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Sunday, December 23, 2012

"It sure looks like starvation"

Nan Row

     Kate Kale was born in Fredericksburg in April 1830. She was the seventh of eight children born to Anthony Kale, a Swiss-born candy maker and grocer, and Catherine Estes, a daughter of my third great grandfather Richard Estes of Greenfield in Spotsylvania (for the truly curious, my post on the Kale family can be read here). Just prior to the Civil War Kate was living in Fredericksburg with her sister Mary. Kate never married. In her later years she lived in Stafford with her sister Mary's family. Like all the Kales, Kate was well to do. She inherited her father's properties on Princess Anne and Caroline Streets in town. After her death in 1904 these properties were sold at public auction, including 706 Caroline Street, today home of the Fredericksburg Visitor Center. (All images in my blogs are clickable for larger viewing).

Southwestern Spotsylvania in 1863
     During the summer of 1864 Kate was staying at Walnut Grove, the stately home of her uncle Jonathan "Nathan" Johnson. Southwestern Spotsylvania had thus far escaped most of the war's violence and destruction, being somewhat removed from the battlefields of Chancellorsville and the Wilderness. This interlude of relative tranquility ended when elements of Sheridan's cavalry invaded Spotsylvania from the south, briefly making camp at Walnut Grove. Afterwards Kate wrote a letter to her cousin Nan Row-my great grand aunt-describing in vivid detail what she had experienced during the brief occupation of her uncle's home. At that time Nan Row and other family members were living as refugees in Hadensville in Goochland County.

Roger Mansfield to Mabel Wakeman, August 1961

     Kate's letter to Nan remained in the possession of my family for ninety seven years. During the 1950s and 1960s Spotsylvania historian Roger Mansfield and my great aunt Mabel Row Wakeman exchanged many letters regarding their shared ancestry and his interest in Greenfield, the home of the Estes and Row families from 1795-1905. In 1961 Mabel gave to Roger the original of Kate's letter to Nan. Roger acknowledged this gift and thanked Mabel for the letter in his note to her. The original letter, or a photocopy of it, supposedly exists in the archive Roger Mansfield donated to the Virginia Historical Society, but I was unable to find it when I visited there several years ago. Fortunately the current owners of Walnut Grove have a copy of Roger's transcription, which they generously shared with me. Today I am presenting the text of Kate Kale's letter in its entirety, followed by my notes.

Sarah Estes Johnson (Courtesy of Kerry Sears)

                                                                                                               Walnut Grove
                                                                                                                July 13th, 1864

Dear Nan, 

      Supposing that you would like to hear how we fared at the hands of the hirelings of the best government in the world, I will try to give some of the particulars though it now seems more like the impressions of a bad dream than a reality.
     On the morning of the 10th, we heard that Mr. Boggs' [1] man came up to Mr. Sorrells with the news that the Yankees were at Waller's Tavern on their way up. So Uncle Nathan [2] rode down to hear the truth of it, and he soon came back and sent off the horses by John [3] and Jack [3], and the mules by Paul [3] and secured a few valuables about the house, but did not feel that they were coming. In a few minutes and in dashes too--they wanted meal--we had very little. They took that, inquired about corn and bacon but did not take any--seemed to be in great haste--said that the column was going up by Twyman's [4]. I thought then that they were pickets and had stole in to get something to eat as they did before and no more would come--vain delusion. In the least while the meat house was cleaned out--the first party took all but three pieces, the next ones took that--the corn was taken in a twinkling of an eye.
     The next news was John. Jack and the horses were all gone. Up to that time the cellar only had been searched, but in a short time a number of men came and told Uncle Nathan that one of his boys told them that there was corn and meat upstairs in the house. Before that, while they were in the cellar, I believed that they would go up stairs before they were done with it, so I hid nine pieces of bacon under three beds and as good luck would have it, they did not turn those three beds up, but they did the two over the parlor. Well, upstairs they went, and down came the corn and bacon. They found about a hundred lbs. of sugar in the closet and that saved the bacon, I reckon. They took all the sugar. Uncle Nathan was with them, and I was with another set over the sitting room. They wanted clothing, they said. I told them I had nothing but my own. I opened one drawer and they were satisfied--did not put their hands in. Two slipped in our room and broke open my trunk and Miss Jones's chest. I saw him just as he had opened my trunk and told him there was nothing in there that belonged to him, to come out, and he dropped the top and came out. In a little while I saw another one there. I ordered him out in the same way, and he walked out. Did not know until afterwards that they had gone in Miss Jones's chest. She had $7 in gold, her best pin and her bonds laying on the top ready to take out whenever the Yankees came, and she forgot it entirely. They got it slick enough. I did not dream of her having anything valuable in there. A Yankee wanted to break open her trunk in the room where I was, and I told him that I knew there was nothing in there but her clothes, and he left it. 
     Sunday, after they were here Friday, we heard that the infantry were coming, so we took nearly all the bacon that was saved in the house and flour and corn, and sat it out, and nearly everything was found by them--not the infantry, but the same party that went up Friday. You can imagine my feelings better than I can describe them when I saw a body of men ride in and take up camp. They had the house guarded, but we did not know it until later in the day. If we had, it would have saved a great deal of uneasiness, but they went into every hole and corner, and found everything that was above the ground. Uncle Nathan put a great many things at the old barn, in a mighty good place, as he thought. Amongst them was a book with eight hundred or a thousand dollars in it, and they got that. The State money that he had to pay off his wards was hid out, and he heard them say that they were going to see what was there. He told them they could go and see for themselves, and he walked off feeling miserable enough, and did not know until Tuesday morning that it was all safe. He says that you must write to George [5] to come and get it just as soon as possible. He spent one miserable day and night about it. He also says that you all must come over to see us. I did want to go over to see you this summer, but the jig is up now. 
     Uncle Nathan has bought one horse for himself and one for Aunt S [6]. The Yankees took two from her, and some milk and butter--only a few went there. They took some corn from Tod and a mule from John and some clothing. That Perry, a deserter, I reckon you have heard of him, last week he stole some of Aunt S's wheat out of the field. Buck and one of the Pendleton boys were tracking it and came right upon them in the woods beating it on a sheet--two men and a woman--they ran. Buck stayed and Pendleton went out and sent the Negroes with the cart and took the wheat home. The Saturday afterwards they set her fence afire. That is they do not know who did it but they could not help thinking that it was them, and burnt 71 panels. Uncle Nathan and I were down there Sunday. I feel very sorry for her. One of her sheep was stolen not long since and two from John Johnson [7] and some of Tod's wheat has been taken. Those two men went to Aunt S's and passed themselves as Yankees, and searched her house all over looking for brandy, one stayed out to watch while the other one was searching. He took a love ring and a little breast pin out of Nannie's [8] trunk. Dina was in there with her, he shut the door and told her if she did no tell him where the brandy was he would kill her. Aunt S got an axe that was in the house and told him to open the door or she would split it down and he opened it. Buck was off with the horses and the Yankees had broken the guns before, but no Yankees were out that night. What a pity it was that he had not been shot. What a life to live. The Conscript officers are after them but I am afraid that they will not get them. They took John Dobyns [9] last Sunday. The Yankees took every thing Mr. Dobyns [10] had to eat, killed his cattle and sheep. I heard that the girls drove 10 of the sheep to the house and saved them. They took both of his carriages and one Negro man went with them. They took everything from Mr. Kube [11] that he had to eat and his clothes and some of hers, so I hear. I could not hear the particulars from Mrs. Todd [12] but expect that they took what she had. Neither could I hear the particulars from Greenfield, but expect--all fared alike. I did not  hear of any of Mr. Kube's Negroes going off. Oh, I forgot to tell that Walker [3] went off bag and baggage after the Yankees had stolen the hat off his head the first day. He had been in the cabin at least two months blind and seemed to be distressed that he could not be in the cornfield and talked to his master about it and Uncle Nathan told him that if he did go blind entirely that he would take care of him as long as he had anything about him to do it. I never thought of his going. In fact when the Yankees came I never thought of the Negroes once not even of Jack until he was gone, only I said to Uncle Nathan he could not have sent a worse hand with the horses. I was sorry than John went but I don't care a thing for Jack. 
     When they came back Jack took his wife off in Ben Graves's [13] buggy. I heard--indeed saw-- her with a Yankee in the buggy and Jack riding a horse. An officer was on Uncle Nathan's gray horse. The Yankees did not get the mules until Tuesday morning. Paul was with the Chewnings and some others and one Yankee frightened all off. He only took the mules. The others went back and got the horses where they left them. They killed 25 of Uncle Nathan's sheep but did not take any of his cattle. Thirteen of Miss Polly T's Negroes went off and every one of Mr. Dickenson's started. Three men and two little children that had no mother came back. He had a great deal of corn and bacon and lost all--he was so selfish with it that people do not feel as sorry for him as they would have done if he had been willing to share with others that had none before. 
     I received a letter from John [14] written the 25 of May and sent by one of his old company he was well. He and R. [15] are both in the same co[mpany]. John is in the commissary department. He says that the State is full of refugees and everything high. Sugar is not to be had at any price. I haven't heard from Mary [16] or Julia [17] for a long time. Jane [18] got better and has relapsed. She is well now and working out. Says she can't stand the fire and can't draw the water. She has been out two or three weeks. I would think she could stand the fire as well as the sun, especially as we have so little to cook, but she ain't going to trust herself anywhere. I believe if the Yanks come again, that there won't any be left, and it seems to be the impression of everybody. A Yankee struck my Jane and she struck him back with some onions that she had. He said he did it because she would not open the cellar door--cussed her and told her she was the very Devil. They did not curse me nor say anything to make me mad though I spoke to them briefly and indignantly but I certainly dread their coming again. They did great worse some places than they did here. I saw one that pretended to sympathize that they had taken everything we had to eat, but the sweetest morsel was still left and they could never take, and that was faith in our cause and General Lee. I did not lose anything here but my knife, scissors, needles and comb and towel. I bought a box of tobacco $9--they got that at Joe Johnson's [19].
     You must write soon. I hope you are getting along very well. Everything is burnt up, and if it does not rain in a few days there will not be any corn made, and the horses and cows will starve as well as the people. Jane lost her baby about two weeks ago. It seemed to decline after she got sick and seemed to have the croup when she died. She sends love to Kitty and Dorky and the children and love to Chris. All are well as usual. 
     We saved 2 1/2 [bushels] of corn and flour and bacon. Uncle Nathan will make only 80 bu. of wheat--is getting ready to thresh it out now. Very few in the neighborhood has any wheat. It sure looks like starvation but I hope the Lord will provide. Have you heard from cousin Rachel [20]? I wrote to her for the receipt. She sent it and said that the Yankees had not injured her so far, but I don't reckon she can say that now, but I hope she may have escaped. How is Martha [21] getting along. I reckon it is very agreeable in R[ichmond] this summer. All join me in love, hope Aunt Nancy [22] has her health. Tell her she and you must pick up and come over to see us. It is well for her so far that she is is over there. I hope the Yankees may not get there. With love to all,
                                                                                                Your Cousin, 

I hope you may be able to read this scrawl.
Mr. Pool lost every Negro and everything else he had.

[1] Lewis Boggs (1811-1880), neighbor of Jonathan Johnson who lived near Waller's Tavern.

[2] Jonathan Johnson (1803-1873), owner of Walnut Grove.

[3] Slave of Jonathan Johnson.

[4] General store and post office near Walnut Grove.

[5] George Washington Estes Row (1843-1883), nephew of Jonathan Johnson and my great grandfather. Johnson acted as George's guardian, representing his interest in the estate of Richard Estes of Missouri, who left $566 to George.

[6] Sarah Estes Johnson (1804-1869), widow of Jonathan's brother Marshall Johnson.

[7] Probably John Castle Johnson (1828-1886), a son of Jonathan's brother Aquilla Johnson.

[8] Sarah Ann "Nannie" Johnson (1844-1907), a daughter of Sarah and Marshall Johnson. Sarah married Robert Henry Jerrell in 1865. They were the grandparents of Roger Mansfield.

[9] John H. Dobyns (1840-1905), a nephew of Leroy W. Dobyns. Deserted from the 55th Virginia Infantry in 1863. Seized by conscription officers and imprisoned at Castle Thunder in Richmond. Pardoned by Jefferson Davis in 1864 when he joined Winder's Legion. Married Jane Kent, an aunt of my grandmother, in 1890.  Jane had her own heart stopping encounter with marauding Yankees, which can be read here.

[10] Leroy W. Dobyns (1811-1871), owner of Oakley plantation. His daughter Maria also wrote a letter to Nan Row, describing the depredations of Union soldiers at Oakley during the battle of the Wilderness, which can be read here.

[11] Bernhard Kube , a German immigrant who was a friend and neighbor of the Rows. He traveled extensively around the country as a gold miner before the war. Brought home a parrot from one of these trips and gave it as a gift to Nan Row.

[12] Caroline Matilda Todd (1804-1885), widow of Charles M. Todd (1797-c.1850), who owned Todd's Tavern.

[13] Benjamin F. Graves, a neighbor of Jonathan Johnson.

[14] John Peter Kale (1824-1886), brother of Kate who moved to Texas in the 1840s and was an early settler in the town of Livingston. John served in the 5th Texas Infantry, Hood's Division, before being wounded at the battle of Second Manassas.

[15] Richard Estes Kale (1821-1872), brother of Kate who moved to Denton, Texas before the war. Richard served for a time in the 15th Texas Cavalry.

[16] Mary Kale Harding (1826-1898), sister of Kate. Married Enoch Harding of Stafford in 1861 and lived near Tackett's Mill.

[17] Julia Kale Alexander  (1833-1887), sister of Kate. Married in 1852 to Robert Brooke Alexander, who published the Democratic Recorder in Fredericksburg.

[18] A slave of Kate Kale.

[19] Joseph Watkins Johnson (1836-1887), a son of Sarah and Marshall Johnson. Inherited Walnut Grove after the death of his uncle Jonathan Johnson.

[20] Rachel Row Farish (1819-1892), a cousin of Kate Kale and widow of Charles Tod Farish of Caroline County. Rachel's parents, Carleton and Lucy Row, were murdered by their slaves in 1820. She was then raised by her grandfather Thomas Row in Orange County.

[21] Martha Row Williams (1828-1885), a sister of Nan Row. Martha was married to commission merchant James T. Williams, a partner in Tardy & Williams in Richmond.

[22] Nancy Estes Row (1798-1873), Nan Row's mother, and my great great grandmother.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Walnut Grove

Walnut Grove

     Built in the early 1840s, Walnut Grove remains-like Oakley-one of the few antebellum plantation houses still standing in Spotsylvania. Located on Foremost Run in the southwestern corner of the county, Walnut Grove is an excellent example of the craftsmanship of master builder William A. Jennings. Much of the information included in today's post comes from the current owners of Walnut Grove and their write-up for the National Register of Historic Homes. In the detail of J.F. Gilmer's 1863 map shown below, Walnut Grove is located at the lower left of the image where "N. Johnson" is indicated. All images in my blog are clickable for larger viewing.

Southwestern Spotsylvania, 1863

     Jonathan Johnson (called "Nathan" by his friends and relations) was a son in law of Richard Estes, my third great grandfather. Nathan married Frances Estes about 1820. Coincidentally, his brother Marshall Johnson married Frances' sister Sarah Estes. While Sarah and Marshall successfully raised six children, Nathan and Frances remained childless.
     Nathan Johnson was a man of refined tastes who enjoyed the good life and was able to amass a small fortune during his lifetime. He was well known for raising some of the finest livestock in the region. Nathan was also active in local and state Democratic politics. In 1840 he was appointed commissioner of the Andrew's Tavern voting district. On election days Democrats would assemble at Nathan's house and then march to the polls with fife and drum playing and flags and streamers flying. Nathan Johnson was also appointed a delegate to the gubernatorial convention in Petersburg in 1858.
     For decades Nathan performed many useful legal services for my ancestors. My great great grandfather Absalom Row, owner of two Virginia law books and justice of the peace in Spotsylvania for twenty years, neglected to have his name witnessed on his will. Nathan and Sanford Chancellor testified in court as to the authenticity of that signature after Absalom's death. Nathan Johnson acted as legal guardian for Absalom's son, George W.E. Row, representing his interests in the legacy left to him by Nathan's brother in law Richard Estes, who died in Missouri. And Nathan spent the last ten years of his life toiling away as administrator of the complicated estate of his sister in law Mary Estes Carter, who died at Greenfield in 1863. The image below from the inventory and appraisement of Mary Carter's estate comes from the archives of the Central Rappahannock Heritage Center.

From the estate papers of Mary Estes Carter

     A slave owner and lifelong Democrat, Nathan Johnson was an unambiguous supporter of succession and the southern cause. Most of his nephews saw action in the Confederate army. Like his neighbors Nathan did what he could to help the war effort, selling hay and grain to the quartermaster officers. He also provided the services of his slave, named Major, "as laborer on the public defenses at and near Richmond" as seen on this receipt for $32 from Captain J. B. Stanard, chief engineer for building those fortifications.

Captain Stanard receipt to Jonathan Johnson, 1863

     During the fighting that occurred at nearby Trevilian Station in 1864, elements of Sheridan's cavalry camped at Walnut Grove. As was their standard practice Union soldiers stole food hidden under the beds and confiscated valuables from the house as well as Nathan's prized livestock. These enterprising soldiers in blue also found a book in the barn in which Nathan had hidden $800-1,000.
     A niece of Nathan and Frances, Kate Kale ( about whose family I have previously written), was staying with the Johnsons during this episode. She described this incident in a letter to her first cousin-and my great great aunt-Nan Row. Kate wrote that a Union soldier struck a servant named Jane for refusing to open a cellar door. Jane hit the soldier back with some onions that happened to be handy. Despite all this unpleasantness Walnut Grove survived the war pretty much intact.

From the inventory of Jonathan Johnson's estate

     Unlike many of his neighbors, Nathan Johnson was able to remain a wealthy man until his death in 1873. The inventory and appraisement of his estate shows that he had over $30,000 in cash and coin in the house. He left his $200 gold watch to Kate Kale. The image above is courtesy of the Central Rappahannock Heritage Center.

     During the 1950s and 1960s Spotsylvania historian Roger Mansfield exchanged many letters with my great aunt, Mabel Row Wakeman. They addressed each other as "Cousin" since they had discovered that Roger's great grandmother-Sarah Estes Johnson-was the sister of Mabel's grandmother Nancy Estes Row. Roger took an interest in my family's history and wrote a monograph on Greenfield in 1960. That same year Roger also wrote a piece about what life would have been like at "Walnut Hill" during Christmas time in 1860. So, in the spirit of the holidays I present Roger's semi-fictional account of the Johnsons of Walnut Grove, given to Mabel 52 years ago.