Are there soldiers buried in the backyards of Fredericksburg?


From Eric Mink:

While landscaping her backyard last year, a resident on Caroline Street in downtown Fredericksburg turned up numerous large pieces of partially worked granite. All of them were irregularly shaped, with the exception of one piece that measured six inches square and had a finished face, on which a series of numbers had been chiseled. A call to the National Park Service resulted in a visit and determination that the granite block was the top of an unknown gravestone from a national cemetery. There are often two numbers carved into these stones. The top number identifies the grave, while the bottom number identifies the number of individuals buried in the grave. In this case, there was only one number – 2694. That meant that the stone was intended for grave 2694, which contained only one burial. A quick trip to the cemetery revealed that that particular grave is marked with an identical stone.

Identical stones. The one on the left currently marks the grave in the Fredericksburg National Cemetery. The one on the right was found in the yard of a house on Caroline Street – 2010 

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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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