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Monday, November 28, 2011

Sarah Jane Daniel, Part 1

Robinson's Tavern, 1940s. Courtesy National Park Service, Fredericksburg
     Thomas Robinson (1791-1848) of Orange County was a son of John Robinson, who in 1791 purchased 168 acres from Brigadier General Alexander Spotswood. This tract was located on the north side of what was called the Orange Turnpike in the nineteenth century and is known today as Route 20. On the Civil War era map shown below, this road is shown running east-west in the middle of the image. The tavern was located about where the words "Locust Grove" are printed. The farm of my Row(e) ancestors was just west of Locust Grove.

Detail of Orange County, c. 1863

Robinson's Tavern sign, Route 20

     The tavern that bore his name was built by Thomas Robinson about 1815. During his lifetime the tavern was a stagecoach stop on the old turnpike. In November 1863 it was briefly used as the headquarters of Union General George Meade during the Mine Run campaign and was also utilized as a hospital during that action and the battle of the Wilderness the following year. Here Thomas Robinson raised eight children by two wives.
     Several of Thomas' children played important roles in the lives of my Row ancestors and I will mention them briefly here. Thomas' oldest daughter, Mary Anne, was born of his first wife Nancy Roach in about 1815. Mary Anne married John F. Almond and it was they who inherited Robinson's Tavern. One of their sons, Thomas Jefferson Almond, served in Company I of the Sixth Virginia Cavalry with my great grandfather, George Washington Estes Row. After the Civil War John F. Almond ran a post office at the tavern.
      James L. Robinson, a son of Thomas and Nancy, served as Sheriff of Orange County during the Civil War. His friend and neighbor, John Sanders Row (who was also first cousin to George W.E. Row) was his deputy. In 1862 John Row was Captain of Company I of the Sixth Virginia Cavalry. James petitioned the Confederate Secretary of War to allow John to resign and return to his duties as deputy sheriff. If you would like to read more of this episode, click here. By 1870 James was working as assistant deputy postmaster in Orange. Several years later he became county treasurer. By 1884 James had begun to fail mentally and physically and got into some hot water with state authorities for failure to pay taxes he had collected that were due the state of Virginia.
     After Nancy's death Thomas Robinson married Elizabeth Tutt Sanders on November 26, 1827. Their youngest daughter Anne married physician Vivian Quisenberry, who served as assistant surgeon in the 59th Virginia Infantry. After the Civil War he and Anne moved to Butler in Freestone County, Texas where he practiced medicine and ran a drug store. George W.E. Row lived with them for six months in 1871 while attempting to put together a land deal there. George worked in Dr. Quisenberry's drug store and learned how to compound drugs and fill prescriptions. The apothecary scales he used are shown below. To read more about my great grandfather's adventures in Texas, click here.

Scales of George W.E. Row

     But it was the oldest daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Robinson who would have the closest and most enduring relationship with the Rows. Sarah Jane Robinson was born at Robinson's Tavern on February 15, 1829. At the age of 18 she married Samuel Alpheus Daniel of Culpeper County. Shown below is Thomas Robinson's permission given to Samuel A. Daniel to obtain a license to marry his daughter. It is witnessed by two of Sarah Jane's brothers, James and Richard. Next is the marriage bond signed by Samuel Daniel and Sarah Jane's brother Richard.

Robinson's permission to marry his daughter

Marriage bond of Samuel A. Daniel

     Once they were married, Samuel and Sarah Jane came back to Rose Cottage, the Daniel home in Culpeper. In this home were born their first two children. Annie Tutt Daniel arrived on March 4, 1848. Her sister Sarah "Sallie Bet" was born December 18, 1851. On the Civil War era map shown below, the location of the Daniel property can be seen south of the village of Culpeper Court House and just west of the Orange & Alexandria railroad.

Detail of Culpeper, 1860s

     Rose Cottage was destroyed by fire and in 1856 Samuel Daniel built a new home near the site of the original house. This place he called Forest Grove. Here were born the Daniels' two youngest children, William (1858) and Catherine "Kate" Medora (February 20, 1862). Forest Grove still stands today and is farmed by the descendants of Kate Daniel.

Forest Grove, 1930s

     Samuel Alpheus Daniel was a farmer, slave owner and southern patriot. The 1860 slave census shows that he owned twenty three slaves. The secession of Virginia from the Union focused his mind on a very uncertain future and accordingly he wrote his will on July 14, 1861. In it he made provisions for Sarah Jane's maintenance in the event of his death. He empowered her to select three or four slaves for the family's use should she become the head of the household. Whatever proceeds were realized from the estate sale he directed should be invested in "Virginia state stocks or some other safe investment." It was also his wish that his children be liberally educated "from the income of the estate, or from the principal should the income prove insufficient."

Page one of Samuel Daniel's will

     Although Samuel could have easily afforded to pay a substitute to take his place in the ranks, his sense of honor and responsibility would not allow him to consider such a course. On February 26, 1862 he enlisted in Captain Cayce's Company of Purcell's Light Artillery. Four months later his battery found itself in the thick of the fighting at Mechanicsville during the Seven Days Battle. On June 26 he was severely wounded and was taken to Kent's Hospital in Richmond, where he died on June 29. Samuel Alpheus Daniel is buried at Oakwood Cemetery.

Samuel Daniel's obituary, Richmond Times Dispatch 4 July 1862

Transcription of Samuel Daniel's obituary

Headstone of Samuel A. Daniel, Oakwood Cemetery

     As it was for tens of thousands of other wives of Confederate soldiers, this was a shocking and devastating blow to Sarah Jane Daniel. She was now left to manage a 357 acre farm and to care for her four fatherless children. Prior to Samuel's death, Thomas Alcocke of Culpeper appears not to have been aware that he had been named executor of the Daniel estate. However, he gladly assumed this additional wartime burden and began to discharge his responsibilities as efficiently as was possible under the circumstances.
     By now Culpeper was occupied by General Pope's army and would endure long stretches of upheaval as the area changed hands several times during the war. Pope was a loudmouth and a bully and made himself especially obnoxious by giving his troops a free hand to despoil Culpeper. Farms were pillaged, outrages against women occurred frequently, churches were vandalized or burnt to the ground, civilian hostages were seized. The tragic impulsion of events left no breathing space for Sarah Jane and her children. The passivity of McClellan's army in the Peninsula and the brutal occupation of the Union army in Culpeper gave General Lee the welcome opportunity to "suppress Pope." Beginning with Stonewall Jackson's troops, Lee began to shift his forces from south of Richmond to Gordonsville and points north to confront Pope. The inevitable collision occurred on August 9, 1862 at Cedar Mountain.
     Some of the slaves of Forest Grove, including twelve year old William Yager, climbed on top of the farm's outbuildings in order to get a good view of the fighting. Neighbors from more threatened areas of the battlefield fled to Forest Grove and sought shelter in the basement. The house itself was used as a hospital by the Confederates. Among the wounded taken there were two brothers from South Carolina, whose parents later came to Forest Grove to nurse them.
     Once the fighting was over and Pope's army retreated north, burial parties laid the dead in mass graves and burned the carcasses of horses and mules. Civilians combed the field searching for food or for anything that could be of use. Among them was young William Yager. This description of his encounter with the quick and the dead comes from Daniel Sutherland's excellent Seasons of War (Free Press, 1995, page 155):

     "He discovers a prostrate Yankee too badly wounded to cry out for help. There he lies, 'the sun broiling down on his face, his arms just a goin' it.' He cannot speak, for he has been wounded in the throat. The boy has just bent down to help the stricken man drink from a canteen when, suddenly, the soldier leaps up, looks around, and without uttering a word, walks away. Yager, nearly scared to death, races from the field."

     In the wake of the battle changes came fast to Forest Grove and its inhabitants. Some of the slaves made their way to freedom within Union lines. A number of others were sold at auction in Richmond by Thomas Alcocke. That money, as well as the money realized from the estate sale in October 1862 was invested in Virginia state bonds. Sarah Jane kept for herself her favorite slaves--Millie Jackson and her children who took the name of their father, Waller Yager of nearby Mitchell's Station: Margaret, Grace, William, Calloon and Nannie. This family would remain with the Daniels throughout the war and for two or three years after. Their names and circumstances appear several times in the court papers relating to the postwar settlement of Samuel Daniel's estate.

Page from Daniel estate settlement

     Despite the death of her husband, the economic devastation caused by the war and the stress of an oppressive Federal occupation it appears that Sarah Jane Daniel remained devoted to the South's cause. These quartermaster receipts issued to her in late 1862 indicate a willingness by the widow Daniel to do her part for the Confederacy by providing pasture and forage for the army's cattle and horses.

Quartermaster receipt 19 November 1862

Quartermaster receipt 10 November 1862

     However, the "importunities and depredations" of those times referred to by Alcocke, made the conditions of daily life increasingly intolerable. For example, there was scarcely a church in that area that was not destroyed or vandalized to a point of uselessness. A lonely exception was St. Stephen's Episcopal in the village of Culpeper Court House. Its rector, John Cole, had been befriended by Robert E. Lee and Jeb Stuart during their time in the town. Still it suffered heavy damage by marauding northern troops. Forty years after the war the church received a small amount of money from the federal government as compensation. If houses of worship were not safe, it is not difficult to imagine the dangers that were routinely experienced by  the population at large.
     By the winter of 1863 Sarah Jane no longer felt safe to remain in the country and took her children and moved into town. To protect Forest Grove from complete ruin she arranged for a Unionist family named Hixon to live there free of rent as caretakers. Once settled in town she ran a boarding house patronized by Federal officers. Milly Jackson cooked meals for them and William Yager and his brother and sisters ran errands for them. They were given access to the commissary's stores and were able to thereby supplement their diet. In the 1930s it was used as a funeral home by Will Reaguer. The photo below was taken shortly before its demolition in the 1960s.

Sarah Jane's boarding house

     And so it was that Sarah Jane Daniel, her four children and Forest Grove were able to survive the war. Although Thomas Alcocke had been directed by the will of Samuel A. Daniel to sell Forest Grove, he wisely decided to defer that "to a more propitious time." Yes, Forest Grove survived the conflict but it did not emerge entirely unscathed. All of the stock, the farming implements and nearly all the fencing were gone. But the house and outbuildings still stood. Alcocke advanced $45 to Sarah Jane in order that she could buy a few cows and hogs and farm implements.
     With that $45, a sharp eye for business and a will of iron Sarah Jane Daniel rebuilt Forest Grove.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Strange Tale of JPH Crismond

Joseph Patrick Henry Crismond

     The sudden death of George W.E. Row in 1883 brought upon his widow, my great grandmother Lizzie Houston Row, a host of unexpected challenges. First among these was qualifying as administratrix of his estate and spending the next several years closing out his affairs. During this time she had frequent correspondence with the clerk of court for Spotsylvania, JPH Crismond, an example of which is shown below:

Crismond receipt 1885

     Near the end of his career as clerk Lizzie had occasion once again to have legal business with Crismond. Below is a check dated 1902 made payable to Rev. JPH Crismond, which he endorsed to Lee J. Graves as attorney for W.J. Brightwell:

Check to Crismond 1902

Check to Crismond 1902 (reverse)

     All of the papers exchanged between my great grandmother and Crismond appear in good order and I have no reason to think that there was anything amiss in her dealings with him. I include these examples only to show that over the years Crismond had some impact on Lizzie's life, as he did did on the lives of virtually all the citizens of Spotsylvania county.

JPH Crismond at Spotsylvania Courthouse c. 1890

     Joseph Patrick Henry Crismond was born in 1846 to John and Jane Crismond. In 1864 he enlisted in the 36th Battalion of Virginia cavalry and was wounded at the battle of Woodstock. He is said to have later enlisted in the Ninth Virginia Cavalry, but I have been unable to find any official record that confirms that.
     After the war Crismond returned to Spotsylvania and married Sallie Carnohan in 1866. Crismond and Sallie had two children. Dora, born in 1867, married Dr. William A. Harris (physician to my Row ancestors), who was the son of Spotsylvania sheriff T.A. Harris. The Crismond's son, Arthur Hancock, was born in 1869. The censuses for the years 1870 and 1880 show JPH Crismond making his living as a farmer.

Dr. William A. Harris

     At some point Crismond became active in politics and was elected Spotsylvania clerk of court in 1881, a position he would hold for the next 22 years. He was also a Methodist deacon, active in Zion Methodist Church, and an ordained minister. Over the years he would officiate at many weddings and funerals.

Spotsylvania Courthouse c. 1890

     The photograph above shows JPH Crismond (17) standing next to his son Arthur (15). His future son in law William A. Harris (5) is dressed in white at left. William's father, Thomas Addison Harris (13) is standing near the center of the group.

Spotsylvania Courthouse (left) early 1880s

     The years rolled peacefully along. Crismond was popular and respected both as minister and as clerk of court. In April 1899 a committee was appointed by Judge R.E. Waller to examine the clerk's office and they reported on "the condition of the papers in the office and the manner in which they are kept...found everything in admirable condition." This glowing endorsement of Crismond's work was signed by attorneys St. George R. Fitzhugh and James L. Powell.

Horace F. Crismond

     Horace Crismond was the younger brother of JPH. He was a well respected merchant in Fredericksburg and a partner with Marion G. Willis in the firm of Willis & Crismond, grocers and commission merchants with whom George W.E. Row did much business. Shortly after Horace died on January 17, 1903 things began to go terribly wrong in the world of JPH Crismond.
     By July 1903 there had been whisperings of irregularities in the accounts kept by the Spotsylvania clerk's office. On July 7 Crismond made a will, leaving his property to his wife. He then drove to Fredericksburg. He left his horse and buggy at the livery stable and notified his wife to send for it. He had also left a note for his wife informing her that he was leaving for good, and she would never see him again. He then presumably took a northbound train. "It is alleged that his accounts are a little tangled," the Virginia Citizen helpfully reported. "He has been believed partially demented since the death of his brother, Hon. Horace F. Crismond of Fredericksburg, some months ago."
     Arthur H. Crismond, who worked as deputy clerk of court for his father, announced that he would not be a candidate to fill the vacancy left by his missing father, but that he would step in on a temporary basis until the matter was cleared up.

Richmond Times Dispatch 22 July 1903

     On July 22 it was reported that a body retrieved from the North (Hudson) River in New York City was presumed to be that of the missing Spotsylvania Clerk. Arthur H. Crismond, Dr. W.A. Harris and Horace F. Crismond, Jr. traveled to New York to make a definitive identification.

Richmond Times Dispatch 24 July 1903

     This puzzling development added some complication to an already baffling case. If that was not Joseph Patrick Henry Crismond in that New York morgue, then where was he? The mystery was revealed a couple of weeks later, when Judge Waller received a letter postmarked in Mexico.
     It was from Crismond. In this letter he tendered his resignation as clerk and asked that his son Arthur be appointed to the position. Waller did in fact appoint A.H. Crismond to fill the vacancy left by his father's departure, pending and investigation of the affairs of his office.
     On August 14, 1903 it was reported that Judge Waller appointed a committee to investigate what exactly had been going on the clerk's office and to try to ascertain whether any crimes had been committed. The committee was comprised of Judge A.T. Embrey, E.H. DeJarnette, Jr. and Henry W. Holladay.
     These men set to work with purpose and conviction. They notified Judge Waller that they would be prepared to present their report on September 7. Rumors abounded that JPH Crismond would be in court that day to confront his fate.
     The report was delivered as scheduled, but Crismond was a no show. The following day Judge Waller appointed Sheriff T. A. Harris as acting clerk of court and J.P. Turnley to succeed him as sheriff. County treasurer W.G. Willard resigned.

Thomas Addison Harris

     On November 3 Arthur Crismond announced that he was prepared to pay the shortages discovered in the clerk's accounts. The grand jury indicted his father on eight counts, the most serious of which were embezzlement and forgery.
     Four months after his abrupt and bizarre disapperance, JPH Crismond had yet to appear in Spotsylvania.
     On November 8, 1903 the Richmond Times Dispatch reported that Arthur Crismond made restitution as follows: $3,746.74 due to the state of Virginia; $203.76 due to the county of Spotsylvania; $484.63 for the cost of the investigation; and $27.54 for witness attendance before the investigating committee.

Restitution made in full

     JPH Crismond returned to his home in Spotsylvania on November 23, 1903.
     In December, as the date for Crismond's trial in county court approached, there was yet another interesting twist in a drama with no shortage of them. A petition signed by 67 citizens was presented to Judge Waller asking that he recuse himself from the case. Waller fined Fredericksburg Commonwealth's Attorney Charles D. Foster for contempt of court for his supposed connection to the petition. Waller also promised similar action would be in store for the signers themselves. Foster resigned as prosecutor in the case the following day. Lee J. Graves was appointed as his replacement. Within another week contempt charges against the signers of the petition were dismissed.
     After all this legal flapdoodle the trial at last got underway on January 5, 1904. St. George R. Fitzhugh was the lead attorney for Crismond. Day one did not progress far before prosecutor Lee J. Graves fell ill. A couple of weeks passed during which little happened except for the courtroom histrionics of Fitzhugh and temporary prosecutor Gordon. Finally E.H. DeJarnette was selected to finish prosecuting the case.
     On January 20 the Fredericksburg Free Lance reported that Fitzhugh made the point that because there was not intent on Crismond's part to defraud the state then the charge of embezzlement could not be proven. While Crismond's negligence was a serious matter, he allowed, it was not a felony. After receiving their instructions on the embezzling charge, the jury retired to consider the evidence. Within five minutes the jury returned with a verdict of not guilty. A spontaneous demonstration of approval came from the spectators and the judge had to gavel the proceedings to order.
     Feelings ran high during the course of the trial. One day a Mr. Waite came to the clerk's office and asked Sheriff Turnley for a list of the jurors' names. Turnley refused to comply and the two men came to blows and had to be separated by clerk T.A. Harris. 
     In fact, Crismond would be found not guilty of all the charges against him, save one. The charge of forgery would be tried in circuit court by Judge J.E. Mason.
     In May 1904, before this case came to trial, the Richmond Times Dispatch reported a bit of Methodist news that showed that Crismond enjoyed the support of much of the community: "JPH Crismond, local deacon of the Spotsylvania circuit, made his report to the conference and on motion his character passed."
     And finally, on June 9, 1904 the prosecution announced that they would now drop the forgery case pending against Crismond. After almost a year of tumult Crismond had escaped legal consequences for what were very serious charges.
     Still, controversy continued to cling to him.
     On October 5, 1904 JPH Crismond was indicted for attempting to steal three pairs of shoes from the Spotsylvania store of Harris & Frazier. He was carrying out two pairs of shoes and wearing one pair with the price tag still affixed. The Free Lance reported that "The friends of Crismond say his mind must be deranged as there was no reason for committing the act, as he has ample means..." The next day the charge was dismissed when the store's owners declined to prosecute.

The end result of all of this, at least in the short term, was the end of Crismond's viability in Democratic politics. So he switched his allegiance to the Republican party. He served on the boards of several organizations and continued to hold services at weddings and funerals. But there would be one more turn of the wheel as far as Crismond's public notoriety went and this would play out in the pages of the Free Lance in late 1910.
     On September 22 of that year the county's Republicans assembled to elect officers. J.P. Turnley nominated attorney Samuel P. Powell to be chairman. At this Crismond leaped up and indignantly said that Powell had already pledged his support for R.C. Blaydes for that post and accused Powell of "gross inconsistency." Blaydes was elected chairman. Samuel P. Powell was elected secretary "without opposition in place of Mr. Crismond, who said that he would not have the place any longer."
     A month later the Free Lance published an open letter by Powell which accused Crismond of misstating the events of the meeting. In like manner JPH replied on November 1, insisting that Powell had indeed pledged his support for Blaydes and accused him of being a sore loser.
     Powell was unwilling to let the matter drop. His rejoinder, published on November 10, 1910, upped the ante in their escalating war of words. He claimed that Blaydes "willfully and deliberately misunderstood me." Then Powell reached for the jugular by dredging up the events of 1903: "[Crismond] was forced [to flee] by his fear of a felon's cell in the convict ward of the penitentiary when it became  known that he had diverted many thousands of dollars of the State's his own private purposes." And then this: "If there is a man I abhor it is the oily tongued hypocrite who pretends to be my friend."
     Crismond's retort of November 26 begins: "He who the gods would destroy they first make mad." He is just getting warmed up. "Powell was so full of bitter venom that he had neither the fairness nor the honor to give the truth its due...My going away in 1903 had nothing to do with the clerk's office, and God and one man only besides myself knew what my mission was." He then says that before the trial he was approached by Powell's father (who signed the glowing report of 1899) and recommended Samuel as defense attorney for Crismond, who said he declined the offer.
     The testy--and often bombastic--exchange between these two reached a crescendo before Christmas 1910. In a withering philippic dated December 22, Powell let loose the remaining arrows in his quiver. He refutes the claim that his father had tried to arrange the defense attorney job by producing a letter he claims to show that, in fact, Crismond had approached the senior Powell to serve as his counsel and James L. Powell declined. Powell then returns to the notorious trial of 1904: "By some technical miscarriage of justice he was not sent to the penitentiary for his manifold crimes." He then goes on to insinuate that Crismond dumped the fee books and other records into the Mississippi River during his flight to Mexico. Not content to stop there, Powell accuses JPH and R.C. Blaydes of soliciting a bribe from B. Wiglesworth in order that he might keep the post office in his store.. He characterizes them as "hypocrites, blackmailers, grafters, bribe takers, falsifiers and conspirators." 
     My, my.
     To my knowledge JPH Crismond never publicly explained his behavior of 1903.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Incident at Ellwood


     In August I wrote a piece about my great great grandfather, Warner Kent ("I will do no act hostile to the union of the States"). Warner's long and eventful life was often touched by traumatic incidents, not the least of which were the Civil War years. One such event occurred on May 8, 1864 when he was arrested by Federal forces while plowing on his farm, "The Oaks," in Spotsylvania County. Three weeks later he found himself in the Old Capitol Prison in Washington City with three other men from his neighborhood who were seized the day before. [Please note that all images in my blog may be clicked on for enlarged viewing]
     Two of those men, Joseph Hall and Thomas Manuell, were at that time living at Ellwood, the sprawling plantation located in the Wilderness. Recently I received a note from a direct descendent of Joseph Hall, which reawakened my interest in this case. Neither Hall nor Manuell are related to me, but because so much of the official record deals specifically with them (and by extension to Warner Kent) I will do my best to tell their story today.

James Horace Lacy

     Horace Lacy (1823-1906) married well. Ellwood became his home when he married Betty Churchill Jones in 1848. When her sister Hannah Coalter died in 1857 they bought from her estate Chatham, the magnificent mansion overlooking Fredericksburg from Stafford Heights. Chatham became the primary residence of the Lacy family. Horace Lacy joined the Confederate army in 1861 and was captured while home on leave. He spent two months imprisoned at Fort Delaware before being exchanged. Upon his release he rejoined the army and served as Major in the Quartermaster department. (Chatham was ransacked by Union troops during their occupation of Stafford and was sold for taxes by the Lacy family in 1872. Betty Lacy and the children lived in Fredericksburg during the war).
     After Stonewall Jackson was wounded on May 2, 1863 during the battle of Chancellorsville his shattered arm was amputated near Wilderness Tavern, which was a stone's throw from Ellwood. Reverend Beverly Tucker Lacy, chaplain of Jackson's Corps and Horace's brother, buried Stonewall's arm in the family cemetery at Ellwood. In January 1864 Horace Lacy invited Joseph Hall and Thomas Manuell to bring their families and stay at Ellwood as caretakers.
     Joseph Hall was born in Spotsylvania about 1813. He married Jane Wood in 1845 and together they had six children. Joseph was a carpenter by trade and the 1850 and 1860 censuses taken in Spotsylvania show that. He also owned property in Fredericksburg.
     Thomas Manuell was born in England about 1808 and came to America in 1838, becoming a naturalized citizen in 1844. In about 1839 he married Mary Wood, sister of Joseph's wife Jane. Thomas and Mary apparently did not have any children of their own and ultimately adopted a daughter of Joseph and Jane, Medora Louis Hall. Thomas Manuell was a well known and prosperous blacksmith in Fredericksburg. He lost the sight of one eye in an accident at his foundry in 1857. He also advertised his business in the local newspaper:

Fredericksburg News 14 January 1851

     And so, Joseph Hall and Thomas Manuell and their families were living at Ellwood in May 1864 when the Union army crossed the Rapidan River and swarmed into Spotsylvania. Unfortunately for Joseph and Thomas, Union General Governeur Warren chose Ellwood as the site for his headquarters. On May 7, 1864 Joseph Hall and Thomas Manuell were arrested by Federal troops. The nominal reason for their arrest--and a quite reasonable one given the circumstances of the moment--was to prevent them from conveying information about the size or disposition of Federal forces to the Confederates. The intention was to release them once the Union army moved out of the area and these two would no longer pose such a threat.
         Of course, this is not what happened.

Belle Plain (Library of Congress)

     Once Hall and Manuell were taken into custody they were, according to Provost Marshal M.R. Patrick: "...sent to the rear, to be kept with the trains. The trains having been suddenly moved, all prisoners were ordered to Fredericksburg, where they passed beyond my immediate control, and these men were forwarded with the others without my knowledge." So it was that Hall, Manuell, Kent and Jones were mixed in with captured Confederates and were assembled at Belle Plain. From there they were hauled off to the Old Capitol Prison, arriving by May 25.

Old Capitol Prison (Library of Congress)

     Here they languished for more than three weeks in a sort of administrative purgatory. Little seemed to be working in favor of their early release. Each of them signed statements of very similar wording, shown below, stating their case and asking for their liberty. Neither was enthusiastic about signing an oath of allegiance, fearing for their physical safety back home once the word got out. However they were amenable to the idea of signing a pledge promising not to materially aid the Confederacy, if that would facilitate their release. They both stipulated that they voted for the Ordinance of Secession and that their sympathies were with the South, but that neither they nor anyone in the immediate families had taken arms against the United States.

Statement of Joseph Hall

Statement of Thomas Manuell

     Their prospects brightened considerably thanks to the help that came in the person of one Francis Hamilton Bell. Francis Bell (1809-1880) was born in Orange County, New York. At some point he moved to Fredericksburg and married Sarah Broaddus Wood in 1832. This union made him a brother in law to both Joseph Hall and Thomas Manuell. In the years prior to the Civil War he worked as a gunsmith. When Virginia voted for secession Bell sought refuge in a friendlier environment and moved to Washington City.

Fredericksburg News 15 November 1850

     It was lucky indeed, then, that Joseph's and Thomas' brother in law was living in Washington City at the time of their imprisonment and was a willing and able advocate for their release. On June 15, 1864 Bell wrote an earnest and respectfully worded appeal to Secretary of War Edwin Stantton seeking their release.

Francis Bell to Secretary Stanton 15 June 1864

     Bell sought to reassure Stanton that his brothers in law: "...have not participated in this rebellion by bearing arms against the government." He then went on to make a more emotional plea: "Mr. Hall and Mr. Manuell have both families solely dependent upon them for support. They have lost everything they have accumulated by this war which render it necessary that they should be with their families. Both of them are advanced in years and Mr. Manuell is partially blind..."
     Letters were also penned by Judge Advocate Levi C. Turner and William P. Wood, superintendent of Old Capitol Prison, shown below. Both acknowledged the fact that there was no reason to keep these men behind bars any longer.

Levi Turner to Secretary Staunton 13 June 1864

William P. Wood to Colonel Ingraham 21 June 1864

     Despite the combined efforts of Major Turner, Superintendent Wood, Francis Bell, and Hall and Manuell themselves, the wheels of justice turned slowly. An order for their release, over the signature of Levi C. Turner, was finally handed down on July 15, 1864. Addressed to the Superintendent of Old Capitol prison it said simply: "You will discharge from custody Joseph Hall, Thomas Manuell, W.W. Jones and Warner Kent upon their taking an oath not to aid the rebels in any manner. All four men took the prescribed oath; only that of my great great grandfather Warner Kent is part of the record and I include it here:

Oath of Warner Kent

     After more than two months in prison on the spurious charge of being "suspicious characters" these men walked out of prison free to return home. For Warner Kent, that meant walking home to Spotsylvania from Washington City without his captured horse, which was not covered by his parole. How Joseph Hall and Thomas Manuell made their way home is not known.