Civil War (including F Company)

Civil War (including F Company)

1861 – 1865

The American Civil War, The War Between the North and South, The War Between the States, The War of Northern Aggression, The War to Prevent Southern Independence or That Recent Unpleasantness – whatever name you give it, this war was the bloodiest in American history.  Over 650,000 were killed, the largest number of any war before or since.  It was a war that put father against son, brother against brother, family against family, neighbor against neighbor, and community against community.  This was a war that truly hit home.

In April, 1861, the State of Virginia succeeded from the Union.  War fever spread like a wild fire.  Young men and old, some just in the bloom of youth and others wise beyond their time, rushed to enlist.  Men from the Town of Suffolk and the communities of Nansemond County enlisted at Bethlehem Church on the Holland Road, in Suffolk, and in Chuckatuck – wherever a unit could be found.

What did these men have that they would make the sacrifice of going to war?  Was it patriotism?  Was it States’ Rights?  Was it a fear of Yankee invasion?  Was it a love of family and home?  We know it was not because of slavery – most did not own slaves.  Perhaps it was the fervor of local politicians, newspaper editors and ministers proclaiming a tide of emotion [1](1).

The most probable cause was a difference in ideology.  The North wanted to end slavery, while the South needed slave labor to continue.  Both were hypocritical and could not compromise.

War came to Suffolk and Nansemond County, Whaleyville, Somerton, South Quay, Holland Station, Myrtle, Chuckatuck, Sleepy Hole and Driver Station.  The five years of war could be divided into thirds: one third of the time the area was under Confederate control; one third under Union control; and a third as a “No Man’s Land” – caught between the Confederate forces along the Blackwater and the Union forces at Bower’s Hill, Norfolk, the Peninsula, and the Nansemond and James Rivers.  Providence Church Road led from Suffolk to Windsor and to Chuckatuck.  This road offered both the Confederate and Union forces easy access to the surrounding area.  Chuckatuck, located between Suffolk and Smithfield, the Chuckatuck Creek, tributaries of the James, and the farming nearby made the area essential to both sides.  Raiding parties or forging parties harassed the area for food, horses, mules and, later, for men.

The Battle of the Deserted House or Kelley’s Store was one of the bloodiest battles between Confederate and Union forces in Nansemond County(2).  Skirmishes around Chuckatuck and along the “Creek” are only sparsely detailed.  One such skirmish was documented in a letter from a woman (name unknown) to her unnamed sister describes a skirmish between about 60 Yankees and 25 of our men(3).  This incident took place on the property of a Dr. Tynes.   “Some say it was a badly managed affair, others that all the Union soldiers could have been captured or wounded but the guides not knowing the bridge had been moved from the old place(4).”  Other than detailing the theft of eggs from Dr. Tynes’ henhouse and other thefts in the area no details are given of an actual engagement.

Chuckatuck was a “pass through” to and from other areas of the county.  Due to location, the village was constantly on guard from both sides.  Minor conflicts or skirmishes took place along the Nansemond River, Chuckatuck Creek and on various farms along this road.

One of the more interesting events and passages of this time period evolved around George Pickett and his romance with LaSalle Corbell of Chuckatuck.  George Pickett was described as swash buckling, in tailored uniform, gold spurs and shoulder-length brown hair – the George Armstrong Custer of the South.  For all of this, Pickett was a lack luster soldier.  He was assigned to a division with Longstreet laying siege to Suffolk.  It was then that he became increasingly distracted by his courtship with LaSalle.  He was often AWOL from his duties to court and woo LaSalle.  So much has been written and told about their romance and Pickett’s military career that fact has become myth and legend – mostly by the writings and talks given by LaSalle after Pickett’s death.  The couple was married on September 15, 1863 in St. Paul’s Church in Petersburg, Virginia, just a few weeks after the Battle of Gettysburg(7) (8).  Pickett died on July 30, 1875.

LaSalle Corbett Pickett authored a celebrated history “Pickett and His Men” in 1913 and appeared on stage talking and re-telling her husband’s story.  Historian Gary W. Gallagher wrote that this history was largely plagiarized, and two collections of war time letters (1913 – 1928) were fabricated(9).  Her image of her husband’s charge was that of a gallant and graceful Knight of Chivalry riding to a tournament, whose long, dark, auburn-tinted hair floated back and in the wind like a soft veil as he went on down the slopes of death has stuck American imagination.  La Salle’s letters have been cited in Jeff Shaara’s Pulitzers Prize winning novel The Killer Angels (1974) and Ken Burns’ documentary “The Civil War”. (1990).

Whether myth, legend, or fact the War hit home and all of its people.

Robert H. Archer, Jr. (1)  Excerpt from A Bible, A Saber, and Four Men– an article and paper presented by Robert H. Archer, Jr. – April, 2005.

(2) The Battle of the Deserted House or Kelley’s Store took place on farmland located between the villages of Myrtle and Buckhorn.  For more, see pages 90-94 of The War Hits Home by Brian Steel Wills, University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville and London.

(3) Article from the Virginia Pilot Newspaper by W. E. McClenney, Historian – April 22,1937.

(4) Same as #3.

(5) Reminiscences of The Civil War by General John G. Gooch of The Confederate Army, Charles Schribner Sons, New York 1903.

(6) The War Hits Home by Brian Steel Wills, University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville and London

(7)General George E. Pickett in Life and Legend by Lesley J. Jordon

(8) Don’t Know Much About the Civil War, Kenneth C. Davis, Perennial,  An Imprint of Harpers Collins Publishers; page 302 and page 308.

(9) Same as #7.


(1)  Excerpt from A Bible, A Saber, and Four Men – an article and paper presented by Robert H. Archer, Jr. – April, 2005.

(2) The Battle of the Deserted House or Kelley’s Store took place on farmland located between the villages of Myrtle and Buckhhorn.  For more, see pages 90-94 of The War Hits Home by Brian Steel Wills, University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville and London.

(3) Article from the Virginia Pilot Newspaper by W. E. McClenney, Historian – April 22,1937.

(4) Same as #3.

(5) Reminiscences of The Civil War by General John G. Gooch of The Confederate Army, Charles Schriebner Sons, New York 1903.

(6) The War Hits Home by Brian Steel Wills, University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville and London

(7) General George E. Pickett in Life and Legend by Lesley J. Jordon

(8) Don’t Know Much About the Civil War, Kenneth C. Davis, Perennial,  An Imprint of Harpers Collins Publishers; page 302 and page 308.

(9) Same as #7.

F COMPANY (CHUCKATUCK LIGHT ARTILLERY), 9TH VIRGINIA INFANTRY REGIMENT

Researched and written by John A. Coulter, LTC USA (ret)

 

The Chuckatuck Light Artillery was formed in May 1861 by the President of the Chuckatuck Military Academy (Chuckatuck Male and Female Institute), James Jasper Phillips.  Captain Phillips enlisted the company in Confederate service on 18 May.   Unlike many southern military school administrators he did not form the company around his cadets.  As far as can be determined only one former student was initially recruited and that was Walter Allen Lawrence, who had graduated from the academy and attended Virginia Military Institute.  Walter unfortunately served a short period having died of disease in 1862, like many of his comrades would later in the war.

The company never numbered much over forty men although some 143 different men served in the company’s rank between its enlistment on 18 May 1861 and its surrender at Appomattox on 9 April 1865.  The average age of the soldiers in the company was 24 years nine months.  We know the occupation of 23 of these 143 men. The prewar occupations varied as you would expect, but only two were farmers.  Maritime occupations were the most common with 11 jobs being described as Oysterman (3), Mariner, Shipbuilder/Seaman, Sailor/Oysterman, Sailor, Boatman/Sailor, and Boatman/Sailor.  Other occupations were three Carpenters, Blacksmith, Music Teacher, Musician, Laborer, merchant, and an Academy President.  The most unusual occupation was two volunteer prisoners who both served with honor and were pardoned by the President of the Confederacy in August 1864.

Captain Phillips likely named the company Light Artillery in hope of being issued cannons as he was a Virginia Military Institute graduate of the Class of 1853 and received artillery training there from the famous General Stonewall Jackson.  Initially the company manned Barrett’s Point at the head of the Chuckatuck Creek.  In July 1861, the company was assigned to the 9th Virginia Infantry Regiment and redesigned F Company.  The regiment was largely recruited in the Southeastern part of Virginia with the exception of a B Company made up largely of men from Baltimore, Maryland and A Company from Roanoke County.  Then for a short time it helped man Fort Boykin on the James River.

During the war some eighteen men would died of disease.  The first of these was the Company’s original First Sergeant, who was shortly thereafter promoted to Lieutenant, Francis Snead, age 33 who died of tuberculosis less than two months after enlistment on 1 July 1861.  He would be followed to the grave by the following men in confederate gray of the company: William Barradall (Barridale)*, W.W. Bondurant, J.J. Burke, Averitt Quincy Clarke, George W. Davis *, Rush Creecy, Jacob M. Edwards, Stephen Fletcher*, Walter Allen Lawrence, Jeremiah E. Pinner, John Matthews, John Moore,  James T. Shephard, W.J. Slaughter*, Frederick Turlington.

*Died while Prisoner of War

The regiment was spread along the fortifications on the James River, making its training as an infantry regiment difficult.  On March 9, 1862 the company witnessed some of the action of the Battle between the USS Monitor and CSS Virginia (Merrimac).  The battle surely was of great interests because two former soldiers of the Company, John F. Higgins and John J. Sturges (Strugees), had been transferred and were serving aboard the CSS Virginia.

On 1 June 1862, the 9th Virginia Infantry Regiment with F Company was assigned to the Brigade commanded Brig. Gen. Lewis A. Armistead and its fate sealed for both death and honor in the Civil War.  That month Captain Phillips the company commander was promoted to major.  He would eventually command the regiment as a colonel.  It appears that Lieutenant Walter Butts took command at that time.  Later that year F Company would march with the regiment and fight in four major battles.

The first was the Battle of Seven Pines where F Company suffered seven men wounded.  On 1 July 1862, in the final engagement of The Seven days Battle the company lost two more wounded at Malvern Hill.  There Captain Phillips led his men in charge over open terrain against Union cannon ball and canister.  During the charge the Captain was credited with saving the regimental colors.  The charge was described as “sending a terrier to charge an elephant.”  (Trash, 1984, p. 15).

Next was The Battle of Second Manassas where the Company lost its first men killed in action:  Francis W. Hotchkiss age 27 and Sidney Kellam age 28, who was wounded on 25 August 1862 and died likely as a result on 17 October.  In September the company participated in the Battle of Sharpsburg (Antietam) in Maryland.  That winter the company was again engaged at The Battle of Fredericksburg.

The next year the company had been reduced to no more than thirty men as it marched to the Confederacy’s High Water Mark.  It was here with the 9th Virginia Infantry Regiment in Brig. Gen. Lewis A. Armistead’s brigade that they attacked in the center of Pickets Charge.  The brigade commander, General Armistead, prior to the charge encourages his men with these words, “Men remember what you are fighting for!  Remember your homes, your firesides, your wives, mothers, sisters and your sweethearts.”  (Trash, 1984, p. 25).  The men of the 9thVirginia numbered 244 men and suffered more than 185 causalities. F Company alone had 6 wounded and 14 captured.  Likely many of those 14 were also wounded like Corporal John T. Beach, age 23, and Lieutenant Walter Butts, age 20, who both later died of their wounds.   After the battle Lieutenant Caleb Upshur took command of the small company of men.

In the winter of 1863 the regiment moved to North Carolina and conducted operations there to limit Union advances until May 1864.  In May 1864, the regiment was engaged near Chester Station, Virginia.  There the brigade suffered 249 causalities including 4 wounded in F Company.

The remainder of 1864 was occupied in defense of Richmond, Petersburg and the Battle at Drewry’s Bluff in May.  During this period the company commander, Lieutenant Caleb Upshur, was wounded and would later be captured.  The successful defense of Drewry’s Bluff, also known as Fort Darling, under heavy artillery fire and close combat in foggy conditions cost the company 4 wounded and two killed.  It appears command fell next on Lieutenant John E. Cowling.  His command did not last as he was among those killed at Drewry’s Bluff along with William Cowling and David Matthews, age 22.  Later in the year the company became engaged at Cold Harbor and would suffer 6 more wounded and 1 captured in operations around Petersburg.

April 1865 found what was left of F Company in a series of engagements that would end with Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.  On April 1, the 9th Virginia was part of a force ordered to hold at Five Forks and the company was overrun losing 1 wounded and 8 taken prisoner.  This was likely the last battle where the unit functioned as such.  The next day Richmond fell to Union Forces and two men of the Company were captured as they tried to recover in a Confederate Hospital.   A few days later at the Battle of Sailor Creek, with the 9th Virginia Infantry Regiment numbering little more than a company, one man of F Company was wounded and two more captured.

On 9 April 1865, the 9th Virginia Infantry Regiment, commanded by a Captain and numbering just 39 men surrendered along with the Army of Northern Virginia. Among that hand full of men were two from F Company: Sergeant William A. Bulter and James T. Ritchee.   The last man captured was C.F.M. Baylin who was taken prisoner at Blacks and Whites (present day Blackstone) on 11 April 1865.  This ended the active service of F Company (Chuckatuck Light Artillery), 9th Virginia Infantry Regiment.  The company had lost at least 6 killed in action, 29 wounded, 15 died of illness while in service and 30 became prisoners of war.  The company suffered 35% of its members having been killed, wounded or died in service.  The company was present at the High Water Mark of the Confederacy at Pickett’s Charge and stacked arms at Appomattox.    The hardships of service surely shortened many of their lives but with their deaths they were proud of their service in the Lost Cause.

Reference:

 

Allardice,B.S. (2008) Confederate Colonels: A Biographical Register. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press.

Buck-Thompson, C.M. (2010) The 9th Regiment Virginia Volunteers.  Retrieved from http://pw2.netcom.com/~buck1755/9thregiment.htm

Trask, B. (1984) 9th Virginia Infantry.  Lynchburg, VA: H.E. Howard Inc.

 

John A. Coulter

LTC USA (ret)