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 … 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 … 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 »