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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

A Petticoat for the Confederacy

Ellen Victoria Hull (Courtesy of Ellen Apperson Brown)

     My last post (A Footnote to the Death of Stonewall Jackson) was based on an entry from the diary kept by John Samuel Apperson during the Civil War, as found in "Repairing the March of Mars," edited by John Herbert Roper. In the epilogue to this book, Professor Roper wrote of a dramatic incident involving Apperson's future wife, Ellen Victoria Hull (1840-1887). Victoria was born in privileged circumstances to one of the leading families in Smyth County, Virginia, which makes this episode even more entertaining to contemplate. Still, it was an incredibly brave act undertaken by a quick-thinking and resourceful young woman:

"In May of 1861, Victoria Hull had run to the town's railroad line to stop a trainload of Confederate troops from Mississippi before they crashed into a wrecked car around a blind bend of the tracks. To gain the attention of the engineer, she ripped off her petticoat and waved it. In retelling the incident, she is said to stand on the rails, and the train stops only in the nick of time, and the petticoat is red. What is known for sure is that the officer of the Mississippi regiment sent her an official letter of commendation and thanks."

     The letter referred to above was written by Robert H. Waddell at the direction Captain Duncan Patterson, both of Company K of the 20th Mississippi. I have found a transcription of that letter in Volume Two of "History of Smyth County, Virginia," by Joan Tracy Armstrong, published by the Smyth County Historical and Museum Society, Inc., 1986:

"Miss Victoria Hull:
Cooper Guards present their regards to you and would commend you highly for your heroic spirit and undaunting bravery in communicating to us so timely of the cars overthrown. Madam, you are as a Captain Mary; long and peaceful be your days. May happiness and pleasure ever crown your pathway and may your eyes never again behold such a sad calamity as they have this morning. There are five hundred of us that unite in giving you applause. You have saved the lives of many soldiers that will do good service in battle for your own pleasant home and fireside. Accept the gratitude and best wishes of the Cooper Guards, with the entire right wing of Col. Dan R. Rudsell's Mississippi Regiment."

Captain Duncan Patterson was killed in December 1862. The following year, Lt. Waddell, a native of the Lynchburg area, resigned from the 20th Mississippi and joined the 23rd Virginia Cavalry. He was surrendered by General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox in April 1865.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A Footnote to the Death of Stonewall Jackson

Stonewall Jackson, April 1863

     In 1816, Samuel Alsop, Jr., bought an 849-acre tract on the Po River near Corbin's Bridge in Spotsylvania. Several years later, he built a house there as a wedding present for his daughter, Clementina, and his son-in-law, Thomas Coleman Chandler, who were married on September 20, 1825. This place came to be known as Oakley. During the Battle of the Wilderness, the residents of Oakley suffered a great deal. Their story can be read at The Letter from Maria Dobyns.
     In 1839, Thomas Chandler sold Oakley to Enos Gridley and moved to Caroline County, where he  made his home at Fairfield plantation just north of Guiney's Station. In the map detail below, the Chandler property can be seen at the upper left of the image, just above the railroad tracks at "Guinea Sta."

Northwest Caroline County, 1863

     After Clementina's death in 1844, Chandler married Mary Elizabeth Frazer. By the eve of the Civil War, Chandler was a wealthy man; he owned a 740-acre farm, 62 slaves and had a net worth of over $53,000.
     During the Fredericksburg campaign of 1862, Chandler became friends with Confederate General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, who for a time made his headquarters at Fairfield. Just a few months later, in May 1863, Jackson was brought to Chandler's farm after the amputation of his left arm, following an accidental shooting during the Battle of Chancellorsville. Chandler brought a bed and some other small comforts into the building he used as an office. There Jackson spent the last days of his life before dying on May 10, 1863.
John Samuel Apperson (Ellen Apperson Brown)

     During this period, the hospital of the 2nd Corps of the Confederate Army was set up near Guiney's Station. Dr. Harvey Black, the chief surgeon of the hospital, was assisted by steward John Samuel Apperson, who just a few years later also became a doctor. During the Civil War, Apperson kept a detailed diary of his experiences. His entry for May 30, 1863, just three weeks after the death of Jackson, includes the description of a violent event at Fairfield involving Thomas Chandler:

     Tonight I went to the [Guiney Station] Depot with Dr. Gilkerson to see a wounded man--he was a member of Co. "H" [of the 4th Virginia Infantry, originally called the "Rockbridge Grays"] of  1 VA Battalion stabbed by Mr. Chandler near the depot. Several of the Battalion--all inebriated--went to Mr. Chandler's house and acted very badly. Mr. Chandler in self defense opened one's abdomen. The wound was in the median line about an inch above the Umbilicus [that is, the navel]. A large quantity of Omentum [1] protruded and was troublesome to reduce.
     What became of this wounded soldier is not known.  Also not known is how this incident may have colored Chandler's memory of the historic events of the spring of 1863.

[1] Omentum: A large, apron-like fold of visceral peritoneum that hangs down from the stomach.