Family shares Civil War history with state project

Lynn Kirk Rose is a collector. She helped gather information for a book about Chuckatuck for a historical society, and she has been a repository for family records, too. When she saw a newspaper announcement for an opportunity to share her family’s Civil War memorabilia, Rose turned to her sister-in-law, Kitty Kirk.

“I’m the sorter,” Kirk said.

Kirk has been organizing records from her family tree for a book. Dozens of three-ring binders filled with letters and photographs are stacked on the coffee table in her living room. She’s been using a genealogy program to follow the generations and has transcribed yellowed papers into the computer.

“She has a talent,” Rose said. “Her mind is just whirling.”

Rose asked Kirk to bring some of the items related to their family’s Civil War experiences to the North Suffolk Library earlier this month.

“We have an unbelievable amount of letters,” Kirk said. “The organization is a job in itself.”

The Library of Virginia sent a team of archivists to the library to scan privately-held manuscript material for the Civil War 150 Legacy Project. There are collection events throughout the state this year.

Among the items Kirk provided for the library team was a photograph of Walter Lawrence, Rose’s father’s great-uncle who lived on Chuckatuck Creek and fought in the war. She also showed them receipts for commodities and services during the war years and correspondence between family members at home and in battle.

“It’s a snapshot before the war and after,” she said.

Lawrence served in the 9th Va. Company F of Nansemond County of the Confederate army. He wrote letters to his siblings that give insight into the state of affairs in the battlefield and at home.

In a letter to his sister Mary in Chuckatuck in 1862, Lawrence thanked her for shoes and money she sent by way of a relative who was furloughed and returned to camp:

“Virginius arrived safely in camp yesterday (the 1st) and brought with him your letter for which under the circumstances I thank you. A letter is valuable although brought by one just from the family. He also says he has some money and pair shoes for me from… For the shoes I am very much obliged but I think he had better keep his money as I draw rations from the government and he don’t. Not that I am not thankful for it but that it may be better used… at home. I think there is a tendency for the better here and for the worse where you are.”

He wrote a letter to his brother describing what he heard about his family’s troubles in Chuckatuck: “Virginius arrived safely here from home on the 2nd. He left the family well but from what he says in a sad condition – wheat crop lost entirely, only half the oats harvested, the prospective corn crop scarcely sufficient to serve another year.

“What a wretched condition that the country is in just now. I wish that the proposed move in that direction may take place very soon. I should be glad to march in that direction as would most of my regiment. I do not see any hopes now but that the black flag will be raised on both sides and a war of extermination commence unparalleled in history. And let it come the sooner the better I believe for our own safety and honor.”

Lawrence wrote to his sister from camp near Richmond: “… all night the cries of the dying and the moans of the miserable sufferings resounded over the battlefield. I could fill sheet after sheet with screams and incidents of the battle… I wish I could and I will tell you sometime of a battlefield. A thing you could no more paint to yourself. Though you can imagine the agony of the dying.”

Lawrence died from an illness in 1862 and is buried at St. John’s Church in Chuckatuck. Kirk said she’s learned the value of saving memorabilia, particularly letters, in an effort to perserve a family’s history.

“It tells a story of the person who wrote it,” she said. “To me, it’s fascinating.”

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