, Mary Etta, married William Moore in 1900, the wedding was described in one of local papers:

The Daily Star, 23 January 1900

     Lewis Kronk probably had ample opportunity to regret the cap pistol he bought for his son Charles for Christmas in 1902:

The Daily Star, 17 January 1903

The Daily Star, 22 January 1922

Charles Kronk did indeed survive his bout with tetanus, and lived until 1906.
     And finally there is this item describing a very serious injury to Joseph Kronk. At the time of his accident, Joseph was 78 years old, not 87 as reported:

The Free Lance, 13 November 1909

     Eli Barnes (1819-1903) married Mary Ann Metts in Beaver County, Pennsylvania and moved to Parker some time between 1870 and 1880. His daughter, Annie, married William Moore in September 1892. She died a year later either during or shortly after the birth of her first child, who also did not survive. Eli and Mary Ann's son, Martin, married William Moore's sister, Kate, in October 1883. They had several children including Onie, who married neighbor Eugene Garner. The other Barnes son, James, never married. In the early 1920's, he bought Greenfield, my family's old farm, which changed hands many times over the years. After he died of pneumonia in 1925, Greenfield passed to his brother, William, who owned it a few years before selling it.
     One of the keys to the prosperity of Parker over the years was the fact that the Potomac, Fredericksburg and Piedmont Railroad, completed in 1877, ran right through the middle of it. The train made daily runs between Fredericksburg and the town of Orange. Here is a typical schedule from that time:

The Daily Star, 4 February 1903

     After Agnes Moore Patton retired as postmistress in 1940, the post office move across the road to the store of John Lawrence Sullivan. His wife, the former Myrtle B. Paytes, served as the last postmistress of the Parker post office. In 1958, the post office was discontinued, and its operations were transferred to the Mine Run office.

John Chiles Mitchell (Courtesy of Vickie Neely)

     Finally, a few words about the Mitchell-Apperson farm. Caroline County native John Chiles Mitchell moved to Spotsylvania county about 1869 and lived in the Courtland district for forty years. About 1909 he moved to Parker, where he lived until his death in 1917. That property then passed to John Henry Apperson, a blacksmith who worked for the CCC  in Spotsylvania during the 1930's. Earlier, I alluded to the fact that Shirley Apperson Trigg was a daughter of Mr. Apperson. By coincidence, her first husband was Louis Jackson Mitchell, a great-grandson of John Chiles Mitchell. Jack Mitchell was tragically killed with ten other seamen when a boiler exploded aboard the USS Bennington in 1953.


Monday, April 15, 2019

George Day Stephens

George Day Stephens (Courtesy of Matt Ogle)

     He was a scion of two of Spotsylvania's more prominent families, and his life's work connects him to both my family and topics I have written about for this blog. He grew up in a time in the county's history when most people knew their neighbors intimately, and when a trip to Fredericksburg from Brock Road by horse and buggy probably took the same amount of time that it takes on today's  traffic-congested roads.

Detail of Spotsylvania County, 1863

     Day Stephens was born at Rose Mount, the Stephens's family home (located on Brock Road at its intersection with the northern outlet of modern Jackson Trail West), the day after Christmas in 1881. He was the sixth of eight children born to John James Stephens (1847-1929) and Lucy Monroe Chancellor (1852-1889). John J. Stephens's father was William A. Stephens, who was a farmer, slave owner, constable, justice of the peace, postmaster at Danielsville, real estate agent and estate appraiser. In 1855, William A. Stephens was one of the appraisers of the estate of his friend and neighbor, my second great grandfather Absalom Row. In the detail of a Civil War-era map shown above, the Stephens farm, Rose Mount, appears in the center of the image. Next to it is Poplar Neck, home to the Trigg family. At the bottom of the image is Greenfield, my family's ancestral home, indicated as "Mrs. Rowe."

John James Stephens and his second wife, Maria "Nannie" Hackney Stephens (Courtesy of Matt Ogle)

     John James Stephens was the first postmaster appointed to the Wilderness post office after the Civil War. In 1877, he was the first post master named to the post office on Brock Road, established soon after the completion of the Potomac, Fredericksburg and Piedmont Railroad that same year. The next stop of that railroad, which connected Frederickburg and the town of Orange, was Stephens Station. A small building had been built at Rose Mount to accommodate local riders. 
     Day Stephens's mother, Lucy Monroe Chancellor, was a daughter of Reverend Melzi Chancellor, who served as pastor at Wilderness Baptist Church 1853-1870 (he also served at a number of other local churches during his long career as minister). Lucy died shortly before her 37th birthday, just two years after the birth of her youngest child, Lucy Eleanor Stephens. Her obituary was written by her cousin, Xanthus Xuthus Chartters:

(Courtesy of Central Rappahannock Heritage Center)

(Courtesy of Central Rappahannock Heritage Center)

     Day Stephens lived at Rose Mount until May 1903, when he enlisted in Company D of the 19th U.S. Infantry Regiment. He received an honorable discharge in December 1904 while stationed in the Vancouver Barracks in the state of Washington. He returned to Spotsylvania after his service.

Day Stephens's discharge certificate (Courtesy of Matt Ogle)

     In 1910, Day was living on the farm of neighbor Thomas E. Faulkner, employed as a handyman. Faulkner was the husband of Isabella Hawkins, whose family's farm was directly in the path of Stonewall Jackson's army as it attacked the exposed Union right flank during the Battle of Chancellorsville. On December 14, 1910, Day Stephens literally married "the girl next door," Josephine "Jody" Trigg (1896-1981).

Marriage certificate of Day Stephens and Jodie Trigg (Courtesy of Matt Ogle)

     In 1905, Day's oldest brother, Scott Stephens, bought Greenfield from my grandfather's half-brother, Abbie Row. Abbie had gone bankrupt while trying to modernize Greenfield at the same time he was working as a conductor for the Pennsylvania Railroad. This 244-acre remnant of Greenfield, which included the family house and dependencies, was once part of an 889-acre plantation owned by the Rows for 110 years (now a part of Fawn Lake subdivision). Scott owned Greenfield until he died of tuberculosis in 1913. Title to the property passed to another Stephens brother, Robert, who then deeded it to Day, who kept it until 1923.
Oakley (Frances Benjamin Johnston)

     After the Dobyns family sold Oakley shortly after the Civil War, this historic house was owned by a succession of northerners, few of whom actually lived there. The last of these absentee landlords was Charles A. McHenry, who bought Oakley in 1916. Two years later, McHenry hired Day Stephens as caretaker, a position he held until Oakley was bought by George C. Beals in July 1926.

Day Stephens (at far right with hat) at Paytes School, about 1913 (Courtesy of Barbara Faulconer)

     Day and Jodie Stephens built a house on Brock Road near old Rose Mount. There they raised their four children: Scott (born 1916), Day Jr., (born 1921), Doris (born 1927) and Sue (born 1931).

Home of Day and Jodie Stephens (Courtesy of Matt Ogle)

Day and Jodie Stephens with their children (Courtesy of Matt Ogle)

     When the Civilian Conservation Corps came to Spotsylvania to create the new national military parks, Day was hired as a foreman at the Chancellorsville site in 1934, a job he held until 1940.

(Courtesy of the National Park Service)

     George Day Stephens died of a complication of health problems, including heart disease and cirrhosis of the liver,  on October 31, 1950.

George Day Stephens, second from right (Courtesy of Matt Ogle)

     Day was buried at Wilderness Baptist Church on November 2, 1950.

The grave of George Day Stephens (Courtesy of Matt Ogle)