Tag Archives: Civil War

- The Correct Answer Is, “I Do”



The Ebony Bridal -- Wedding Ceremony in the Cabin, engraving from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, 19 August 1871. (Image used courtesy of Library of Virginia Special Collections.)

“It was a hot summer day on August 5, 1865, when George Kiner and Diana Bumgardner arrived at the courthouse in Augusta County, Virginia, to apply for a marriage license. They brought with them an order from Capt. John Collins, Provost Marshall, directing the court to issue the license as ‘they being in all respects entitled to such license.’ While there were other couples that day applying for marriage licenses, George and Diana were the only couple with such an order. This was indeed a historical event as they were the first African American couple to be issued a marriage license in Augusta County.”

-African American Marriage Index 1865-1899, Augusta County, Virginia

At first glance the story of George Kiner and Diana Bumgardner is one of love triumphing over the tragedies of slavery and war. But documents found in the Augusta County Chancery Causes reveal not a lovely wedding born of true love, but a shotgun affair with a groom forced to the altar at gunpoint. In his bill for divorce filed in the Augusta County courts in February 1866, George Coiner (the predominant spelling in court documents was Coiner, but Kiner and Koiner were also used) painted a less than idealistic picture of his wedding day. George Coiner, a former slave, was working in a field when two armed soldiers, one white and the … read more »

- Freedmen’s Bureau in the Local Courts


The Freedmen's Bureau -- illustration from 25 July 1868 edition of Harper's Weekly. (Image public domain/Wikipedia)

In the years following the Civil War, the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (commonly referred to as simply the Freedmen’s Bureau) provided assistance to former slaves still living in the South, helping them transition from a society based on slavery to one allowing freedom. Established as part of the War Department by an act of Congress on 3 March 1865, the Freedmen’s Bureau, operational until 1872, helped introduce a system of free labor, provided food and clothing, helped locate families and legalize marriages, promoted education, supervised labor contracts, and provided legal representation.


14 February 1866 letter from the Freedmen's Bureau found in the Commonwealth vs. Alexander McCray, Highland County Commonwealth Causes.

One of the Bureau’s most important roles was to help safeguard the rights of African Americans and ensure they received justice from the court system. Following the Civil War, several southern states, including Virginia, enacted a series of laws commonly known as “black codes” that restricted the rights and legal status of freedmen. African Americans were often given harsh sentences for petty crimes and were sometimes unable to get their cases heard in the state courts. In September 1865, Freedmen’s Bureau courts were established to adjudicate cases involving freedmen. By February 1866, Virginia had amended her laws and the Bureau courts were discontinued by May of that same year, but because of the failure of many local court officials to administer equal justice, the Bureau courts were reestablished in certain areas … read more »

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- Spoils of War Return Home to Virginia



On Thursday, October 20, staff from the Library of Virginia’s Local Records Services Branch were in Jersey City, New Jersey, to formally accept one of the Commonwealth’s long-lost treasures – a Stafford County record book taken from Virginia in 1863 by a Union officer serving in a New York regiment. 

 The volume, an order book detailing the daily activities of the court from 1749 to 1755, was transcribed by a Stafford deputy clerk in 1791.  The book was removed from the Stafford courthouse by Captain W. A. Treadwell of the 4th N.Y. Regiment and was long considered to be a casualty of the war.  A note inside the front cover and presumably in Treadwell’s hand states that it was “Taken from Stafford Court House, March 30 1863.”


Stafford County Order Book, 1749-1755, taken from the Stafford courthouse by Capt. W. A. Treadwell in 1862.

 The volume was handed down several times over many years before it was presented to the Hudson County Historical Society. The Society’s collection eventually was transferred to the collection of the Jersey City Free Public Library’s New Jersey Room. Recognizing that the order book did not fit within the New Jersey Room’s collection policy, Jersey City Public Library’s John Beekman contacted the LVA to return the volume to its rightful home in Virginia.  The volume will be conserved at LVA’s in-house conservation lab and scanned and microfilmed to ensure its preservation. Scanned images will be presented to the … read more »

- Documenting Virginia’s Participation in the Civil War, Take One?


Unidentified Confederate Veteran Reunion Photograph, undated, Dept. of Confederate Military Records, Box 62, Folder 6, Accession 27684, State Records Collection.

Recent efforts by the Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission to digitize Virginia’s Civil War legacy is reminiscent of a similar, yet very different, endeavor by the state of Virginia over one hundred years ago.  Created in 1904 by an act of the General Assembly as the Office of the Secretary of Virginia Military Records, the Department of Confederate Military Records was tasked with assisting the federal government in compiling a complete roster of Confederate soldiers from Virginia.  Although the modern approach is to digitize collections held in private hands, the Department of Confederate Military Records was charged with simply compiling the names of Virginia’s Confederate veterans.  This small agency accomplished their mission by borrowing or collecting original muster rolls and other records listing Confederate officers and enlisted men in the various branches of service.  The secretary also relied heavily on finished rosters gathered by the Office of the Adjutant General in 1884 and rosters sent to commissioners of the revenue throughout the state in 1898 and 1900.  Despite these earlier efforts, a truly complete roster of Virginia’s Confederate veterans was still lacking which prompted the need for a Department of Confederate Military Records.

Major Robert Waterman Hunter, a veteran and an officer in the 2nd Regiment of Virginia Volunteers, was appointed the first Secretary of Virginia Military Records by Governor Andrew J. Montague in 1904.  … read more »

- More Augusta County Images Are Here!

Dull Family Tree, Augusta Chancery Cause 1879-042 Heirs of Jacob Dull vs. Admr. of Jacob Dull &c

The latest images from the Augusta County Chancery Causes are now available on the Chancery Records Index. With this addition, one hundred boxes of Augusta County chancery covering the time period from 1867 to 1879 can be viewed online.

Following are a few suits of interest found in this latest addition. Augusta County Chancery Cause 1876-058 includes a letter (image# 252-253) written by one of the plaintiffs when he was a soldier in the 25th Virginia Infantry during the Civil War. In Augusta County Chancery Cause 1876-072 (image# 20), a liquor manufacturer sued the city of Staunton claiming the city had no right to tax its liquor. Augusta County Chancery Cause 1877-029 (image #11-15) involves a dispute between a group of former slaves and the executor of the estate of their former master. A genealogical chart of the Dull family can be found in Augusta County Chancery Cause 1879-042 (image#1765). 

Transcript of John J. Rusmisel letter to George Rusmisel

Transcript of Staunton City Treasurer letter to L. Bumgardner & Co.

Transcript of Sampson Pelter’s will

These cases are representative of the over ten thousand found in the Augusta County Chancery Causes collection that document the  rich heritage of Augusta County and western Virginia.  This project is made possible by a partnership betweeen the LVA’s Circuit Court Records Preservation Program and Augusta County Circuit … read more »

- 150 years later, nearly 400 letters reveal one couple’s Civil War story

Some of the nearly 400 letters written between Cecil A. Burleigh of the 20th Connecticut Infantry, and his wife, Caroline, during the Civil War.

The CW 150 Legacy Project was recently in Fairfax for a scanning event at the City of Fairfax Regional Library. The event was a great success with a number of diaries, letters, and photographs scanned. We also had one of our biggest ‘wow’ moments when a donor brought in a box of almost 400 letters from her ancestor for scanning. Most of the letters, written between Cecil A. Burleigh of the 20th Connecticut Infantry and his wife, Caroline, were still in their envelopes. It is exciting and rare to see a collection that is not only large but also comprehensive, with letters written from husband and wife. These materials give both sides of the story of a couple separated by war, as Cecil wrote from localities such as Stafford Court House and Alexandria, Virginia, and after participation in the Battle of Chancellorsville, while Caroline gave updates on life in Connecticut.

Due to the size of the collection it will take us a while to scan and post everything, but to have such a great resource from one family is just amazing!

-Renee Savits, CW 150 Legacy Project — Eastern Region… read more »

- Kilroy Was Here. Pennsylvania Infantry Left Their Mark on Lynchburg’s Courthouse Records.

 

We presume this G-rated graffiti was provided courtesy of the 206th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry while it was stationed in Lynchburg Virginia just weeks after Robert E. Lee's surrender.

Blog AJ_Ledger_Transcript

Sometimes archivists encounter the unexpected. While looking through an unidentified business record, I expected to see the usual debits and credits typically found in nineteenth century business volumes. The ledger, found in the Lynchburg (Va.) Courthouse, belonged to a group of volumes entered as an exhibit in some long ago settled court case. Only one of the volumes was labeled – with “A. J. Ledger” inscribed on its spine. This volume turned out to be A. J. Ledger C (Barcode 1097496), but it contained more than the financial activities of an unknown Lynchburg area merchant.

 Amidst the notations of customer purchases and payments made in 1812, names were written in pencil at the bottom of pages – Charles B. Stewart, James Ellis, William H. McCune. Additional names and doodles were scribbled over the carefully organized ledger entries. Curious, I continued to thumb through the ledger and discovered it had been autographed by the 206th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry while the unit was on provost duty in Lynchburg, Va. The 206th  was among the first to march through Richmond after it fell, and the troops were later sent to Lynchburg where they spent two weeks on provost duty.

 Many members of the regiment signed their names in the ledger. Lieutenant Abraham E. Litz wrote an account of their march on Richmond in … read more »

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- The Ordinance of Secession Coverage From the Richmond Times-Dispatch

Check out this video of our own Tom Camden, Special Collections Director, discussing a rarely seen copy of the Ordinance of Secession at the Library of Virginia. It’s provided courtesy of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.… read more »

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- Virginia Signs Off

Strong's dime caricatures presents a Northern point of view about secession in 1861. See the link in the comments section to decode the abundant imagery in this political cartoon. Image Courtesy Library of Congress.

(Note: Guest contributor Mari Julienne joins us this week with some timely background information on a pivotal document in the state’s history.  Virginia’s signed Ordinance of Secession will be on display at the Library of Virginia on Saturday, 16 April 2011. See our schedule for other events related to the Library’s exhibition, Union or Secession: Virginians Decide.)

17 April 1861. While meeting in secret session, the Virginia Convention took a vote on whether to secede from the United States. Two weeks earlier, on 4 April, the convention delegates rejected a resolution to secede by a vote of 90 to 45. The convention, which was called to consider Virginia’s response to the secession crisis, had been meeting in Richmond since 13 February. The delegates had spent many weeks debating whether secession was legal, wise, or in the state’s best interest. Following the surrender of Fort Sumter on 13 April and President Abraham Lincoln’s call for troops on 15 April, the question facing the delegates became which side to take: to fight with or against the new Confederate States of America. Late in the afternoon on 17 April, the convention chose the Confederacy and voted 88 to 55 to submit an ordinance of secession to the voters in a referendum. On 23 May, Virginia voters approved the Ordinance of Secession, which repealed Virginia’s 1788 ratification of … read more »

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- Dear Governor

Note: This stack of envelopes from the Gravely Family Papers (Acc. 34126) is used as an illustration for this post. Actual letters from Governor Letcher's papers are scanned below.

Editor’s Note: Guest contributor Brent Tarter offers the following post, pointing out some interesting finds made by the creators of the Library of Virginia’s Union or Secession exhibition.

During Virginia’s secession crisis in the winter and spring of 1860-1861, men and women across the state wrote to Governor John Letcher to comment on public affairs. They wrote to tell the governor what to do, to ask for help, to offer advice and assistance, or to get something off their chests. While researching in preparation for the Library of Virginia’s exhibition, Union or Secession: Virginians Decide , we spent time looking through the letters received by Governor Letcher. Like the records of every Virginia governor since 1776, the letters are preserved in Record Group 3 of the state’s archives in the Library of Virginia. The Governor’s Office records are an extremely rich source for the beliefs and words of ordinary Virginians.

During 1860 and 1861 the governor received letters from men and women in every part of the state who expressed every possible opinion and political allegiance. “I would like to Know from you what is to prevent me from Voting for Lincoln,” Giles County resident John M. Smith asked Governor Letcher in September 1860. “As he is the man I prefer. the reason of this letter is that there is a great deal of threatning on … read more »