J.D.R. Hawkins

One bullet can make a man a hero… or a casualty.

Archive for the tag “Battle of Brandy Station”

Women of the Confederacy (Pt. 8)

Mary Anna Custis Lee – Wife of Robert E. Lee

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     Born on October 1, 1808, Mary Anna Randolph Custis was the only surviving child of Mary Lee Fitzhugh Custis and George Washington Parke Custis, who was George Washington’s step-grandson. Mary Anna was the great-granddaughter of Martha Washington. She enjoyed all the benefits of growing up in a wealthy family, and spent most of her time at Arlington, which her father built in honor of George Washington.
     Mary had many suitors, and received a marriage proposal from Sam Houston. The man who stole her heart, however, was her second cousin, Robert Edward Lee, whom she had known since childhood. They were married at Arlington on June 30. 1831. Robert had already become an established military man, so he brought Mary with him to West Point. It wasn’t long before she gave birth to a boy, and over the course of several years, bore two more sons and four daughters. She was fluent in four languages, and was an avid painter, author, and horticulturalist, propagating eleven rose varieties in her garden at Arlington. Mary was also deeply religious, and as her rheumatoid arthritis progressed, she accepted it as the will of God. She inherited Arlington after her father passed away in 1857, and two years later, published his memoirs, which she titled “Recollections.” She included an editor’s note stressing the urgency of reconciliation between northern and southern states, as the approaching Civil War seemed imminent.
     Following Virginia’s secession, Mary’s sons enlisted, and Robert resigned from his position with the U.S. military to serve under the newly-formed Confederate States of America. He traveled to Richmond, but Mary remained at Arlington until May, when she received word that Union soldiers were crossing the Potomac from Washington to seize her estate. Reluctantly, she departed, believing that the move was only temporary. How strange she must have felt knowing that she, the descendant of George Washington, was now the enemy. She traveled to different family-owned plantations until the encroaching Yankees forced her to retreat to Richmond. Once there, she set up housekeeping at several locations, all the while diligently knitting socks and mittens for her husband and his soldiers, despite her crippling arthritis.
     In 1863, following the Battle of Brandy Station, Mary witnessed the arrest of her wounded son, Rooney, who had been transported to a local plantation home to recuperate under Mary’s care. She found it necessary to travel to hot springs because of her condition, where she learned of the battles at Gettysburg and Vicksburg. Once she returned to Richmond in the fall, she busied herself with knitting, even though inflated costs made it difficult for her to obtain yarn, and she was saddened by the loss of a daughter due to typhoid fever. Rooney’s two children and his frail wife also succumbed to disease.
     During the war, she rarely saw her husband or sons. While her daughters attended services at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on April 2, 1865, they observed as President Davis was called away, and learned afterward that General Lee’s forces had fallen back: Richmond was being evacuated. Mary, however stubborn, refused to leave, and watched from her window as residents scrambled to get out before the Yankees invaded. Following a still quiet, bummers entered the city, looting, cursing, and setting fires. Still, Mary resiliently held tight. Union forces soon appeared, restoring order, and a sentry was placed at her door for protection. Out of the goodness of her heart, she sent down a breakfast tray every morning to the weary soldier who stood outside her door. It wasn’t long before she learned that her husband had surrendered his army. Robert, along with their sons, returned home soon afterward.
     Once the war ended, Robert received many job offers, finally accepting the position as president of Washington College in Lexington. By December, Mary joined him. They spent many happy years together until the summer of 1870, when Robert caught a cold that aggravated the angina he’d developed seven years earlier. He died on October 12, and was buried in a crypt beneath the campus chapel. Mary did not attend the funeral.
     Bedridden for a month, her health finally improved. She was allowed to remain at what was renamed Washington and Lee College, since her son, Custis, had been elected to succeed his father. In 1872, she filed a petition with the Judiciary Committee of Congress to receive payment for Arlington, but her request was denied. Meanwhile, her arthritis had grown so bad that she could no longer sew, so she painted and sold tinted photographs of herself, Robert, and George and Martha Washington, donating the proceeds to charity. The following year, she toured Virginia, where her travels brought her back to her beloved Arlington. Appalled by the desecration, she remained in the carriage as old servants ran out to greet her. Grand trees that had once stood on the property had been reduced to stumps, and headstones cluttered the lawn. She returned to Alexandria, and continued her charity work. In October, her daughter, Agnes, died, which broke Mary’s heart. The loss was too much for her: on November 5, 1873, she, too, passed away. Per her request, she was entombed in the basement of the college chapel next to her husband.

     (In 1874, Custis took up his mother’s crusade to obtain Arlington and won. Because the house was surrounded by a cemetery, he immediately sold it to the U.S. Government. Ownership was transferred to the National Park Service in 1933. Eventually, all of the Lee children’s remains were moved to the Lee Chapel.)

In Honor of His Ancestor

I absolutely love this story. It seems the tide against everything Confederate is finally starting to wane, and thankfully so. Those who think they are offended by the Southern Cross, Confederate monuments, streets and schools named after Confederate officers, etc. are nothing less than ignorant, in my opinion, and need to learn their history.

Back in the Saddle Again!
Retired Wall Street banker Edwin Payne, of upstate New York, recently partnered with the American Battlefield Trust to place a monument to his Confederate ancestor on the Brandy Station Battlefield in Culpeper County.

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“I want to be on the right side of this,” said Payne, who grew up in North Carolina. “I am interested in history and the preservation of history and knowing our history so we don’t repeat it. There are a great many lessons to be learned from studying history. We don’t want this kind of thing to happen again, but it doesn’t mean you can erase it.”
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His ancestor to whom the monument was placed was Gen. William Henry Fitzhugh Payne, founder of the famed Black Horse Cavalry. A Fauquier County lawyer and gentleman farmer, he joined the Confederacy at war’s outset and earned promotions based on his leadership, battlefield valor and meritorious service, according to the monument recently dedicated to mark the 155th anniversary of the Battle of Brandy Station, fought June 9, 1863.

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Gen. Payne was wounded and captured three times during the war while at Brandy Station – the largest cavalry battle in North America. He took over command of a North Carolina regiment after its commanding officer, Col. Solomon Williams, was killed a mile from where the monument was placed, down a gravel road near the intersection of Beverly Ford Road and St James Church Road. He subsequently led the regiment at Gettysburg and later served in the state legislature.

Jim Campi, with the American Battlefield Trust, said it is very rare for the preservation organization to allow placement of monuments on battlefield land it owns. “Each monument has to go through a rigorous process, and we turn down far more than we accept,” he said Monday. “In this instance, we thought it appropriate to facilitate construction of the monument to W.H.F. Payne … by one of his descendants.”
Read about the Battle of Brandy Station in my novel, A Beckoning Hellfire.
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(Article courtesy of Dixie Heritage Newsletter, July 20, 2018 ed.)

The Impact of Progress

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I find it very disheartening when I learn about another Civil War battlefield that has been lost to history due to urban sprawl. The first time I saw this was when I visited the Battle of the Wilderness area in Virginia. Housing developments had been built on the battlefield, not far from where trenches were dug and are still visible today. To me these areas are sacred and should be cherished.

On July 20, 1864, Confederate General John Bell Hood attacked a portion of Union General William T. Sherman’s army outside of Atlanta, Georgia, on the banks of Peach Tree Creek. Sadly, all that remains now is a sign marking the spot. The battle was one of the bloodiest during the Atlanta Campaign, with 4,250 soldiers being killed, wounded, or captured. And yet, nothing is left to remind us of the terrible struggle that took place there. It’s easy to forget about the sacrifices these men made when there is no reminder other than a few markers.

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On July 22, 1864, Union General James B. McPherson learned that his old West Point roommate, General John Bell Hood, was ready to strike. Skirmishers shot and killed McPherson. General Sherman wept when he saw McPherson’s body. The Federals rallied, crying, “Remember McPherson!” They staved off each Confederate assault until the Battle of Atlanta was finally over. It was the bloodiest battle of the Atlanta campaign. Again, there is no reminder of the terrible battle, since the field is now covered with gas stations, highways, and developments. The battlefield, like the one at Peach Tree Creek, is completely destroyed. The only reminder of McPherson’s death, an upturned cannon in a residential neighborhood, is basically forgotten. I think it is tragic that these men, who gave their lives for future generations, don’t receive a better legacy than this.

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Another example is Fleetwood Hill near Brandy Station, Virginia. The Battle of Brandy Station was the largest cavalry battle to ever take place on American soil. Years after the battle, however, homes were built on the sacred field. Fortunately, the Civil War Trust managed to buy back Fleetwood Hill, and is now in the process of restoring it to its original condition prior to the battle. (You can read more about this battle in my novel, A Beckoning Hellfire.)

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I consider all Civil War battlefields to be hallowed ground, and I only hope that what remains will be preserved. It seems every other aspect of the Confederacy is under attack, and it would be a shame and an insult to our children if we did not preserve these places.

The Civil War Trust is now in the process of saving over five hundred acres at four different Western Theatre battlefields: Shiloh, Stones River, Rocky Face Ridge, and Bentonville. For more information, check out http://www.civilwar.org/?referrer=https://www.google.com/.

https://www.amazon.com/Beckoning-Hellfire-Novel-Civil-War/dp/0595435319/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1469570084&sr=8-1&keywords=a+beckoning+hellfire

A Battlefield Victory

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It’s always amazing when something like this happens. A few days ago, I received an email from the Civil War Trust, stating that they had secured 10 acres of the battlefield at Brandy Station. The area is known as Fleetwood Hill, where Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart had his headquarters before the surprise battle took place.

The Battle of Brandy Station was the largest cavalry battle to take place on North American soil. It happened on June 9, 1863, following  a Grand Review by Stuart’s troops. Union General Gregg saw the dust that was stirred up and surprised the Confederates early the following morning. The Rebels managed to reign the day and fulfill their mission, which was to mask General Robert E. Lee’s infantry as they made their way north. Brandy Station was a prelude to the Battle of Gettysburg.

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Last year, the CWT secured 56 acres of the battlefield. This is significant, because housing developments had been encroaching on the area for years. It doesn’t make sense how this could have been allowed to happen, since it is hallowed ground in my opinion, but it isn’t the only Civil War battlefield that has been neglected or destroyed. The CWT has now secured over 1,900 acres at Brandy Station.

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Other significant battlefields that the CWT has been working on include Antietam and Gettysburg. A few years ago, I visited the Wilderness Battlefield, and was appalled to see how many houses were built on the hallowed site. Hopefully, the CWT can secure more land in that area as well.

Read more about the Battle of Brandy Station in my novel, A Beckoning Hellfire.

http://www.amazon.com/Beckoning-Hellfire-Novel-Civil-War/dp/0595435319/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1462942766&sr=8-1&keywords=a+beckoning+hellfire

 

Got a Spooky Ghost Story?

I’m holding a contest to see who has the scariest ghost story. Although my story is Civil War related, yours doesn’t have to be. Just tell us about the scariest experience you’ve ever had. I will choose one random winner on Halloween. Post your spookiest spook story on my blog at https://jdrhawkins.com/blog and you could win one copy of each of my first two books in the “Renegade Series” – A Beautiful Glittering Lie and A Beckoning Hellfire. Now, here’s my story.

I have had several scary encounters over the years, but the one that stands out is when I visited the site where the greatest cavalry battle took place on North American soil. I’m talking about the Battle of Brandy Station in Virginia. It seems like a strange place to experience a haunting. Most people would assume haunted houses or popular, well-known battlefields, such as Gettysburg, would be prime places to experience a haunting. But mine happened in a small clapboard house that has come to be known as the Graffiti House.

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The Graffiti House is believed to have been built in 1858, and used for commercial purposes, since it is located next to railroad tracks. The house was used as a field hospital by both Union and Confederate troops. It was later abandoned and fell into disrepair. It was ready for demolition when, in 1993, someone discovered the unique artwork concealed beneath the wallpaper. Drawings made by both Union and Confederate soldiers have been revealed, and the house has been restored to its original condition. But, apparently, some of the soldiers are still there.

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When my husband and I first visited the Graffiti House, we were welcomed inside and given a tour. However, once we reached the top of the steps and entered one of the rooms, I suddenly felt overwhelmingly nauseous. I could definitely feel a presence in that room. Once I left the room, the feeling went away. I have been to the Graffiti House since, and have never experienced this feeling again. It was very strange, to say the least!

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For more information about the Graffiti House, visit:

http://www.brandystationfoundation.com/

Battle of Brandy Station

Today marks the 151st anniversary of the Battle of Brandy Station in Virginia. It was the largest cavalry battle to ever take place on American soil, and yet, it is obscure in that most people have never heard of it. The battle was a confrontation between Confederate cavalry commanded by General J.E.B. Stuart, and Union cavalry under General David Gregg. It was considered a Confederate victory, even though it was more like a draw, and the Rebels were taken by surprise, which nearly cost them the battle. For more information, please read my novel, A Beckoning Hellfire.

On the battlefield is a fascinating piece of history that was nearly lost. The Graffiti House stands near the Orange & Alexandria Railroad. After years of neglect, the building was almost demolished, but in 1993, a discovery was made. Under layers of paint, signatures of both Union and Confederate soldiers, along with drawings they made, were written in charcoal on the walls, one of which was by General Stuart himself. Since that time, the structure has become part of the Brandy Station Foundation, and is in the process of being restored.

For more information, visit:

http://brandystationfoundation.com/

The Cavalry to the Rescue!

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the largest, most famous cavalry battle to ever take place on North American soil, which happened during the War Between the States at Brandy Station, Virginia in 1863. The flamboyant J.E.B. Stuart and his boys were confronted by the enemy in a surprise attack. After clashing, capturing several Union guns, and chasing their adversaries off, the Rebels came out victorious, although they were greatly surprised and outnumbered. This event lead up to the great battle of Gettysburg. In my novel, A Beckoning Hellfire, I discuss the Battle of Brandy Station at length, and explain the events the happened before and after, such as three Grand Reviews that General Stuart staged prior to the attack.

 

Another cavalry battle took place at Brice’s Crossroads, Mississippi, on June 10, 1864, where the infamous General Nathan Bedford Forrest outflanked and outmaneuvered (as usual) his foe. The battle marked another significant achievement in the Western Theatre, as General Forrest outfoxed nearly twice as many opponents. His genius has been a subject of study ever since, and was used by the German’s during WWII.

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