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Charles Cresap

Union or Secession
Charles James Pindall Cresap (1836–1886)
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Related documents:
  • Preston County Election Return
    Preston County Election Return, October 24, 1861
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  • Robert Edwin Cowan (1830–1887)
    Robert Edwin Cowan

CHARLES JAMES PINDALL CRESAP (1836–1886)

Charles James Pindall Cresap (17 August 1836–21 October 1886), member of the third session of the Convention of 1861, was born in Preston County and was the son of Gustavus Cresap, an attorney, and Ruhama Pindall Cresap. Admitted to the bar in 1857, he practiced law with his father in the town of Kingwood. Incomplete evidence suggests that Cresap owned no slaves, but in the spring of 1861 his sympathies clearly lay with the secessionists. He traveled to Richmond and on 17 May received a commission as a second lieutenant in the Provisional Army of Virginia. Cresap took part in the engagements at Laurel Hill in July, Cheat Mountain in September, and Greenbrier River early in October.

Even though Cresap's commission expired at the beginning of September, he remained in the field and was at Camp Bartow, in Pocahontas County, on 24 October 1861 when a special election was held to replace the western delegates who had been expelled from the secession convention in June. He and the three other Preston County men in camp elected Robert Edwin Cowan, one of the county's veteran legislators (and Cresap's brother-in-law) to one of the seats, and the other three men (one of whom was his younger brother) elected Cresap. Cowan and Cresap took their seats in Richmond on 20 November 1861, about two weeks before the convention's final adjournment, and both signed the Ordinance of Secession that the convention had adopted in April.

While in Richmond, Cresap unsuccessfully lobbied for a commission in the Confederate army, and in the spring of 1862 he enlisted as a private in the 25th Regiment Virginia Infantry. A variety of afflictions confined him to hospitals several times and offered him little chance to distinguish himself. On 28 May 1863 Cresap and Cowan won election to the Virginia House of Delegates with twelve and sixteen votes, respectively, from county soldiers in several military camps and from refugees in Richmond. Cresap resigned from the army during the summer and practiced law in Randolph County until the General Assembly convened. He served in the sessions that met in September and October 1863 and from December 1863 through 10 March 1864 and was appointed to the Committee of Propositions and Grievances and to the Joint Committee to Examine the Second Auditor's Office. In November 1863 he successfully petitioned the Confederate president for permission to recruit a company of soldiers in his home region, but he was unable to enlist enough men.

Returning to Richmond early in January 1865, a month after the assembly reconvened, Cresap resumed his seat in the House of Delegates. As the desperate military situation provoked debates about using slaves or free African Americans in the Confederate army, he made one last attempt to contribute to the cause. On 15 March 1865 Cresap asked Jefferson Davis for a commission "above the rank of Captain, to Command Colored troops." Neither the president nor the secretary of war left any record of his response to the request.

After the Civil War, Cresap practiced law in Beverly, in Randolph County, West Virginia. On 25 January 1870 he married a widow, Agnes Crawford. They appear to have had no children. A Democrat, he served a single term in the West Virginia House of Delegates from the district comprising Randolph and Tucker Counties in 1881 and did not seek reelection the next year. Charles James Pindall Cresap died at his home in Beverly on 21 October 1886 and was buried in Maplewood Cemetery, in Kingwood, West Virginia.

Contributed by Brent Tarter

Quotation in Charles James Pindall Cresap to Jefferson Davis, 15 Mar. 1865, Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers (1861–1865), War Department Collection of Confederate Records, RG 109, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.

This biography, with a bibliographical note, appears in John T. Kneebone et al., eds., Dictionary of Virginia Biography (Richmond: The Library of Virginia, 1998– ), 3:556–557.

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