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Thursday, June 16, 2011

George Washington Estes Row, Part 2

George W.E Row (right) and Joseph W. Johnson

Cavalry saber and scabbard of George W. E. Row

In my hand: Saber of George Row

     Corporal George Row remained with the Ninth Virginia Cavalry for eleven months. As best as I can tell, they spent time training and getting outfitted at Camp Potomac in King George County. On March 15, 1862 he transferred as a private to Company I (the "Orange Rangers") of the Sixth Virginia Cavalry. George was enlisted by his first cousin Captain John S. Row, the company commander. Also serving in the Sixth was John's brother Dr. Elhanon Row. These cousins of my great grandfather were interesting figures in their own right and will be the topics of future posts. [Please note that all images in my blog may be clicked on for enlarged viewing]
Captain John S. Row

     The company's records show that George was detailed to General Jeb Stuart as a courier in late 1862. On Christmas day that same year he was detailed as a courier to General W.E. "Grumble" Jones. Muster rolls of Company I show George Row marked as present throughout the year 1862. The Sixth fought with Stonewall Jackson in the Valley Campaign and at Cedar Mountain and Second Manassas.

Martha Row Williams letter to George Row

    On June 21, 1863--George Row's twentieth birthday--Martha Row Williams penned a four page letter to her brother. Having observed for two years how army life had coarsened the soldiers she saw in Richmond, Martha had concerns for George's moral well being: "I hear young men say they can't be Christians or temperate and stay in the army--that it is an impossibility--now I don't believe one word of any such talk--for I believe that a man can be as good in the army as out--can let alone spirits if he chooses--but if on the contrary he wishes to be bad he makes the army his excuse for his own vile desires and if out of the army would not at least be a good man a temperate man or a Christian."
     Martha mentions that Richard H.T. Adams, a family friend and business associate of her husband, "is still with Gen. A.P. Hill--I hear from him frequently and he very often asks after you." Adams was a signal officer and member of the staff of General Hill. Clearly Martha wanted George to avail himself of that connection and seek safer employment: "George I wish Gen. Jones would send you here to learn to signal and telegraph by electricity."
     Martha also lets her brother know that she is aware that he "was at the Grand cavalry review in Culpeper." General Jeb Stuart staged two such demonstrations near Brandy Station, the first on June 5 and the second on June 8 for the benefit of General Robert E. Lee. The following day Union General Alfred Pleasonton's cavalry splashed across the Rapidan, completely surprising Stuart's force. The Sixth Cavalry figured prominently in the ensuing fight. Members of that regiment, some of them not yet with their boots on, jumped on their unsaddled horses and narrowly prevented Pleasonton's troopers from capturing a portion of Stuart's Horse Artillery. The battle of Brandy Station was the largest cavalry engagement ever fought in the western hemisphere.
     The Sixth accompanied Lee's army during its disastrous invasion of Pennsylvania. Private George Row survived the fighting at Gettysburg and when he came back to Virginia he was promoted to First Sergeant. He would never receive another promotion.
      On December 10, 1863 the records show that Sergeant Row was absent without leave. After much searching I have not yet been able to determine why George went missing nor for exactly how long. During that time the Sixth Cavalry was encamped near Orange Court House. In March 1864 George was court-martialed for this offense and reduced in rank. It was in early 1864 that his family in Spotsylvania fled to Hadensville in Goochland County to escape the impending invasion of Grant's army. It is possible that his unauthorized leave was tied to this event, but for now I do not know.
     During the war George wrote an undated poem entitled "To the Troopers of Spotsylvania." Its youthful exuberance leads me to believe it was composed early in the war. However, it bears the endorsement of General Lunsford Lomax, for whom George served as courier for much of 1864. Whether this poem ever found its way into print, I cannot say. His ribald poem "Virtue" was almost certainly added a later date.


     In May 1864 George had the unfortunate opportunity to fight in his own neighborhood. The battle of the Wilderness raged on the roads running near Greenfield--Brock, Catharpin, and Orange Plank Road. Fighting occurred at deserted Greenfield itself. Next door at Oakley plantation men died and were buried in the yard, the wounded carried into the house to be cared for by local doctors, army surgeons and the Dobyns household. In a letter dated June 17, 1864 Maria Dobyns wrote to George's sister Nannie, who at the time was a refugee in Hadensville. Maria described in vivid detail the bloody tumult she witnessed on her farm and the inevitable pillaging that occurred when Yankee stragglers ransacked the house and outbuildings. Near the end of the letter Maria mentioned that she had seen Nannie's brother: "George was here yesterday. He was looking very well, his brigade was then at Waller's Tavern. Miss Nancy, when you write or speak to him about religion he seems very much concerned indeed, and from his conversation I trust he is a converted boy. He gave me a pen knife he captured together with a watch from Gen. Custer's Adj. General."

From Maria Dobyns' letter to Nannie Row

     Something else George captured was the memorandum book which had belonged to a trooper of the Fifth New York Cavalry. In it, this Union soldier described his experience during the battle of the Wilderness. The last entry made by him was dated June 14. George kept this little book for the rest of his life and used it for his own note taking.

From memo book captured by George Row

     The month after relieving the Union soldier of his memorandum book George would have a close call during the fighting near Stony Creek Bridge south of Petersburg. His horse was killed during the battle although George himself appears to have escaped unhurt. The horse that was killed was George's own gray mare. Most southern cavalrymen furnished their own mounts, which were appraised and given a value in case of loss by enemy action. In the appraisal shown below George's horse was valued at $250 in 1863:

     On July 27 Captain William Morton, commander of Company I of the Sixth Cavalry, certified that Private George Row's horse was indeed killed by the enemy and authorized payment of $2500, which he states is the appraised value. The ten-fold discrepancy between the 1863 appraisal and the amount paid to George is puzzling. Did Captain Morton make a mistake, or had Confederate currency been that drastically devalued since 1863? In any case, it appears that George was treated fairly. (At the time he wrote this document, William Morton had just recently recovered from a gunshot wound to his left index finger. Not long after authorizing payment to George, Morton was taken ill and spent time in the hospital. He would recover and be discharged, only to be killed at the battle of Tom's Brook on October 9, 1864.)

Captain Morton approves payment to George Row

     On January 11, 1865 George was apparently among the 300 volunteers summoned by General Rosser to undertake a raid on Beverly, West Virginia. While traveling over the mountains toward their objective, Rosser's troopers were first soaked by rain and shortly thereafter assailed by a north wind and the temperature plunged to zero. "Their overcoats, being wet, were frozen stiff, the capes rattling like boards." The Confederates surprised a Federal force several times their size and returned to Virginia with 580 prisoners. George Row wrote a letter to his sister Nannie on January 29, in which he gives his perspective on the Rosser raid. He is clearly not a fan of General Rosser. (Ironically, years after his death, George Row's oldest son married Annie Juliet Rosser, a cousin of the General.) This letter is cited in Michael Musick's history of the Sixth Cavalry and appears in its entirety below in this transcription:

In this letter George wrote that he had left his mare with his cousin John Row. He then took the train from Louisa to Staunton. Once he caught up with his regiment in Millboro it was necessary for him to buy another horse, the receipt for which was signed by James H. Culton on behalf of General Lomax:

    On April 2, 1865 the Sixth Cavalry accompanied Lee's army during the evacuation of Richmond and its attempted escape west. At Appomattox George Row and most of the remaining members of his regiment cut their way through the Federal forces surrounding them and stayed at large for several weeks. He ultimately made his way to Hadensville where his family was still living as refugees. On May 2 George, together with his brother in law Zachary Rawlings and Zachary's brother Ben, rode into Richmond where he recieved his parole:

     Several weeks later the Rows came back to Greenfield, which had been spared the devastation wreaked upon many of their neighbors. George signed his oath of allegiance at Waller's Tavern on May 27:

     On August 25, 1866 George rode out from Greenfield and took Brock Road south. His destination that day was the McCoull farm, site of some of the heaviest fighting that took place during the battle of Bloody Angle. The First Veteran Volunteers had earlier come to  this place to properly bury the dead. On a bullet scarred tree they had nailed a board on which was written a few lines from a poem once written to commemorate those who had fallen during the Mexican War. George had brought with him on this day the little memorandum book he had captured two years ago. He stood at the tree with the sign attached, took out his pencil and began to write:


1 comment:

  1. Enjoying my morning rereading a lot of your posts Pat. I had forgotten that George W.E. Row had fought at Gettysburg. Thanks again for this great service you've done for the family.