Love and respect for one remarkable woman drew Civil War veterans from across the United States to Richmond during the summer of 1896. The occasion was a reunion of soldiers who spent time in the care of Captain Sally Tompkins and the staff at the Robertson Hospital.
The hospital reunion register, recently cataloged here at the Library of Virginia, records the names, signatures and, occasionally, military units of former soldiers who attended a patient reunion during the Grand Confederate Reunion of 1896. Some wives’ names are also listed. The attendees came from at least nine states, from as far away as New York and Texas, further testimony to the respect and love that soldiers on both sides felt for the care Tompkins bestowed on all. Their admiration was not one-sided; Tompkins paid for the party herself, renting a house and providing food and drink for the entire company.
Tompkins was the only female commissioned officer in the Confederate army. She was born 9 November 1833 in Poplar Grove, Mathews County, Virginia. She moved to Richmond following the death of her father before the Civil War and used her considerable inheritance to open a private hospital at the outbreak of the war in April 1861. It stood at the corner of 3rd and Main Streets at the home of Judge John Robertson, thus giving the … read more »
Next year marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War. The war’s effect on the people of Virginia was immense – especially to those families who lost loved ones in battle. The pain, grief, and other emotions felt by these families are witnessed by reading the letters contained in the many Civil War collections housed at the Library of Virginia.
One such collection is the Hughes-Ware Family Papers (Accession 37961). Mary Elizabeth “Bess” Hughes (1838-1912) married Cincinnatus J. Ware (1839-1864) of Gloucester County, Virginia, and they settled in Richmond. “Natus” and his brother William S. Ware, Jr. (1842-1909), or “Dinkey” as he was known, would later serve together in the 5th Virginia Cavalry.
Natus was wounded in action at Newtown, in Frederick County, Virginia, on 12 November 1864, and died a short time later. The collection contains various poignant letters written by his brother and their father, as well as a comrade, to Bess. The first letter, written by another member of the 5th Virginia Cavalry, tells of his hopes for Natus’ recovery after being shot. The second letter, written by William, informs Bess of the death of his brother. The third letter is written by their father, William S. Ware, Sr., and reveals the difficulty he is having accepting his son’s death.
These letters tell the emotional side … read more »
John Salling of Slant, Virginia, in Scott County, was long recognized as Virginia’s last surviving Confederate veteran. In recognition of his service, the state of Virginia issued him a pension from 1933 until his death in 1959, at which time Salling claimed to be 112 years old. Doubt was first cast on Salling’s credibility upon his application for a state pension. When Pension Clerk John H. Johnson was unable to find evidence of Salling’s war record at the Virginia State Library (now the Library of Virginia) which maintained the records of the Department of Confederate Military Records, he required Salling to provide a sworn statement of his service to the Pension Office. Salling submitted an affidavit before a notary public of Scott County certifying that he enlisted in Company D, 25th Virginia Regiment, under Capt. James R. Collins. Salling also stated that he was detailed throughout the war to work in the saltpeter mines in the Dekalb District of Scott County. Salling’s application was approved in April 1933 and he received a monthly pension of twenty-one dollars. In his February 1991 article “The Great Imposters” in Blue and Gray Magazine, Civil War historian William Marvel invalidates John Salling’s claim using census records which place his birth in 1858, not 1846 as Salling long maintained. Additionally, Life Magazine ran an article in 1953 featuring Salling and other … read more »
In May 1863, a team of Confederate topographical engineers surveying and mapping Louisa County were surprised by Union cavalry. All but one of the team were captured. B. Lewis Blackford managed to escape, despite losing everything except his horse. “Among his losses,” his brother Charles Minor Blackford later stated, “was his note book, in which he kept copies of poems and other clever things he had written to various girls, all of which were published in full subsequently in the New York Herald, to whom they were furnished by their captor. His note book was very handsomely illustrated also, as he was a good sketcher and drew exquisite caricatures.”
Seemingly undaunted by the loss of his notebook, Blackford in June 1863 began a new sketchbook, which eventually found its way into the Personal Papers Collection at the Library of Virginia (Accession 22177c). The small (4”x 6 ½”) book contains 20 pencil and ink sketches. Some are outlines and rough sketches of people and landscapes, while others are more polished. The finished sketches of members of Blackford’s company catch their personalities. Blackford also captured the poignancy of war in his sketches titled “Fredericksburg” and “Chancellorsville.” The first simply depicts a skull and bone and the second the ruins at the tiny crossroads.
Benjamin Lewis Blackford was born 5 August 1835 in Fredericksburg, to William Mathews Blackford (1801-1864) and Mary Berkeley Minor Blackford (1802-1896), … read more »
Sometimes an archivist must be a detective looking for things everyone else missed.
As part of an appraisal project in local records, I reviewed blank volumes sent to the Library of Virginia from county courthouses searching for entries that may have been overlooked in their initial description. Several volumes that were described as blank actually contained information, most notably a large bond book from Frederick County.
The book was in pieces, tied together with string, with only one of its leather covers remaining. The pages printed with executors bonds—outlining the obligations of individuals carrying out the directions and requests in wills—were completely blank. However, the back of some of the pages were filled with faint, but legible, writing.
The book was used not for its original purpose, but instead was used to record loyalty oaths after the Civil War. These oaths, dated 1865–1866, consisted of statements signed by residents of Frederick County in which they promised to “support the Constitution of the United States and the laws made in pursuance thereof as the supreme law of the land.” Each oath recorded the individual’s name, age, and sometimes his profession (for example, Henry Brent was a cashier at the Bank of the Valley of Virginia, and C. Lewis Brent was a lawyer). The volume also contains an alphabetical index that the record keeper crafted by tracing lines … read more »
During the Civil War, the scarcity and high cost of writing paper often led people to reuse it. They wrote new letters across existing ones, made account books from old ciphering books, and turned ledgers into scrapbooks. In cases such as these, it is not unusual for archivists to find records that are more than what they appear at first glance.
One such example exists in the Henkel Family Business Records (Acc. 28040), a collection of 137 volumes related to the family’s general store, farm, and mill businesses in New Market, Virginia. While processing the collection, I came across an L.P. Henkel and Brothers account book, 1869–1872, containing business receipts pasted over handwritten text.
The Library of Virginia’s conservation lab removed each receipt, conserving both the receipts and the ledger pages beneath. This process uncovered a Civil War-era register, 1863–1865, listing conscripts from the 10th Virginia Congressional District (Clarke, Fairfax, Fauquier, Frederick, Loudoun, Prince William, and Warren Counties), with entries for name, age, occupation, physical description, date and place of enrollment, and company assigned. Also included were special orders regarding enlistment and assignments written from headquarters in New Market and Winchester, Virginia. Thanks to careful conservation, these formerly inaccessible records may help researchers uncover more about their own ancestors’ stories.
The original account book and receipts remain with the Henkel Family Business Records. The … read more »