A walk with Fredericksburg’s diarists and the release of Jane Beale’s diary–May 7

From John Hennessy:

The home of diarist Lizzie Alsop on Princess Anne Street

We are working on a couple of posts looking at the story of Martha Stevens (up tomorrow night or Monday morning), but in the meantime I wanted to let you know that next Saturday, May 7, I’ll be doing a walking tour that will visit the homes of Fredericksburg’s notable Civil War diarists and memoirists.  We’ll walk by Lizzie Alsop’s house, Betty Maury’s, Jane Beale’s, and a few other writers you might not have heard of.

The tours leave from Market Square at 10 and 2 (pick one).  Hope to see some of you there.

The Jane Beale house

Also that day, from 3-6, the Historic Fredericksburg Foundation will be hosting the launch of the new publication of the Jane Beale Diary at Jane Beale’s House at 305 Lewis Street.  We’ll talk about Jane Beale’s house on the tour, but at the launch you’ll be able to go inside and see the basement made famous by her immensely important description of December 11, 1862.

A place-related post over at Fredericksburg Remembered

Over at Fredericksburg Remembered we’re doing a a number of posts on a series of images taken from the steeple of St. George’s Episcopal Church in 1888, which I’ve stitched together into a single (though imperfect) image.  Much of what we’re looking at doesn’t relate directly to Fredericksburg’s wartime landscape, but our most recent post does. You might want to check it out.  Click here.

The Sesquicentennial hereabouts–years 1 and 2

From John Hennessy:

We have completed planning for years 1 and 2 and have posted the schedule over at our 150th site, which you can find here.  Highlights include:

Two “Years of Anguish” programs featuring (on November 12, 2011 at Dodd Auditorium, UMW) Gary Gallagher and Peter Carmichael on Virginia Goes to War and (on April 21, 2012) David Blight and Thavolia Glymph on Emancipation and Freedom. These programs will follow the formula we established last November, looking at the National, Regional, and Local perspectives. 

The Fisk Jubilee Singers will be here on April 14, 2012, to kick off “To Freedom,” the commemoration of the crossing of 10,000 slaves to freedom in 1862.

The next event is on May 7, 2011–“Letters and Diaries, Songs and Passages”, a day-long series of tours, events and music, culminating with a musical performance with meaning by the Chamber Chorale of Fredericksburg at the Baptist Church. This program will be akin to one of our popular “Voices from the Storm” programs, with narration and quotes going along with the music. It promises to be powerful. Find out about it (and buy tickets) here.

I will also be doing walking tours that day of the homes of Fredericksburg diarists and memoirists. They leave Market Square at 10 and 2. 

In June we will be doing our first milestone event, marking Virginia’s mobilization for war. “Into the Abyss” will be based at Chatham the weekend of June 10-12.  You can find out more on the park’s webpage here (scroll down to June 10).

The Fredericksburg Area Museum, National Park Service, and the University of Mary Washington are the primary funding sources for these events.

Brutus’ Judas: Willie Jett – Part 3

From Mink:

Part 1 of this story can be found here

Part 2 of this story can be found here

Upon his release from Old Capitol Prison in Washington, it seems likely that Willie Jett returned home to Westmoreland County, Virginia. Willie gained a slight amount of fame from his encounter with Lincoln’s assassin and he appears frequently in accounts of Booth’s escape and death. Many of these descriptions claim that Willie was discarded by Izora Gouldman, the woman he was purported to be courting in Bowling Green, and that he was ostracized by his friends and family for having guided the Union authorities to Booth’s hiding place at Garrett’s. John L. Marye, Jr. a relative of Willie’s and the son of Fredericksburg’s John Marye, later wrote about Jett:

“He was never ostracized by his friends or outlawed by his family. No person of sense blamed him in the slightest degree for his action in piloting the Federal cavalry to where he had left the lame man (Booth)… Mr. Jett was in his spirits and demeanor in no way affected by the unfortunate circumstances with which he was frequently connected. He went to Baltimore a year after, engaged in business, traveling constantly in Virginia, and married the daughter of a prominent physician of Baltimore.”  – “Mr. Jett and the Capture of Booth” by John L. Marye, in The Century Magazine, Volume 52, Issue 4 (August 1896) pp. 637-638

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Brutus’ Judas: Willie Jett – Part 2

From Mink:

Part 1 of this story can be found here

After having secured Booth a place to stay at Richard Garrett’s farm, the rest of the travelers continued south, parting ways. Jett’s two riding companions were cousins Absalom Ruggles Bainbridge and Mortimer B. Ruggles. Bainbridge had served as a private in the 3rdVirginia Cavalry, before apparently joining Colonel John S. Mosby’s command in the final weeks of the war. Ruggles served through the war as a Lieutenant on the staff of his father, General Daniel Ruggles, before resigning his commission on March 29, 1865 in order to join Mosby. As they left the Garrett Farm, Herold and Bainbridge headed for the home of Joseph Clarke, a friend of Bainbridge’s. Jett and Ruggles rode to Bowling Green, the seat of Caroline

Site of the Star Hotel in Bowling Green, Va. The building was razed in the 1940s, but bricks were salvaged and used in the construction of the real estate office that now occupies the site.

County. Rumors suggested that Jett was courting Izora Gouldman, whose father ran the Star Hotel in Bowling Green. It was there that Jett and Ruggles spent the night of April 24, 1865. The following morning, Herold and Bainbridge arrived at the hotel, picked up Ruggles and the three men rode back to the Garrett Farm where Herold rejoined Booth. Bainbridge and Ruggles left the farm and never saw Booth or Herold again.

For over a week, Union authorities had been scouring the countryside looking for Booth. As  Booth and Herold reposed on the Garret Farm, Union cavalry closed in. Willie spent April 25 at the Star Hotel, little knowing that he would not get much sleep that night. Having been tipped off about Willie’s association with Booth, and his whereabouts, a patrol from the 16thNew York Cavalry rode into Bowling Green shortly before midnight. The horsemen surrounded the Star Hotel and then entered the building, bursting into Jett’s room. A frightened Willie acknowledged his

Site of the Garrett Farm along US Route 301 north of Bowling Green, Va.

identity before confiding in one of the officers. “I know who you want; and I will tell you where they can be found.” It was exactly what the authorities wanted to hear and with those words Willie gave up the most hunted man in the country.

Willie guided the cavalry to the Garrett Farm. He was left at the gate to the property, while the cavalry rode in to get Booth and Herold. Herold surrendered, and later hanged for his crimes, but Booth was shot in the Garrett barn. The Union soldiers carried the mortally wounded assassin to the porch of Mr. Garrett’s house. Willie was brought to the scene. While he lay dying, Booth looked up, recognized Willie and asked: “Did that man betray me? Did Jett betray me?” His question went unanswered, but surely he knew the truth. A few minutes later, Lincoln’s assassin expired.

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Brutus’ Judas: Willie Jett – Part 1

From Mink:

I’m going to stray a bit from Fredericksburg and the battlefields to look at a story that unfolded in Caroline County, Virginia. The National Park Service does have a vested interest in Caroline’s Civil War history, as it maintains the Stonewall Jackson Shrine, the small plantation office building where the Confederate general died in 1863. The events discussed in this and follow-up posts occurred only a few miles from the Stonewall Jackson Shrine.

A small government-issued Confederate headstone stands in the northeast corner of the Fredericksburg City Cemetery. Aside from its inscription, it doesn’t appear any different than the other Confederate stones scattered about the cemetery. The stone marks the grave of William Storke Jett, a native of nearby Westmoreland County who served in Company C of the 9th Virginia Cavalry.

Willie, as he was known, spent less than one year in Confederate service. He joined the 9th Virginia Cavalry on June 16, 1864, at the age of seventeen. Thirteen days later, Willie received a severe wound when shot in the abdomen during the First Battle of Reams Station in Dinwiddie County, Virginia. The wound so incapacitated Willie that he never returned to active duty with the regiment. By his own account, once he recovered from his wound he served the remainder of the war as a commissary agent on duty in Caroline County, Virginia. When he learned of the surrender of Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia, Willie claimed that he made his way to Westmoreland County to meet up with his brother, Lucius, who was a private in Colonel John S. Mosby’s 43rdBattalion Virginia Cavalry. If he could not rejoin the 9th Virginia Cavalry, he would join another command.

William Storke Jett

From Westmoreland, Willie traveled to Loudoun County, where he learned that Mosby’s command had already disbanded. At that point, Willie determined to return home to Westmoreland County, believing the war was over. First, however, he would pay a visit to friends in Caroline County. Willie Jett’s name would most certainly have been forgotten to history if not for a chance encounter on his trip home. On the afternoon of April 24, 1865, Willie, in the company of two other former Confederates, waited for the ferry along the Rappahannock River at Port Conway. There, they made the acquaintance of the most wanted man in the country, John Wilkes Booth.

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Photographs of Second Fredericksburg: Interpreting Smoke Then and Now

from: Harrison

This blog has devoted several posts to the Second Battle of Fredericksburg component of the Chancellorsville Campaign and to the photographic documentation of its landscapes, most recently and dramatically with a post exploring a newly identified image of Federal operations around Franklin’s Crossing on May 2, 1863.

Along with these contemporary documents of Second Fredericksburg, I find fascinating (if somewhat vexing) the postwar telling of its story—its historiography. Second Fredericksburg, from the perspectives of both sides, has benefited from the impressive scholarship of historians such as John Bigelow, Stephen W. Sears, and Ernest B. Furgurson but only in books treating the Chancellorsville campaign overall and limited almost entirely to evaluating the non-photographic record. Fine works treating Second Fredericksburg specifically, from the perspective of one side or the other, include Gary W. Gallagher’s “East of Chancellorsville: Jubal A. Early at Second Fredericksburg and Salem Church,” in Chancellorsville: The Battle and Its Aftermath, and Philip W. Parsons’s The Union Sixth Army Corps in the Chancellorsville Campaign: A Study of the Engagements of Second Fredericksburg, Salem Church and Banks’s Ford, May 3-4, 1863.

Meantime, other scholars have pursued the battle’s rich photographic documentation in books, and with increasingly impressive results, beginning with the pioneering efforts of Francis Trevelyan Miller’s Photographic History of the Civil War of 1911, work that found dramatic elaboration and expansion in the 1980’s with Time-Life Books’ first Civil War series, and the National Historical Society’s Image of War series, themselves stepping-stones to further elaboration and discovery in fine books of the 1990’s and 2000’s.

Yet much of the photo-centric work on Second Fredericksburg neglects the full chronology of the battle’s key events, as highlighted by Bigelow and Sears in particular: six major troop movements in the demonstration phase, April 30-afternoon May 2, 1863; seven more during the start of the combat phase, evening May 2-early morning May 3; six more during the late-morning combats of May 3; and ten more on May 4-5, when the fighting shifted back from Salem Church towards and partially onto Marye’s Heights. Also neglected is a sense of the full expanse of key landmarks: from Hamilton’s Crossing and the Telegraph Road-Courthouse Road junction, on the south, to Banks/Scott’s Ford on the north, and from the Downman House (“Idlewild”) on the west to Franklin’s and Reynolds’ pontoon crossings on the east.

Instead, the battle’s photohistory remains focused on the powerful image of the dead Mississippians at the base of Marye’s Heights:

…and, after being revealed in the Time-Life and National Historical Society series of the 1980’s, on a number of photographs that look west across Fredericksburg on May 3 and depict battle smoke rising from the bases of Marye’s Heights and Lee’s Hill. (For a state-of-the-discipline inventory of Second Fredericksburg images as of 2005, as well as for a superb survey of the methods and personalities behind the war’s images overall, I highly recommend Bob Zeller’s The Blue and Gray in Black and White: A History of Civil War Photography.) Zeller notes additional evidence of battle smoke along the heights and hill in photographs taken on May 3, 1863, including at left-center in this detail from an image made sometime prior to the Federals’ successful mid-morning attacks, launched around 10:30:

Fredericksburg, morning May 3, 1863. Looking generally west from Pine Grove farm, with possible artillery-smoke identified by historian Bob Zeller. Library of Congress.

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A sad and brutal end to Widow Alsop’s house

From John Hennessy:

As so often happens, one post on here begets another–and thanks to our readers, we continue to learn. (You can read more about the photos of Confederate dead at the Alsop place here and here.)

Susan Alsop’s house, which burned in 1901.

Yesterday I received a call from a former Spotsylvania resident, Jose Brown, who grew up near the site of widow Sue Alsop’s house. He pointed me in the direction of a brief article in the Fredericksburg Free Lance that chronicled the horrible fire there that left a young boy dead and destroyed Sue Alsop’s farm.  The boy’s name was Eddy Scott, the son of Edmund Scott, who Jose always understood to have been one of Susan Alsop’s slaves.  The slave census for Spotsylvania does indeed show that Susan Alsop owned a young boy slave, age 3 at the time of the census in 1860.  The Spotsylvania census for 1900 shows that Edmund V. Scott was born in 1858, and his son Eddy in 1891–still living within a stone’s throw of Susan Alsop’s house (indeed the article says that young Eddy lived WITH Sue Alsop).  He was one of four children in the household.

This is from the Free Lance of May 1, 1901.

A young colored boy, son of Edmund Scott, who lived with Mrs. Sue M. Alsop at her home “Clover Dale,” about eight miles from this city in Spotsylvania, was in a chaff pen looking for hens’ nests, Tuesday evening. He lighted a match to find the nests. A spark ignited a the chaff and he was burned to death. The flames quickly spread to the barns and other out-buildings, which were soon destroyed. Then the fire reached the residence and it, too, was burned to the ground. Some of the furniture was saved but in a badly broken condition.  Mrs. Alsop was not at home and there was no lady on the place except Miss, Ella Parker, a companion of Mrs. Alsop. 

The residence is insured with the companies represented by A.B. Botts & Co., for $2,300. The kitchen $200, and furniture $500, and the barns and outbuildings were insured with C.C. Rowlett & Co. for $600.  The loss is over $8,000.

My thanks to Jose Brown for sharing what he knows.

“Skeleton Hunt”–Spotsylvania 1865

By Donald Pfanz (this is a follow-up on Don’s writings on the burial of the dead at the Wilderness, which you can find here, and at Spotsylvania in 1864, which is here. Check out too our previous posts on the dead at the Alsop farm and Theodore Lyman’s postwar visit to the Bloody Angle.):

Union graves near the Bloody Angle, 1866.

In June 1865, Federal authorities sent the First Veteran Volunteers to the Fredericksburg region to bury the dead on the four battlefields.  They worked first at Wilderness, and then moved on to Spotsylvania Court House.  Colonel Charles P. Bird and his First Regiment Veteran Volunteers followed the Brock Road—the same route used by much of Grant’s army in 1864. On the way it passed Todd’s Tavern, a ramshackle frame building that had been the site of some minor fighting in the campaign. The remains of eight soldiers lay within sight of the road. Colonel Bird and his men hastily committed the skeletons to the soil and continued on their way.

Laurel Hill, the home of Katherine Couse.

A little farther on, the First Regiment came to the home of Katharine Couse. During the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House the building had served as a Union field hospital, and for Landon its sight brought back vivid and unpleasant memories. “I well remembered the rows of wounded soldiers I had seen stretched out here as we bivouacked on the same spot but little over one year ago, and listening all the night long to the deep groans of the wounded and dying heroes and shrieks and curses of those undergoing the torture of the probe or keen blade of the amputating knife. Many a poor fellow’s bones rest here under the shade of the oak and pine,” he wrote a friend, “and few with boards to mark the spot.”

The Brown house at Spotsylvania Court House Battlefield

Across the road from the Couse house stood “Liberty Hill,” the farm of Captain John C. Brown, a War of 1812 veteran. Here the Second Corps had gathered its strength before assaulting the Muleshoe Salient on May 12, 1864–an attack that led to the most savage day of fighting in American history. Continue reading